INTERVIEW: Parquet Courts | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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At the back end of 2016, indie punk revivalists Parquet Courts debuted a track called Captive Of The Sun live on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The two-and-a-bit minute song from their universally acclaimed third album Human Performance falls somewhere between How Soon Is Now and an Adam Yauch-styled ode to New York City, a place that frequently inspires the band’s thoughtful, DIY guitar music, “It’s home, it’s exciting,” says co-vocalist/guitarist and all-round creative head-honcho for Parquet Courts, Andrew Savage. “I’m away from it at the moment and I miss it a lot. It keeps humanity at the forefront of one’s mind, because you can’t ignore it living there. I’ll be here until it’s under water.”

What was most unusual about their live outing of Captive of The Sun however was an unexpected cameo from prolific Texas rapper Bun B, whose fluid verse worked a lot better than you’d expect. “It all has to do with Nardwuar!” Savage cryptically exclaims, when I ask him how the collaboration came about. “Just look up that interview, and the rest of the story becomes evident.”  I do – and not only do I learn that Nardwuar the Human Serviette (aka 49-year-old Canadian interviewer John Ruskin) is a very, very eccentric bloke, but he’s also a very generous soul who enthusiastically gifts a signed copy of Bun B’s album Trill to Austin Brown (co-vocalist and guitarist in Parquet Courts), thus planting the seeds of this future alliance.

In the minds of some, Parquet Courts remain the energetic new kids on the block, as found on 2012’s breakout album Light Up Gold. But the truth is, the band thrive on experimentation and progression, just as much as the angst-ridden punk spirit of their beginnings. “It [improvisation] keeps us on our toes,” states Savage at one point. 2014’s Content Nausea (the band’s second album that year_, for example, was released as their pseudo side-project Parkay Quarts (just because) and has an altogether wonkier feel, all clattering, jittery and unrestricted, whilst 2015’s predominantly instrumental, wildly psychedelic Monastic Living EP is regarded by some as ‘unlistenable’.

Since forming in 2010, the band have released some of the most intelligent guitar music of the decade so far and feel more vital than ever to its longevity as a musical medium. Savage and co. have never compromised the band’s taste for odd, yet wholly sincere music with a frightfully urgent and subconsciously political core. Human Performance was a milestone of the band’s creative freedom, yet it was written at an emotional time for Savage, “I’m definitely ready for something new,” he declares, “I look back on the record fondly, but it comes from a point in my life with a lot of pain, so I don’t find myself revisiting it intentionally. It’s weird playing songs live that are so anchored to a certain point in your life, very much about a specific instance. But I do still get a rush playing Outside live, and whenever I play the guitar solo in Berlin Got Blurry.”

The only package a band should want to deliver is an honest iteration of who they are

Savage is very specific when evaluating his own music, almost neurotically so. He is always moving on to the next thing, whilst remaining very clear about his own artistic vision. Whether that be the music, lyrics or the paintings that he eventually uses as proper artwork for the band’s releases. “The only package a band should want to deliver is an honest iteration of who they are. Art is holistic to me, so painting and music are very similar in my mind.  I don’t know if there is a lyrical subject that I enjoy returning to, but maybe a lyrical purpose.  Right now, I’ve enjoyed writing lyrics for the purpose of expressing anger, and that seems like familiar territory.”

Anger and general dissatisfaction are definitely recurring themes throughout Parquet Courts young discography. Tracks like Paraphrased possess a shouty, proto-punk attitude – a sort of kung-fu-kick of loosened adrenaline, recalling the likes of Television and New York Dolls. “Honestly, I have no memory of writing that one,” confesses Savage. Some artists might make up a story to a song they don’t remember penning, but Savage refuses, making it clear that he really does give a shit. His lyrics sound as close to sincere as it gets with modern rock n roll and they are centred around the complexities of life, however dull.  “Well, it’s being direct with my listeners, but mainly it’s being direct with myself, and I really can’t stand to sing a song where I’m not because I’d feel like a fraud otherwise.”

So what next for the inimitable and ever-evolving Parquet Courts? “We are all getting ready to record a new record after you see us in Newcastle,” Savage explains. The band will play in Newcastlen for the first time ever on Tuesday 29th August in the wonderful space of Wylam Brewery, and Savage attempts sheds light on his favourite ‘English’ beers. “First time in Newcastle, very much looking forward to it. Venom have been quite the ambassadors for your Brown Ale. I enjoy drinking beer, I don’t know if I even attach national identity to the beer I drink.  It’s all owned by international conglomerates for the most part.  I find myself drinking Carling (not technically English) and 1664 (not English I know). But these are the beers I associate with being on your magical island. Sorry.” God loves a trier. 

Parquet Courts play Wylam Brewery on Tuesday 29th August. Human Performance is out now on Rough Trade Records.

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