What is it that allows rock’n’roll to remain vitally stimulating after all these years? Well, just as attempts to calculate creative success hardly offer deliverance, if we knew exactly what justified the proud claim, “Rock will never die,” then the music would likely lose some of its power. Still, it’s no secret that successful rock music is generally modelled on what has worked in the past. But it doesn’t simply imitate the past.
“Rock music is very self-referential in its own history, and it’s very sentimental, and it’s very rooted in a sort of tradition,” says Parquet Courts vocalist and songwriter Andrew Savage. “But what makes rock music so exciting is that it makes you feel alive and in the now. Good rock bands do that balancing act well – they take from the past their favourite parts, then they apply that into a future mindset and they make them relevant.”
Parquet Courts are certainly a band well acquainted with music history. The New York foursome’s 2013 breakthrough release, Light Up Gold,outed them as a group of music lovers. The arresting 15-song LP drew comparisons to rock greats such as The Modern Lovers and The Feelies, as well as garnering the miscued ‘descendants of The Strokes’ tag.
“It’s never a goal to sound like anybody that we’re listening to,” Savage says. “But when you listen to a lot of music, it comes out. Creating art is kind of that way – what goes in must come out. The goal of this band has never been to be a retro band or a band that is inspired by a certain era of music. The goal of the band is to be representative of the here and now.”
Indeed, comparisons to the aforementioned groups aren’t warranted based on echoic similarity. Rather, no matter how evocative of the past they might be, Parquet Courts present distinct idiosyncrasies that belong to them alone.
After Light Up Gold announced Savage, co-frontman Austin Brown, bassist Sean Yeaton and drummer Max Savage as one of 2013’s most interesting prospects, the EP Tally All The Things That You Broke showed up in the year’s latter half. And now, despite a seemingly non-stop global touring schedule, the band’s new full-length Sunbathing Animal is here.
“Sunbathing Animal was recorded at three different recording sessions – one in May, one in October and one in January,” Savage says. “Each one of those was at least five days and each of those days was at least 12 hours. There was a lot of time spent on this record compared to the three [days] that it took to record and mix Light Up Gold.”
A passing glance can feed an impression of Parquet Courts as brash, punk rock slackers. However, the depth and intellect showcased on the new record implies patient construction.
“Each song has its own goal that we want to reach and we wouldn’t put it on a record if we didn’t feel like we reached that goal,” Savage says. “Sometimes the goal could be very explicit and sometimes it could be, ‘I want a song that gives the listener this sort of feeling.’”
Stylistically, rather than just offering an addendum to Light Up Gold, Savage and his cohorts criss-cross through diverse territory on Sunbathing Animal. For instance, the title track is four minutes of unforgiving garage rock beat poetry, while ‘Instant Disassembly’ is an elaborate philosophical unfurling, sitting atop a rudimentary blues chord progression.
“I think it’s a record [where] its brightest moments are rooted in simplicity and rooted in a minimal approach to making music,” Savage says. “The instrumentation in there is very sparse. Most songs are recorded live and it’s just the four of us. We all realised the strengths the band has as far as songwriting goes and how we want to explore them more. There are a lot of themes and ideas on this record that will be explored more intensely in the future.”
One thematic mainstay for Parquet Courts is their home city of New York. Three-quarters of the band are Texans by birth, but they’ve transferred into the lineage of artists energised by life in the curious and sometimes chaotic creative mecca of the East Coast.
“[New York’s] an inspiring place for me,” Savage says. “It has all the right conditions for being a band like Parquet Courts. There’s things that you get to see, hear and do in New York that you can’t do anywhere else.
“My relationship with New York is, I want to define it on terms that it hasn’t been defined on yet. I want to create imagery that people haven’t associated with it before.”
When you consider the Big Apple’s rich artistic history and massive tourist appeal, this is no modest ambition. But Parquet Courts aren’t interested in reprising what’s already been done.
“For example, the cover of our first record American Specialties is of a Chinese food plate from a menu,” Savage says. “One of the first things I noticed when I moved to New York was how those Chinese restaurants are just everywhere. It’s not really an image that people associate with New York, but it’s something that I definitely did upon moving here.
“There’s a lot of imagery of New York that gets reused and reused [and] it kind of becomes tired at a certain point. You have to keep creating new stuff for people to associate with places and ideas and scenes.”
Parquet Courts will be playing Splendour In The Grass at Byron Bay Parklands from Friday July 25 – Sunday July 27 alongside Outkast, Two Door Cinema Club, Lily Allen, London Grammar, Violent Soho and heaps more.Sunbathing Animal out now through Rough Trade / Remote Control.