Bayou City

Parquet Courts Return To Houston Wide Awake

Parquet Courts' latest album is energetic and smart.
Parquet Courts' latest album is energetic and smart. Photo by Ebru Yildiz

If you're making records that get plenty of praise from critics, you're probably well ahead of the curve in today's music landscape. While 20 years ago, that wasn't the case, anyone who's caught New York's Parquet Courts perform would say that praise and acclaim is well deserved. Now, with their fifth record in the can and their second for Rough Trade Records, the four piece is ready to take their sound on the road and share Wide Awake! with all. The Houston Press chatted with A. Savage ahead of the band's opening tour date at White Oak Music Hall.

There are plenty of bands who seem to have Texas roots that don't really make that part of their bio, it seems to be a part of the DNA that makes up what Parquet Courts sounds like. While the band has been known as a New York entity, the bulk of the band hails from Texas.

"I'm from Denton, my brother is from Dallas, and Austin is originally from Beaumont. It definitely seems like something that people are interested in, as far as that we're from Texas," Savage says "I unlearned my Texas accent after years of having people misjudge me for being from a state that's as politically divisive as Texas. Sean is from Boston, and I met him in 2006 when I booked his old band in Denton. Once we all assembled in New York, the band began in 2010."

Asked if as rumored the band was considering going a little harder on this new album, A. Savage says: "Well, I would say that's what happens with every Parquet Courts album, that it gets mixed up and changed a bit while still sounding like us. We get asked this with every record, but with this record I wanted to use less melody and make it more rhythm based, focusing more on drums and bass. Basically harness new experiences with anger and joy."

For Wide Awake!, the band teamed up with famed producer Danger Mouse and holed up at Sonic Ranch here in Texas. Looking at the catalog of records that Danger Mouse has worked on, the band didn't seem like an act he would gravitate to working with, however as per A. Savage, that couldn't be further from the truth.

"Sonic Ranch is in the desert about an hour and a half North East of Marfa. It's located on a 3,000-acre pecan farm, with five different studios on the property, and they bill themselves as "the largest residential studio complex." Austin found it and we were set to record there last May when we were approached by Danger Mouse, who asked if we could postpone the sessions. We met with him, talked about music, and hung out when we realized it seemed important to him to do the record. So we rescheduled everything and recorded with him last October."

While the band has always mixed post-punk into what they do, the new album steers from what they did with their last release Human Performance.Asked if the band saw themselves as a smart band as critics say, A. Savage responds: "I guess I'm happy to take that. Being smart isn't the goal, but it can be a real eye roller if you're trying for that. For me, I knew I wanted to write more aggressive songs. I was listening to a lot of punk and African music where Austin had been listening to lots of drum and bass music. Songs like "Wide Awake" and "Tender," you can hear the disco influence I think. While a song like "Violence" is more rhythmic with lots of repetitive lyrics conforming more to rhythm than to melody. All of us bring what we're listening to to what we're working on. It's many colors coming together to make a brown stew that is the record."

click to enlarge "Wide Awake!" is a tour de force full of rhythms that can't be stopped. - ALBUM ART COURTESY OF PITCH PERFECT
"Wide Awake!" is a tour de force full of rhythms that can't be stopped.
Album art courtesy of Pitch Perfect

With a tour that runs about four months and even takes the band across the pond, we were curious if there were any cities that the band wasn't into playing, as well as what they have planned for their show that kicks off the tour here in Houston.

"There are places we love and places that we don't play in enough. Every once and a while, something will happen or someone will ruin a city for us and we won't play there again. When we were on the West Coast in March, we performed six new songs and people seemed to love them. So, as far as this tour goes, we have to learn some of the other new ones before we can say what we'll do. We have practice later today, so it all depends on how that goes," A. Savage says.

While Parquet Courts might have plenty up their sleeves for this tour, the new album is definitely an energy heavy ride that should leave fans of the band very pleased. You can stream the singles "Wide Awake," and "Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience" in all of the usual places. While Wide Awake! won't get a formal release until May 18, you can pre-order it directly from the band here or from Rough Trade Records. You can catch Parquet Courts live and in person at White Oak Music Hall on Tuesday April 24. The all ages show will also feature a support set from Deep Time. Doors at 7 p.m.; tickets $18 to $20.
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David Garrick is a former contributor to the Houston Press. His articles focus primarily on Houston music and Houston music events.