Parquet Courts on “Wide Awake!”

Relief From Fury

May 15, 2018 Photography by Koury Angelo (for Under the Radar) Issue #63 - Courtney Barnett
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America is angry, but Parquet Courts are here to provide a cathartic release.

"We were trying to convey anger and unrest, but not in a nihilistic way," says Andrew Savage (aka A. Savage)singer/guitarist for the New York-based, Texas-bred post-punk quartetof Parquet Courts' intent for their new album Wide Awake! With esteemed studio wizard Danger Mouse (born Brian Burton) producing the troupe for the first time, Savage and his bandmates (singer/guitarist/keyboardist Austin Brown, bassist Sean Yeaton, and drummer Max Savage) set out to make a record that would convey America's sentiment in this tumultuous Trump age. But Savage says they never succumbed to any righteous fury, adding: "I wanted to do something more constructive, and veer on the side of optimism."

Brown concurs. "Anger and rage or a tendency toward violence, all these sort of negative emotions are really on the surface these days," he says. "There's a lot of stimulus to access these feelings on a day to day basis, it's hard to ignore that."

Indeed, Parquet Courts face that viciousness head on with tracks like "Before the Water Gets Too High," a punky dirge about nihilistic materialism in the face of ecological devastation. However, Savage is quick to point out songs like the title track as being more euphoric and hopeful, while Brown says "Back to Earth" should be particularly rousing, what with its lyrics about getting "love where you can find it" and its celebration of community as a remedy to the world's ails.

But before all that therapeutic release, Parquet Courts make sure not to shy away from the tension. Case in point: the aptly titled "Violence," which Savage says "deals explicitly with violence and how it has become a routine part of American life. It's a recurring theme in our work that pops up because, well, so does violence."

Aside from its lyrical resonance, "Violence," also signifies Danger Mouse's unique contribution to Wide Awake! "He really helped us craft it into a song," explains Brown. "When we first brought the idea of the song it was pretty loose, and we had taken it as far as we could conceptually. He helped us construct it into something digestible for the listener, and less conceptually aggressive."   

Brown says it was a pleasure to work with Danger Mouse, although the famous producer defied his expectations thoroughly. Contrary to giving the new Parquet Courts tracks a slick sheen akin to what he offered The Black Keys on that duo's 2008 LP Attack & Release, infusing them with the artsy flourishes that characterized his Broken Bells project with The Shins' James Mercer, or lacing them with the funk that made fans flock to his Gnarls Barkley duo with CeeLo Green, Burton instead employed a hands off, subtle approach on Wide Awake! "It was cool, but a bit of a surprise in a lot of ways, considering the kind of records he's made before," says Brown. "I was expecting him to have input on 50 percent of each track or more. Or I thought he'd tell us what to do step by step to make the songs hits. Instead, he seemed to like the group as we were, and just wanted to give us an outside perspective."

Indeed Danger Mousewho approached the band as a fan to ask if he could work with them, which Parquet Courts eagerly took him up onoffered the quartet an objective ear that helped make their songs a little more accessible. All that led to Wide Awake! being an opening up on both a sonic and thematic level, at a time when America is in dire need of it. Or, as Brown puts it: "We definitely wanted to give it uplifting aspects, but also in a way that provides a different, unique kind of emotion, one that lets you filter all the unrest."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Spring 2018 Issue (March/April/May 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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Alica
May 15th 2018
12:24pm

thanks, good Job!