In the aftermath of a chaotic Governors Ball, we caught up with Parcels over the phone. We debriefed on the festival and learned that maybe college isn’t as necessary as we’re told it is.
Hey, I’m Alisa coming at you from WBRU. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.
So, for new fans of your music, could you just briefly describe your sound?
Yeah, well, we’re a lot of things. We have the pop music that we’ve done, but we’re less grunge, less soulful than soulful music. So, I think alternative fits us best.
Very cool. How did you first get started into making music? When in your life did that process start for you?
I mean, I was playing the piano from a very young age. I did the natural, kinda typical, story of doing piano, hating it, and being turned off by that side of the music world. Maybe when I was around 12-years-old I started to play the guitar, started writing songs, and really started my journey into music.
And so when did you first start making bands and joining with other musicians to make music?
When I was about 13 years old, at the very start of high school, we started our first band. We were young. We were terrible. Well, we started off terrible. Soon, we started exploring more. We were doing it for years, and we grew up in this small town of people who were just really into it. Between us, this group of like 10 people, we started with a rock band and then kind of played funk music. We had a folk band. We had a metal band. We tried everything. A part of that group is what has become Parcels now. We settled on this band.
So then, how did you decide to settle here after all this experimentation? What made this the right sound?
It was super natural. This band was born out of a desire to produce and record music for the first time. We wanted to discover electronic music and different ways of creating it. I kind of started with that goal, and then I slowly came together with the other boys. Then, we decided to move to Berlin together. We didn’t think too much. We never settled on this being “The Band.” We had the best feeling about it, but it wasn’t set in stone. It’s only now that we’ve reached this point where, being open, we can try to do everything. Now, it feels like this is the “The One” because we aren’t tied to any expectations.
It’s very interesting to see how young you all started. Did you always envision this pursuit of music as your ideal career? Was that something that also came organically?
It was always the dream. I spent so long dreaming about it, but it seemed so out of reach. I just kept thinking like, “I need a Plan B,” but then we all realized we might as well just try this. We decided we were going to go see the world a little bit together. Once we got to Berlin, we realized music is everything. We knew then that it would be crazy if we didn’t really work at this for the rest of our lives.
How long have you guys been in Berlin now?
Three and a half years or four?
Do you envision yourself staying there for a long amount of time or do you think you’ll keep traveling the world together?
Well, it’s a really nice space to have because we are so constantly traveling. Berlin is like, kind of the home city we want it to be, but it’s always really new and exciting as well. Of course, we have moments where we think about traveling somewhere else, but it’s a very big process now to move everybody. We do, however, plan to spend some more long term time in other places together even if we don’t fully move.
So what are some of your other favorites places then?
We do love coming to America. It’s a real dream. The people and the communities always show us a great time. Musically, it’s also just so rich with the music that we love. The history that’s there, as well.
That’s interesting, considering we were first meant to meet in New York City at Governors Ball, but the rain stopped that from happening. How was that chaotic day from your side of things?
Oh my god, it was just a crazy, crazy weekend. We flew in just for this show. We flew in the night before, and then we had everything set up. Then, they just called it off last minute. We went back to the hotel, jet-lagged and sad. When we went back to the festival to catch the shows, we got caught in the storm. We thought that even though we flew over for nothing at least we were going to get to see The Strokes. Then, we got evacuated and were stuck backstage for hours.
Yeah, it was absolute madness. I only ask because, from the audience side of things, it was just complete chaos. There was just a rush on that one bridge to make it across.
I can only imagine.
Moving on from that, where is the band drawing inspiration from? A lot of people identify your sound with the ’60s or ’70s, but what are some more personal inspirations?
There’s so much, and, right now, we’re in the process of working on a new sound. We’ve been listening to a lot, just taking a lot of inspiration in. So it’s always changing. If we’re thinking about the album, there are some surprising influences that people wouldn’t think of. There’s a lot of West Coast hip hop and production. Then like, exotica music which is also a big inspiration with its more tropical sound.
Yeah, I can definitely hear that in your music. On the album, why did you guys decide to not include spaces between the song titles?
Sometimes I try and make up a good story behind it, but it’s just because when we were doing the first demos of the songs I had to name the mp3 files, and my spacebar was broken. There was something kind of fun about it. Like, we were getting together and making new words. When you take out the space, it changes the way you pronounce it. It was just really great to play with in the end.
I think that’s a good origin story. You guys can definitely keep it. The ring of the names is absolutely different. Regarding the aesthetic of it all, I’ve seen a lot of really lovely photography associated with the band. Is there someone or a specific process that creates those photos?
Now, we tour with our photographer Jean Raclet. He is an incredible photographer and just a great guy, very much a romantic Frenchman. He’s the master of just capturing a moment. There’s just such a moment in every one of his photos, and I don’t know how he does it.
His shots have truly been incredible to see in relation to the band.
So, onto the band’s collaboration process. How does it work when the band comes into a creative space? Do you come in with the goal to create a song? How are you processing ideas and working on them together?
It’s always different. A lot of the songs will start with one person demoing a track or having an idea in the bedroom. We bring in that song and show everyone. Then, we all take it from there, but this process is mostly for the album. We would then re-demo it with all of us. Everyone puts in their parts and their ideas. Sometimes someone just hits a mood on that that just feels right. Other times, we’ll throw it all away and follow the base of the song to somewhere totally new. Once we really got everything we’ll take it to the studio and start producing it. There have been times when a song has come out of nothing or just a chord progression or just jamming in the rehearsal room for hours.
That sounds like a great process for everyone to take part in together. Recently, the band has been performing and jumping around a bit. Could you talk to me a bit about what’s next for the band?
Well, we’re just about to start a festival summer in Europe. We’ve got a lot of cool shows planned all over the place. It’s going to be really fun. I think we’re all excited to do this. We’ve done a lot of touring, and we’ve done a few intense tours. Winter in Northern America was one of the craziest, most freezing tours we’ve done. We love playing club shows, but we’re really excited to get into the festival loop. After that, we have a cutoff date of September where we want to stop playing shows and really start working on our music.
Is this the first festival loop Parcels has done? Or is this a traditional part of your touring schedule?
We’ve been playing festivals the past couple of years in Europe. It doesn’t feel like a traditional part though. Every time is very different, and the whole situation now is much more comfortable and exciting because we have the tour bus and the crew which lets us have a great set up in Europe.
Do you guys enjoy giving those festival shows? How is it different than other shows?
It took a second to get used to it. The first few it was a bit weird, and same vice versa. You definitely can’t fall back on your fans as much, like knowing your songs and generally being hyped to be there. That adds a lot of security to the show like, there, everyone likes you. Everyone has paid to see you. They know they like you. At festivals, you have to give more. You have to win the crowd sometimes even if they know you. We’re actually working right now to create a balance of an exciting show but also a show where you can close your eyes and lose yourself in the music.
Yeah, that seems to be where festivals get weird. They’re a great opportunity to get people to know you while also being a place where you can have no expectations.
So, to wrap up we are a student-run multi-media company that’s looking to broadcast to an audience of other college students and young people. With that, we’d love to know what advice you would give those people as they try to pursue their creative passions.
From personal experience, I’ve never been to college, so I don’t know.
Well, you can always tell them to drop out. You wouldn’t be the first musican to say it.
Yeah? I mean, that was the first thing that came to my head. Just leave college and go do it. If you want to make pop music, at least. I mean, I totally understand and love the idea of studying music in terms of jazz and music theory, but, when it comes to pop music, you can’t learn that stuff in a classroom.
I swear every time I have one of these conversations I get an inch closer to dropping out and just starting something new.
Well, maybe it’s time then.
Maybe. Anyways, thank you so much for your time. I hope Governors Ball wasn’t too much of a disappointment. Have a good rest of your day!
You too! Goodbye!