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Parquet Courts. Credit: Jacob Daneman.

Q&A: Parquet Courts’ Andrew Savage

New York’s Parquet Courts releases their third full-length album Sunbathing Animal June 3, which happens to be the day (today) the 3/4 Texan, one part-Bostonian band returns to the region for a show at Club Dada.

With most of the songs clocking in at over three minutes—whereas we’re used to around two—Sunbathing Animal retains the band’s feverishly upbeat style, but reveals a slightly more toned-down approach in comparison to 2013’s Light Up Gold.

Previously interviewed in Vancouver by  the “human serviette,” Nardwuar— who holds uncharted credibility in my book (see his interview with the band here)—I took a minute to converse with the approachable yet artfully intimidating lead singer/guitarist Andrew Savage, about his view on the band’s interpretation and “being in the eye of the hurricane.”

Is it a coincidence that you’re in Dallas and not Denton on release day and not New York?

What would the coincidence be?

I mean that three of you are from this area…

Right. I mean, usually a coincidence kind of revolves around something unexplained and remarkable, but no, it’s just we haven’t played Dallas before. Most of the people I know from Denton that are still in Texas and aren’t in Austin actually moved to Dallas. But, no I wouldn’t describe it as a coincidence. I think it’s just we haven’t played a show in Dallas, ever.

Cool. Light Up Gold had some of my favorite hooks of 2013 and seemed to be more lyrically-driven than Sunbathing Animal, which isn’t a bad thing. Was the change in subject matter a lyrical evolution or a true-to-experience expression of what was happening at the time?

So, you’re saying Light Up Gold was more lyrically what?

Lyrically-driven.

No, I would actually say the total opposite. If anything Sunbathing Animal, between the two of those records—I mean they’re both lyrically driven—but the lyrical-drive definitely is more important [in Sunbathing Animal]. The lyrical-drive definitely stepped up a notch for Sunbathing Animal for sure, I mean it’s definitely a more lyrically-dense record. Light Up Gold still had repeating choruses, you know what I mean, where most of the songs on Sunbathing Animal don’t have any sort of repeating phrases in them—more just long, linear lyrics, rather than a kind of structure around a pop format.

To expand, Sunbathing Animal is said to be based on things you all learned and got into while touring the world for Light Up Gold. What track portrays the most impactful memory on tour?

When I said that, I don’t think I was really talking about the whole album in general. I don’t really think it’s interesting writing about being a band. So, for the most part it’s not what I do write about although there are some personal things that I bring in there that relate to being a band. Like maybe, “Always Back in Town” is kind of about the feeling I’ve gotten recently of always being away or always being back or always being on the move.

For the most part, I don’t want people to take that away from this record, that it’s about being in a band or it’s about being on the road or anything because it’s totally not. It’s really about what the listener wants to make it about. I like writing lyrics that people of all walks of life can relate to. I prefer to write about the day-to-day drama of life rather than any sort of grandeur thing like, you know, being in a band. I always say that lyrics are open to interpretation and interpretation and analysis are an important part of the process, but I think it would be a shame if people were to walk away with this record thinking that it was a record about being in a band because it’s not.

I noticed you’d said something similar in the Grantland interview, “part of the joy of being a listener is coming to meaning of your own.”

I like talking about lyrics and I like talking about music. I don’t really like saying when people ask me “Well, what this is this song about?” I don’t really like explicitly detailing what the song was “about” to me personally. I think it becomes canonized and people can say, “Oh, he said in this interview that this song is about this and the story…” and it kind of ruins the interpretation. It spoils something for a lot of people. I’m happy to talk about the situation I was in when I wrote a song but I don’t really like saying “This is what this song is about” because really one person’s interpretation of one of my songs is just as much what it’s about as my view on writing it. I don’t think one is more correct than the other. I like it when people come to their own conclusions on things. That’s an important part of appreciating any type of art. I think maybe one day, after the songs have sat with people for a while and they’re much older, I might get more specific. At this point in time when the band is still new, I want to allow people the enjoyment of being able to analyze it like so many other bands have allowed me before.

But you guys seemed to have skipped a step in the process, in the best way possible, of “making it” and found yourselves performing on late night shows like Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers earlier this year. There seems to be some weird sort of external micro-pressure to define yourself as “mainstream” once that happens. Have you ever felt that way?

Oh yeah, for sure. Totally. Yeah, it’s something that you always have to think about. I think about it a lot. How do you step into that world and still remain compelling to people who have liked you in the first place? I don’t know if there’s an easier answer to it. This is all an experiment for me, this is all totally new to me. It’s not something I ever imagined myself doing and it’s not something that’s ever been a goal for me, either. It’s a place I never thought that Parquet Courts would be in. It has its pros and cons for sure. On one hand, you can say to yourself, “My music is getting to a lot of people that it normally wouldn’t otherwise get to,” but there are consequences to that. I don’t really listen to a lot of rock music that’s in sort of a broader social consciousness—the more popular stuff. I don’t see us as really fitting in there, and it’s kind of awkward being in that place and definitely it’s changed a lot of things about the band, the shows and I guess certain expectations. I still don’t see us as being a band that exists within that world, but maybe I’m being naïve at this point.

Did you find yourselves in menial situations that made you realize, “Damn, people notice us?”

No, there’s never been a specific moment like that. Parquet Courts haven’t really stopped since we went on our first tour in December 2012. Things just really haven’t slowed down. It’s been a few smaller incremental things. I guess it’s because I’m really in the eye of the hurricane, there hasn’t really been a defining moment like that. I think that things are probably easier recognizable to fans of the band or people that see it from the outside, but from the inside it’s hard to pinpoint any sort of moment like that.

 

A hand-numbered limited edition of Sunbathing Animal, alternatively named Albanian Gunsmith and featuring silkscreened original art from Savage, went on sale to a super-limited record store circuit May 27 and looks to be sold out online. To that, I say it’s time to get your eBay on, or you can pick the brand new album coming out today on What’s Your Rupture?/Mom + Pop records.

Opening for Parquet Courts at Dada are the Brookyln-based Swearin’ and Texas garage punk super-group Radioactivity.