What makes one roller coaster more exciting than another? There’s got to be a good old fashioned build-up for one; the cart needs to take its time carrying its passenger to the top before throwing them into an abyss of relentless twists and turns. There needs to be some elegant pacing, too - slower dips that break things up and give you a second - just a second - to catch your breath. Throw some blistering sunshine into the background in order to really heighten the mood and we’ve got a winner, much like what Parquet Courts have achieved with their excellent new record, 'Sunbathing Animal'.
“The roller coaster comparison is right I think - it’s supposed to give that sensation to the listener,” frontman Andrew Savage explains on the phone from his home in Brooklyn. “A song like 'Sunbathing Animal' is supposed to give the listener the feeling that maybe they’re on a ride they can’t get off.” He’s right - the title track is an all-out assault on the senses albeit Parquet Courts at their most stripped back, and listeners heading into 'Sunbathing Animal' expecting more of the same won’t find more exactly, but they will find themselves pleasantly surprised.
“A lot of the songs have verses that go on longer than your standard verse... they're more lyrically robust and they're supposed to give the feeling of being captive and kind of being stuck in something, because that's a major theme of the record: cycles, and being stuck in something,” Savage continues. “There's a lot of heavier, faster songs on the record but also there’s slower songs like ‘She's Rolling’ that goes along at a plodding pace, and ‘Instant Disassembly’ is kind of a ballad to measure things out.”
And while they go along at said plodding pace, Savage isn’t too concerned about Parquet Courts diehards standing still at future shows. “We’ve been playing ‘She’s Rolling’ for a while,” he says. “Parquet Courts has had a gentler side since day one... [‘She’s Rolling’] is kind of a good opportunity for people to zone out and do that whole sway back and forth thing that you do when you're really in the heart of a good jam!”
Originally recorded in the same session as last year’s phenomenal 'Tally All The Things That You Broke' EP, the band came out of the studio in May 2013 with over thirty songs and the foundations of a new record. “We had the whole thing planned out,” says Savage reflectively on the album’s beginnings. “Then people wrote new songs and people wanted to redo things and so we went back [to the studio] in October, and again in January.”
Savage was especially glad about that last session, as it led to the creation of three songs that ended up being “pretty crucial.” “It's a really different record, I'm not even going to count 'Tally...' because it's just a five-song EP,” he tells, adding, “it's definitely a different record than 'Light Up Gold' or 'American Specialities'. One of the main differences is the composite of actually having an audience this time because when 'Light Up Gold' and definitely 'American Specialities' were released we didn't really have much of an audience at all.”
With such disjointed recording sessions, did the whole process inadvertently lead to the roller coaster effect Savage talked about earlier? He admits that isn’t something he’s really thought about before. “One thing it did allow was for us to dot our I's and cross our T's,” he explains. There were a few songs that got redone which was a first ever in the history of the band, because we're usually - our attitude is usually lay it down and move on. If anything that allowed for it to be a better record.
“We're not a good band for overdubs - we pretty much do everything live. If something sounds fucked when we're recording it we'd rather just record it again than overdub it. And you know, some songs were recorded three times! But in some instances we recorded a song three times and then ended up going with the first one anyway.”
In comparison to 'Light Up Gold', 'Sunbathing Animal' is Parquet Courts at their rawest, and the songs found within it could be labelled as “bare” or “stripped-back”. But they’re not: the density comes in Savage’s lyrics, of which he says build up to a running theme that wasn’t necessarily obvious to him at first.
On 'Ducking and Dodging' and 'Sunbathing Animal', Savage notes that these are two tracks that have a lot of rudimentary repetition to them - something that’s a signature ingredient in most of the record. “On those songs in particular, everything just seems like one note going on forever,” he explains. “So scaling things back that way and then pushing things forward in terms of the the way the vocal performance and lyrics go were what we were going for.”
“I kind of became fascinated by the idea of captivity and confinement vs. freedom, because I think it’s something we can all relate to” he continues. “I think maybe what sets it apart from anything else we've ever done is the ideas in the record kind of permeate beyond lyrics and go into artwork and song writing even more. The record is definitely about something, and what it’s about starts to be more omnipresent in things beyond the lyrics where it starts to affect the actual songwriting. It's something I didn't really notice until it was fully over to tell you the truth.”
Taken from the new DIY Weekly, available to download for iPhone, iPad and Android or read online now. Parquet Courts' new album 'Sunbathing Animal' is out now via Rough Trade. They'll play Bilbao BBK Live and Latitude this summer.