Music Features

Parquet Courts Interview

Parquet Courts are back with the follow-up to their debut that wasn't their debut (things get pretty vague in Indieworld - see their website for details), 2012's Light Up Gold (or was it 2013 - impossible to say). The new one is called Sunbathing Animal, and is every bit the great record the first/second one was, and then some (check out our own highly favorable review here from Juan Edgardo Rodriguez - ok, no more parenthetical commentary) .  The record finds singer Andrew Savage stretching his verbal output to  breaking point while the band lays down straightforward riffs and a steady pulse.  To guys like me who think Sister Ray and Roadrunner are high watermarks in the history of rock and roll, this stuff is irresistible.  I certainly can't discern everything Mr. Savage is saying on the record, which is fine since the music is so good, but I thought we at No Ripcord should pose a few questions to the man himself to find out what exactly was going on.

Alan: What was your technique for recording this record?  It sounds like it was laid down live with minimal overdubs.  Even the vocals have a live, spontaneous quality.  

Andrew: Yeah, it was recorded live on tape, at least the instrumentation.  Duckin' and Dodgin was definitely all live though.

Alan: It sounds like you are doubling down on the sound developed on the first album, rather than striking out in some new direction.  Are you trying to hone and perfect a "Parquet Courts sound", or is that just how it comes out when you guys play?

Andrew: There is certainly a direction that we are going in, and it is important to have artistic and aesthetic goals in mind.  I think that there were ideas that presented themselves on Light Up Gold that were further explored on Sunbathing Animal, perhaps the more verbose tendencies.  Mostly we wanted to kind of fuck with song structure: longer verses, shorter but more impacting choruses.

Alan: This sound has a tossed off, minimal quality reminiscent of the first Modern Lovers record.  Are you interested in maintaining a kind of looseness and urgency on record?

Andrew: I'm interested in less-is-more right now.  Making it all count. 

Alan: Another band I've always championed is Liars, who seem to have that same "less-is-more" aesthetic.  I can certainly see that in terms of composition, but I'm also very interested in your approach to performance, which appears deliberately ramshackle (in the best possible way).  Is it important to you to keep things loose?

Andrew: It's funny; you are not the first person to say that.  In my mind Parquet Courts is really tight, at least the rhythm section is.  Having Max and Sean play so on-point allows me and Austin to do what we want really, which is probably what you mean by "ramshackle".  

Alan: I love the quick and surprising V-IV-I turnaround on the title track.  Is that one way you try to keep this kind of music fresh, by playing with expectations?

Andrew: I like the idea of doing a song that's not quite what the listener might anticipate.  I think B side openers are important, they should be immediately captivating and also surprising.  I don't suspect the audience expect the record to continue on at that sort of pace.  I've said before that the album deals a lot with cycles, and in such, the song is supposed to give the listener the sensation that they are trapped in a cycle that they can’t find their way out of. 

Alan: One of the few departures on the record is the song Vienna II, which has an avant-garde, Residents quality.  It made me think you were channeling the '70s punks influences and aesthetic, which was not only minimalist, but also inspired by the loonyness of artists like Captain Beefheart.  Do you trace your influences that far back?  Further?

Andrew: Yeah, for sure, I'm a big fan of Van Vliet and the Mothers.  I think there is a fair amount of Devo to hear in that song, who are another one of my favorite bands.  Vienna II is about the avant-garde (the Second Viennese School) so it’s interesting that you bring that up.  It is one of the few songs that everybody in the band had a hand in writing. 

Alan: Your nod to Schoenberg et al has me intrigued about possible future directions.  They were another group that tried to breathe new life into old forms.  Is your idea to strip things down and build them up in a new way like they did? 

Andrew: I think moreso it’s just trying to make something that you are so familiar and intimate with feel bright and new again, much like they were.  

Alan: At the same time, your songs seem rooted in a firm diatonic melodicism, or put less pretentiously, they're catchy.  Do you see these melodic instincts conflicting with your desire to surprise?

Andrew: Nothing wrong with being able to hum something, I'm certainly not against melody.  Strip away all the sub-genres and we are a pop band. 

Alan: What's on the agenda for the band in the near future?

Andrew: Right now, just touring, there are creative plans but it’s all hush-hush at the moment.

Sunbathing Animal by Parquet Courts is out now.