As Parquet Courts get set to launch the Invisible Wind Factory as a live music venue, Getintothis’ Joe Giess grabs a moment to a pick the brains of a band taking the world by storm.
Getintothis: How would you like Parquet Courts to be remembered down the line?
Austin Brown: ”The best band of all time?” *laughs*
Parquet Courts‘ new album, Human Performance, is the auditory equivalent to watching a baby smoking – it’s alarming, but oddly bewitching. The post-punk revisionists, unparalleled in musical sensibility, have acquired enough kudos to become an undeniable force to be reckoned with and are going from strength to strength.
We can well remember when Light Up Gold fell into our record player a few years back – we sat for 33 minutes and 16 seconds, utterly compelled, just staring at the stereo. Now that the speakers have been swapped for the yellow tinted aviators and the Texan argot of Austin Brown, the lead guitarist, we ask the question that we have been pondering for some time, where did the name Parquet Courts come from?
“It was pretty random. I think it was just something we came up together with one day. All pretty spontaneous, and even if there was a big secret… I’m not going to give it away.”
Since Stoned and Starving, and Master Of My Craft, became anthems for music fans stretching from the student crowd, to musical anthropologists, the momentum has continued to snowball. Now four years on, they’re playing chat shows, have polished off Primavera and are playing gigs with underground rock royalty, Shellac.
With the current tour seemingly going well, Brown clearly has an eye on the future, “I think the next date should be good because New York is always really good to go back to. Primavera should be good, I had tickets to catch Brian Wilson down in Austin but he cancelled before so it’ll be good to catch him. But yeah, the gig with Shellac is something pretty far down the line.”
Delving beyond the piffle and straight into the new album, Human Performance is a record that harnesses an adroit new energy, a dynamic elegant offering from the team, showing us they’re capable of more than the post-punk freight train of previous albums. More than echoing a sound reminiscent of Modern Lovers, Brown reveals exactly what the band were turning to make such a sound of the new album, “we were listening to a lot of rock; Dire Straits, Steely Dan, Television, Lou Reed. A lot of classic rock, there’s something about the riffs and the composition that they were doing at the time, and then in turn trying to apply it to our own music.
“It was something we’ve never done before. Something about the orchestral production of some those bands that we really took a lot of influence from.”
With the album amounting to something akin to a referential tapestry, it was hard not to dissect the songs with Brown, some of those influences clearly coming through, and more to name. Speaking about the digital-only intro to the album Already Dead, Brown explains the cameo behind it “It is sort of like a meditation tape. I recorded the part a couple of times but it didn’t feel right so we felt like we needed an outside source, something that is alien to the band, so we got one of my friends who’s in a band in Austin to record it for us.”
It could be the fact that they seem to be a band without a home. Texas born, but relocated to New York, they’ve become poets caught in the machine, navel gazing and a fly on the wall for the 21st century. If it has been said that only foreigners can truly see a place for what it is, then songs like Two Dead Cops portray a city boiling with inner conflict. Parquet Courts act as silent passengers, jotting down their experiences and understandings, and it comes together like a Bruegel painting, brimming with beauty and carnage.
Like forlorn outsiders, they create things which lend themselves to being identified as anomalies, but having been based in New York for a good five years, and constantly having Lou Reed on the stereo, it’s an easy misconception to make that this is a band with their heart in the Big Apple.
It is true that songs like Steady On My Mind are more than reminiscent of the The Velvet Underground‘s distinctive sonic stylings and Brown does not look to disguise the extent of that band’s influence, “I think the way The Velvets write slow songs is something that we all continue to take influence from. I don’t think many people have written songs better than The Velvet Underground.“
In the same way that Lou Reed took influence from the writings of Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, the protean thinkers of Parquet Courts return to the writings of philosophers from Descartes to Socrates, the equivalent of Morrissey quoting Oscar Wilde. If this seemed to provide the clues to uncovering some of the secrets behind the Parquet Courts puzzle, Brown was giving nothing away, “Haha, I don’t know, I guess it is sort of a game. It seemed relevant at the time and it’s something I was into, but I guess in a way it is sort of like an easter egg.”
This is all done with the post-modern lyrical tropes of David Foster Wallace and Don LeLillo, the deeply textured music woven around acerbic jargon. The refreshing aspect of Parquet Courts is that they come across as a band completely unafraid of change.
Whereas previous album Monastic Living offered a conceptual approach that came across like a No Wave compilation album, Human Performance emerged from a more collaborative process, with Brown himself writing five of the songs and penning one of the album’s singles, Dust.
Explaining that this, as a combined effort, is their most vulnerable album to date, with such a sophisticated album, you can’t help but ask what’s next from the gift that keeps on giving. “We’ve got 4 different perspectives on the band so the possibilities to lift off are really endless. The more we work together we find different songs, I think we need to really exhaust this material before we move on to something new.
“It’s something we wanted to experiment with, looking at different things, exploring with what works and what doesn’t. It’s an attempt to sonically all find our place. It feels like we have to explore more of the record, playing it live to see where it goes before we start on anything new, we haven’t really had time to think about the next record.”
With that in mind make sure to come and bring your friends, as Parquet Courts mark the first live gig performance at Liverpool’s newest performing arts venue, the Invisible Wind Factory on Wednesday June 15.