Parquet Courts’ Austin Brown talks Rihanna, 2016 highlights & this weekend’s Knockdown Center show (win tix!)
Parquet Courts were among this year's Grammy nominees, though a lot of people didn't even notice as it was for "Best Recording Package" for this year's great Human Performance and, technically, it was co-frontman Andrew Savage who was nominated for his very cool design and artwork of the LP's gatefold package. He's got some tough competition, up against album designs for David Bowie, Bon Iver, Rihanna, and Reckless Kelly. Good luck!
Speaking of Rihanna, she came up when talking to Parquet Courts other singer-guitarist, Austin Brown. "I don't really listen to much super high pop but for some reason lately I've had this obsession...When I go for a walk now, with my headphones, I'll pull up Spotify and just go straight for Rihanna."
Austin and the rest of the band are prepping for their two final U.S. shows of 2016 -- Asbury Park's Wonder Bar on Friday (12/9, tickets) and NYC's Knockdown Center on Saturday (12/10). The Knockdown show is a special one, featuring two stages, art installations, and a host of other acts including Lee Ranaldo, Guerilla Toss, Eaters and more. "Playing Webster Hall is fun," says Brown of previous year-end NYC shows. "It's a great venue. But the Knockdown Center show is our brainchild and feels like giving back to the community that gave us everything we have now."
Tickets are still available for the Knockdown Center show but if you'd like to go for free we're giving away a pair. Either comment on this post or Tweet "Hoping to win tickets to see Parquet Courts at Knockdown Center from @BrooklynVegan http://www.brooklynvegan.com/?p=200881". Winner will be chosen at random.
Austin also talked about highlights from this year in which most people are only thinking about the (many) bad things, his favorite shows Parquet Courts played (Mexico, Primavera Sound), and what's next for the band. And more on Rihanna. Read the whole interview below.
BV: So you guys just got back from Mexico, right?
A couple weeks ago. We played The Corona Capital Festival and a club show the day before. I'd never been to Mexico City before, I highly recommend it.
Did you get to do any touristy stuff while there?
A little bit. We went to a speakeasy that looked like just your average crappy taqueria, but had this hidden bar room -- you walk through the kitchen into this really nice cocktail bar. When you leave you exit through the the drink cooler in the taqueria, kinda like one of those hidden bookshelf doors. We also toured the Teotihuacan pyramids, that was amazing. These 2000-year-old structures from a culture that hasn't existed for almost as long. It was a total Wonder of the World kind of thing.
Speaking of Wonders of the World, this Knockdown Center show on Saturday sounds pretty special.
Yeah, the Eighth Wonder of the World (laughs).
Parquet Courts have done year-end holiday shows the last couple years at Webster Hall and this sort of feels like that, combined with one of your more "special" shows, like the Sugarhill Supper Club one.
Yeah it's both those things. I think this may be the biggest, capacity-wise, show we've ever played in New York and definitely the biggest as far as fanfare. This is a whole step above Sugar Hill with the visual art elements we're bringing in.
What can folks expect?
There will be two stages, and a couple different rooms with other stuff going on: Eaters are doing an an audio/visual installation, and Joey Pizza Slice is doing a video installation. He's thrown out a couple different ideas but I'm not exactly sure what Joey's going to bring, but I'm really excited to see it. Andrew's going to have his artwork on display and there's going to be a Dull Tools record store. When we play in New York it always feels more import and that any other show. We're from here, we're a product of the DIY scene...playing Webster Hall is fun, it's a great venue but the Knockdown Center show is our brainchild and feels like giving back to the community that gave us everything we have now. We're trying to continue that tradition of keeping things interesting in New York. It feels really important to us, being from here, more so than shows in other places in the world. It's our town.
How did it come about, this show?
We had been brainstorming ideas for what to do, where to do it, for a while, since the beginning of the year, right before the record came out. It was gonna be a big year of touring, releasing a record that was pretty important for us. It's a good way to cap off the year.
(Laughs) I know for certain one of those people won't be there, but i'm not sure about Bun B yet. Let's hope Snakeskin is resting up. I think he's hibernating at the moment, but it's kinda unpredictable when and where he might appear, so I can't make any guarantees. As for Bun B, I'd love to do another performance with him. If he shows up, it'll be a surprise to me. Then again, I felt that way the first time. Who knows?
You're putting out a version of "Captive of the Sun" with Bun B as a single in February.
Yeah, we actually recorded it before our Colbert appearance, and then did a bit more legwork and got it "chopped and not slopped" by OG Ron C and DJ Candlestick who have been the torchbearers of chopped and screwed music in Houston for a while. That was a real pleasure. That's the B-side. It'll be a 12-inch 45, so you can drop it down to 33 if you need it to be even slower.
It's been a weird year for a lot of us and we tend to think about all the bad things, but what have been the highlights for you with Parquet Courts?
Yeah, It's been a really hard fucking year and, you're right, it's hard to look past all the difficult shit. But putting out Human Performance was a culmination of a lot of hard work, so that was probably the biggest thing. We got to go to some places we'd never been before, and definitely Mexico City was a huge highlight. Performing with Bun B on Colbert, though, that was really the highlight of my year. It felt like something that had been in the works -- at least in my mind -- for years and, through being determined to make something rare and good happen, and a series of benevolent coincidences, we were able to make it happen. I'll hold that dear for a long time, and I now have a relationship with one of my favorite, legendary performers.
Do you have a favorite show of 2016?
The Forum in London was amazing, we played with this great new band, Goat Girl and Eagulls. The record release show at The Bell House, that was a great time and felt like a party. We got to play Mohawk in Austin which was a place I'd always wanted to play, it's such a great venue. That really felt like an accomplishment and it was a lot of fun. But maybe most of all was Primavera, a real highlight and one of the best shows I've ever played. Much like my Bun B moment, when we first started, Sean (Yeatons) said he only had one goal, and that was to play on the beach in Barcelona, Spain, something we were reminded of before we walked on stage.
Everyone says Primavera is the best festival.
It really has to do with the culture in Spain. The festival doesn't ever start till 6 PM. We went on stage at 1 in the morning and it kept going till, like, six in the morning...and then there were afterparties. I got to see Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds and then a few hours later we played. If you can go, you should.
You spent a lot of time in the van or bus this year, what did you listen to?
We listened to a lot of outlaw country, like John Prine, we had playlists that got played a lot. I got really into Rihanna, actually, lately. Apparently that means I'm "Team Navy," though I should probably do more research before I start saying that. I'm really new to the "team." I don't really listen to much super high pop but for some reason lately I've had this obsession. I think it came from being, late at night after a show, I put on the TV and the VMAs were on and Rihanna had this amazing performance, a montage of three of her singles. I thought "I didn't know all those were her's." So after more investigating, I realize how prolific she was as a hitmaker. When I go for a walk now, with my headphones, I'll pull up Spotify and just go straight for Rihanna. The production is so good, I think it's may have something to do with all the production work I've been doing lately. I listen with that in mind.
You hear one of her songs and think "I should've used that on the Rips album."
Exactly like that (Laughs).
You produced their album and it's out soon right?
They just sent me the master and it sounds great. They're a great band and I had a great time working with them. I'm not sure when that's out but I'll be happy to have it in the world. Currently I'm working on the Gauche album, it's members of Downtown Boys and Priests. It's six people in the band, spread over DC, Baltimore and Providence, and they're really great. They put out a tape on Sister Polygon which is great, but then they added more members and went in a more disco direction, which I thought was really exciting. I had a fun time working on that, with a group who were originally more punk but were willing to go in a new direction. With the saxophone player, things went in more of a Maximum Joy or Donna Summer way, wild disco references. It really clicked with me, "Wow this is a totally different sound than the way you're being perceived." I got to use a different set of skills, or learn to do something I hadn't done before, production-wise. I can't wait for that to come out.
So what's next for Parquet Courts?
We'll be in Australia at the end of the month, and then we'll be on tour with Mary Lattimore in February, down to Miami and back. We've never played Miami before, as it's a hard city to get to on tour but we made a point of doing it on this one. And then in March I reckon we'll be working on a new Parquet Courts album. We got a new practice-studio space so we can record and demo whenever we feel like it. We'll start to accumulate songs and think about what the next record is going to be like.
Maybe like Rihanna.
You know, I wouldn't mind that. (Laughs.) We try not to repeat ourselves, always move forward, and I think all our records have been that way. I'm not interested in rehashing Human Performance or Light Up Gold, there's no sense in putting out something new if you're not adding to the conversation. I really enjoy that aspect of our band, throwing away all the old material when it comes to making the new one, trying to do everything besides that. That description may be a bit extreme for what the product ends up being. It's definitely incremental. The next album will not sound like Rihanna but there could be influences there which would be a new thing for us.
Knock! Knock! Down! Down! SET TIMES:
11:45pm Parquet Courts
10:45pm Guerilla Toss
10:00pm Lee Ranaldo