5 May 2018

Parquet Courts talk DIY, Dangermouse and Opposite Sex

From RNZ Music, 2:05 pm on 5 May 2018

Andrew Savage of punk band Parquet Courts speaks about recording their album with pop producer Danger Mouse, and his connections to New Zealand band Opposite Sex.

Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts Photo: Ebru Ildiz

In Brooklyn city in 2010 Andrew Savage formed a band called Parquet Courts with his brother Max, Sean Yeaton and Austin Brown. With a firm DIY aesthetic and a history of playing house parties, they released their first album on cassette only and have released at least an album or EP every year since they started.

Read Nick Bollinger's review of Parquet Courts 2016 album 'Human Performance' here

They record all their own records, release them on their own boutique record label and Andrew does all the art for the band.

They’re so do-it-yourself their band doesn’t have a Facebook page.

They combine dense lyrical content, relentlessly shouted in unison by multiple band members, with repetitive riffs and rhythmic interplay between instruments. It’s clever, but simple, straight up-house-party rock and roll.

Their new album Wide Awake comes with a 16 page booklet of art accompanying the vinyl and was produced by Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, a giant in pop music production. He's produced albums for Gorillaz, Sparklehorse, Black Keys and Beck, and co-written albums as part of Dangerdoom, Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells. It's a seemingly an odd fit for Parquet Courts, but as Andrew Savage explains they had a lot to offer each other.

"The way that Brian worked with us was different from the way he works with pop bands, because I think he's still very much a fan of music. And I hope this comparison wouldn't offend him, but just like an actor would do maybe a Hollywood blockbuster and then go work on an indie film."

Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) playing with Broken Bells in 2010

Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) playing with Broken Bells in 2010 Photo: Creative commons/Musicisentropy

Burton made the approach to the band, and unfamiliar with his work they spent some time sussing him out. They got on, and Parquet Courts subsequently postponed their scheduled studio time so that he could be on board. 

"He was in for something different, I would assume. I think he definitely got that. From the very first, we were just kinda like - 'look, we're not gonna be a top-40 band, it would be a fool's errand to want us to be that kind of band', I just want you to know, before we go into a studio together.' And he was like 'yeah I know, that's not what I'm after here.'" 

While Burton adds polish and widens their musical palette, they don't dilute any of the socio-political messages they've become known for. 

For example 'Violence' comes with the refrain 'violence is daily life' - which Savage laments is a true statement about the commonplace violence in America.   

"It's become so normal that it's kind of hard to have an emotional reaction to it. And that's sad, and also pretty scary that it's being normalised in that way. And that when I hear about these massive tragedies, it is scary that I don't have an emotional reaction to it. So that's what the purpose of the song is, to allow the band to have that reaction."  

Over eight years they have developed a reputation for energetic live shows and have extensively toured the world. The last time they were in New Zealand they played four dates over North and South Island. They have become champions for bands such as Dunedin's Opposite Sex, who they met as one of their support bands. 

"It was one of those experiences that is becoming increasingly rare for me, where you go and you see a band that you have absolutely no knowledge or context for, and they end up just blowing you away, blindly."

About a year later, in 2016 Savage released the Opposite Sex record Hamlet  on his label Dull Tools, and reckons he'll probably do their forthcoming album too. 

Parquet Courts - Wide Awake is out May 18