Interview Parquet Courts: ‘We’ve Put Blood, Sweat And Tears Into This One’

Don’t call them slackers: Parquet Courts have put a lot into their new album ‘Sunbathing Animal’.

If Parquet Courts have taught us anything, it’s to never get sucked into stereotypes. Despite emerging into public consciousness just last year, and being instantly pinned under the romantic guise of stoner punks, there’s nothing remotely lazy or half-baked about their efforts. That’s something their brand new album looks to set straight. After all, some of their decisions this time around surprised even themselves.

“The ethos of Parquet Courts has always been to get it down and then move on,” explains frontman Andrew Savage. That much could be determined from their previous offerings; their scrappy but incendiary debut ‘Light Up Gold’, or the taut but rugged EP ‘Tally All The Things That You Broke’. With their second record though, things materialised a little differently.

‘Sunbathing Animal’ took shape over three sessions; two that took place during 2013 at their usual space the Seaside Lounge, before a third this January in upstate NY’s Outlier Inn. “It was a really prolific set of sessions; we came out of it with maybe thirty songs. I mean, it was never planned to do that much recording for this record, but we ended up recording a lot of songs multiple times, and not always going with the newest one. Sometimes, we’d record three times and realise the best time was the first time around. Still, we did a little bit more nitpicking this time around.”

It may not have necessarily been the most natural move for the band, but it was what made sense. “My only thing is that it’s important to not get too obsessed over things. When you nitpick things, you get too far away from the core and that was one thing I was worried about, but we were all very frank about not choosing a certain take because we loved it at first, or choosing the new take because it’s the newest one. Some of the songs we re-recorded and even played them better, but the previous one had the spirit of the song in there.”

Setting up camp with Jonathan Schenke, the man at the helm of their breakthrough debut - “it seemed like a no-brainer for us” - the Brooklynites knew that this record had the potential to be big. Having quietly self-released their first full-length, things only really took off when ‘Light Up Gold’ was re-released through What’s Your Rupture? a full year later. Met with a slew of worldwide tour dates, festival appearances and TV slots, their follow-up already has big shoes to fill, but that seems like it’ll be a walk in the park.

“The original idea was to do a double LP, but it wasn’t in the budget. It’s maybe more conceptually aggressive. I guess, one of the main concepts - besides thematic concepts - was economy. This time around, the long songs are simpler: most of the long songs only have one part or one chord, maybe two chords. So, even though the longer songs tend to be lyrically more dense, they’re structurally more simplistic. It’s a give-and-take type thing. The shorter songs might have more parts, but are maybe lyrically more simple.

“There was a lot of awareness about what to do - or what not to do - and using a certain amount of restraint and not trying to overload people with information. Something that I want to get even more serious about as I keep writing songs, is using restraint and not giving people everything because, you know, I think there’s something to be said about brevity. It’s not done so much in rock music these days, it has been in the past, but I don’t think right now it is. That was also the approach to recording it too; we didn’t want there to be an overload of instrumentation. There’s not a whole load of overdubs, most of it was recorded live, and that includes vocals. The experience of listening to it will be like listening to us live. It sounds almost exactly the way we play it live.”

Is it a reaction to their growing strengths as musicians? “I think it’s a reaction to something,” he confirms. “I mean, a big purpose of it is that I think the message is communicated better when things aren’t too overly complicated. It all ties in with what the record is about too, and the general themes of the record. I think approaching it that way lends itself to telling the story a little bit better than any other way, than being maximalist. It’s also a really lyrically dense record, much more so than ‘Light Up Gold’ even, so it would be a bit of an overload if we had four guitar tracks on there, and did a bunch of overdubs.

More considered than their previous effort, it’s clear that this record’s set to follow a more thematic thread. However, despite touching upon the subject matter occasionally when chatting, Savage isn’t willing to divulge his cards too far upfront. “There’s definitely a one, singular, major theme going on but I don’t wanna elaborate on it just yet, because I’m kinda looking forward to seeing how people interpret it, you know?”

Being such a productive band has always been in their favour, and having spent so long living with their debut, the wheels are already firmly in motion for its follow-up; the band even spent the majority of their recent UK dates previewing new tracks. With plans already in place for what to do with the tracks that didn’t make the cut (“we’re doing a couple of split 7”s and we’re doing a compilation”), the only thing that seems unsurprising is that they can’t wait to reveal it.

“This record has been a lot of time in the making. We’ve definitely put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this one, for sure.”

Parquet Courts’ ‘Sunbathing Animal’ is out 2nd June via Rough Trade Records.

Taken from the April 2014 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

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