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.
“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 make them relevant.”
Parquet Courts are certainly well acquainted with music history. Last year, the New York foursome’s second LP, Light Up Gold, outed them as a group of music lovers and earned comparisons to rock greats such as The Modern Lovers and The Feelies.
“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,” Savage says. “The goal of the band is to be representative of the here and now.”
Indeed, comparisons to the aforementioned bands aren’t warranted based on echoic similarity. No matter how evocative of the past they might be, Parquet Courts present distinct idiosyncrasies that belong to them alone.
Following Light Up Gold, the EP, Tally All The Things That You Broke, came out in 2013’s latter half. And now, despite seemingly non-stop touring, the band’s third full-length, Sunbathing Animal, is here. Rather than just offering an addendum to Light Up Gold, Savage, co-frontman Austin Brown, bassist Sean Yeaton and drummer Max Savage criss-cross through diverse territory on the new record. For instance, the title track is four minutes of unforgiving garage-rock beat poetry, while Instant Disassembly places philosophical impressions atop a lethargic 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 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 hometown. 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 that is New York.
“New York has all the right conditions for being a band like Parquet Courts,” Savage says. “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. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to New York was how those Chinese restaurants are just everywhere.
“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.”
Pic: Ben Rayner