Welcome to #3 in our Artist Interview Series. This time we are talking to We Are Parasols about their new single, "re:Union". In the interest of full disclosure, we should let you know that, in this interview George Lewis III, of Hawks Do Not Share, was acting as the interviewer for Predator Friendly Records because the two core members of We Are Parasols are the same folks who operate PFR on a daily basis and normally conduct the interviews. We thought it was silly to interview ourselves! So, we sent the single over to George and he happily turned the tables on us.
We hope you enjoy...
PFR : Congratulations on the release of re:Union; The hook pops into my mind quite often, which seems a primary metric of success for a first single. Can you tell me more about how the song came to be?
j/wilkins : The song started as a title, a concept, and a decision to write something at 130 beats per minute. It’s a pretty typical way for me to work, beginning with a concept or a challenge for myself rather than a particular idea about chords or melody. D and I had just started working together again, and had just gotten engaged, so that obviously inspired the reunion concept and some of the lyrics. We had also been listening to the SPC ECO record, Art of Pop, really intensely and wanted to write an upbeat, dance-pop track inspired my them. Though, typical of my attempts to copy someone else’s style, I think we totally failed to sound like SPC ECO, but ended up with something really good and true to ourselves. That vocal hook is entirely D though…
d : The vocal hook came fairly organically for me. My experience writing vocal melodies seem, most of the time, somewhat effortless. And it’s that effortless feeling that makes me uncomfortable; I never think the melodies will work, but then I receive so much good, excited feedback. I do find that I am often taken aback that they actually work. The trickiest part of writing melodies, for me, is incorporating the lyrics to the melody lines. I usually don’t write lyrics, but I do sing words; they are always a random string of words that never make sense, but work well with the melodies. It’s when Jeremy writes lyrics, - he is the true lyricist of the band - that is when I have to really think about how to sing the melodies in a way that works with the new words. The lyrics usually alter the melody structures in such subtle ways, but it can still trip me up so much!
PFR : Having heard a preview of the new album, I don't feel I'm giving anything away by saying it's got a pretty huge sound. Is there any planing underway for a record release show?
j/wilkins : We would absolutely love to start playing live shows again, but given the new “huge” sound you mention, we don’t feel comfortable playing as a duo anymore. We have a drummer, Alec, who worked on some of the record with us, but he currently lives in Atlanta. So, we need to work out a few logistics to rehearse and build a set together. Also, we’d like to add a live keyboardist so that D and I can focus on singing and playing the guitar and bass parts rather than being trapped behind a wall of keyboards and laptops.
d : Yeah, we do have a lot to figure out before we can play live. I will say that I am excited to get out again and play some shows (of course, I am also just as terrified to be putting myself out there again - it’s truly a love/hate relationship I have with playing live!). I am super happy to have Alec on board as our drummer and it would be such a relief to have another keyboardist; it would be less for me and Jeremy to have to juggle on stage. I don't want to say anymore just because much of this is up-in-the-air. Hopefully, we’ll have a better idea of things sometime in 2016.
PFR : You've recorded as "Parasols" for several years. Maybe it's a trivial question, but what special significance, if any, is there in adding "We Are" to the handle?
j/wilkins : Technically, I have recorded as Parasols for several years, since 2011. D came and went depending on her level of interest and our personal relationship. Every time we did end up playing together I considered using the We Are Parasols name to distinguish between the solo project and our collaborations. I just kind of liked it. Our Twitter account has always been @WeAreParasols. When we made the video for “The Healing Properties of Pollution”, a track which I recorded solo as Parasols, we credited We Are Parasols as the directors because we made it together.
But, a real turning point happened with “re:Union” and the upcoming record, Infrastructure. First, we got married and decided that D was going to be a permanent part of the project. At her request I agreed to not use either moniker without her ever again. We looked back at all the material we had done as Parasols and chose some of our favorite songs to rework and combine with new material for the new record. We started to think of Parasols as 4 years or recording demos for this new record, Infrastructure, and the new band, We Are Parasols.
Simply put, we wanted to draw a line and say, “That was then. This is now.” I don’t think Parasols ever had a consistent or cohesive sound. I think We Are Parasols does.
d : When Jeremy proposed changing the name to We Are Parasols I was instantly intrigued. My immediate interpretation was that we would be expanding our sound, the band, and also opening up our project to other creatives - whether they be friends, family, strangers, fans - anyone who wanted to contribute something, they can. I see We Are Parasols as an eclectic, collaborative, multi-media project. On a personal note, I know that I’ve never had any interest in just being a musician, I wanted to explore and experiment with other mediums, and be more of a creative generalist. So the new direction the band is taking is incredibly appealing to me!
PFR : You recorded two Love and Rockets covers for the re:Union single. Any special connection between those songs and re:Union?
j/wilkins : The only real connection is that the existence “re:Union” sort of killed the project that those songs were supposed to be the start of. At the beginning of 2015 I conceived an ongoing project, as Parasols, to record Love & Rockets covers to post online and eventually compile into a record. The idea behind the project was sort of a return to my roots thing. Those songs on the Earth, Sun, Moon album were the first songs I learned to play on guitar back in the early 90s. I thought it would be fun to see how I could put my own spin on songs that were so fundamental to me becoming a musician.
But, just as we were finishing the first two covers, “Earth, Sun, Moon” and “The Telephone Is Empty”, D and I started working on “re:Union” (also a sonic return to roots for me, combining ideas from my 90s band underwater with my love for shoegaze) and that led to discussing a new album, the change to We Are Parasols, etc. D isn’t quite as into Love & Rockets as I am so we set that project aside and added the two finished covers to the “re:Union” single as b-sides.
d : Yes, Jeremy is much more of a Love & Rockets fan than me. I do like their overall sound and the simplicity of their songwriting (thinking about it now, I wish I had been learning their songs when I started playing guitar!) But, I’m still into possibly doing more Love & Rockets covers, as well as doing other covers; maybe some Garbage covers. It’s funny to realize that shortly after Jeremy was learning Love & Rockets songs on guitar, in the early ’90’s, I began learning how to play Garbage songs - some of the first songs I learned - on guitar in the mid and late ’90’s. I’m certain those Garbage songs were not always as easy as learning Love & Rockets songs!
Watch the video for "re:Union" below...