Please Don't Ever Call Parquet Courts Slackers
Photo by Ben Rayner
In Journalism 101, students are taught to use adjectives sparingly, as their overuse actually weakens a description. Parquet Courts, a band that's been descriptively categorized by critics ad nauseam, might be particularly interested in recalling this oft-forgotten rule of thumb.
Since their 2010 debut, the Brooklynites have been frequently branded with variations of "slacker-rock '90s revivalists." While Parquet Courts' music does bear a striking likeness to at least the spirit of golden-child '90s bands like Pavement, the comparison really pisses them off.
Guitarist Austin Brown didn't hold back during our recent interview; he abhors those "lazy" descriptions.
A Beaumont native, Brown met his Parquet Courts bandmate Andrew Savage while attending the University of North Texas in Denton. He credits Texas as "a nice place to be from," but says he couldn't wait to relocate to New York after college.
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"I lived in Texas for 22 years," Brown notes, "and that was long enough for me.
"There's something exciting about the anonymity of living in New York that you can't get in Texas," he adds. "I moved here to have the opportunity to be openly creative, without the fear of criticism from my peers. I think the band would have been written off pretty quickly had we stayed elsewhere."
Parquet Courts have been anything but "written off" lately; after the critical acclaim of last year's Light Up Gold, the band is readying the release of its follow-up, Sunbathing Animal. Brown hopes this album won't receive the same "slacker" label as its predecessor.
"Those 'slacker-rock' tags miss the point," he scoffs. "I guess the mass' idea was that we were this '90s nostalgia group, and that we wanted to make our band sound just like the bands we grew up listening to - but I think those journalists were just phoning it in when they heard our record."
"What critics are hearing but not writing about our sound is that it's raw," he corrects. "Our records sounds live -- there are no polished elements to them. We're not putting on a nostalgia show," he stresses, "and we're not making music to emulate classic-rock records."
Frustrated by these comparisons, Parquet Courts wrote Sunbathing Animal with some specific objectives.
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Photo by Jacob Daneman
"We went into the studio feeling misunderstood by mass popular culture," he explains. "So we made Sunbathing Animal much more deliberate and more lyrically forward, to better reflect where we're coming from. Light Up Gold was lyrically centered also," he adds, "but maybe some people missed the point."
"If you miss the boat on this one," he quips, "then I'm sorry for you."
Brown is snarky, but sincere. He and his bandmates are music-focused and relatively DIY; they don't maintain Twitter accounts or post trite Instagram photos, an anomaly these days.
"It's boring!" Brown quips, of social media. "I can't be bothered with that stuff. I mean, what more do people want from us -- you want to know what we ate for lunch?"
While Parquet Courts' attitude is brash, its members have certainly put a lot of care into the band's cause. So it's rewarding for Brown to see their dream not only materialize, but continue mounting.
"Everything has been increasingly and incrementally 'wow,'" he says, of the band's building success. "Every step forward is something we've never done before - like being on TV," he notes, of the band's television debut on The Tonight Show earlier this year. "That was something I never thought would happen."
He's also eager to play Fitzgerald's on Monday, a Houston venue he deems "legendary."
Cautiously skeptical about the duration of his band's popularity, Brown is nevertheless grateful for their success.
"I've always believed in this band," he says. "I'm thrilled we're able to make the music we've always wanted to make. To actually have an audience appreciate it," he continues, "is something I never anticipated."
"I mean, who knows if we'll be around by the end of this year," he counters. "But I feel pretty good about what we've already accomplished."
Parquet Courts plays Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, Monday, June 2, with guests Radioactivity, Beth Israel and Hooked Rugs. Doors open at 8 p.m.
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