Portland-based We Are Parasols just dropped their new album ‘Body Horror’. This album has a little bit of everything for everyone. Stylistically, it’s all over the place yet the band has such a distinct take on music that it comes off as a beautiful and cohesive work of art. I was given the chance to ask this trio some questions and, naturally, I jumped on it.
We’re going to start off with a two-parter – Pick between It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Office, or Parks & Rec. Now that you’ve picked, please assign each band member as a character from said show
D: I know little to nothing about any of the shows. I do know that that one guy—the muscle-y one—from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the creator, as well as stars, in Mythic Quest. Jeremy and I watched that show and really liked it.
Jeremy: We have never watched any of those shows. Sorry.
What’s your go-to purchase at a gas station (outside of gas) when on a road trip?
J: Some sort of overly sweet iced tea drink that I would never drink at home.
How would you describe your music to your parents?
D: You might like it, or might not.
J: My father and step-mother actually listen to most of my music so I don’t need to describe it to them. In general, when asked to describe it I have no idea what to say. Usually something pretty generic like like “dark electronic pop music”. No matter what I say it’s not what they expect it to be.
What are you favorite pizza topping(s)?
D: There is a great local pizza shop down the street from where we live and I always get their vegan pepperoni. It’s delicious.
J: Pineapple, onion, and basil. We call it the Thai pie. Alec won’t eat it.
What’s your favorite video game and why?
D: I don’t play videos games, so I currently don’t have a favorite. However, when I was a kid, in the 90s, I do remember loving my Nintendo and Game Boy. I obsessively played Super Mario Bros. While on my Game Boy I loved Mega Man and Tetris. The last video game I was really into when I was in middle school was DOOM.
J: Tetris. Because it’s almost meditative and I never get tired of puzzles.
What was the first concert you ever went to?
D: I can’t recall my very first concert. But the earliest big concert I remember going to was Garth Brooks when he came through the college town I grew up in. I have no memories of the show though. But I do remember how it seemed like everyone raved about his live performance back in the day.
J: Apparently my parents took me to see Jimmy Buffett when I was very young. I also have no memory of it. And yes, as you might have guessed from that answer, I am originally from Florida.
A: Bee Gees.
What’s the worst concert you’ve ever been to and why?
D: I can’t say, at all, that the most recent Nine Inch Nails concert was the worst, or a even bad show, in any way. But the issue was that Jeremy and I are short, so we couldn’t see the stage at all. All we could see were the lights. I am still happy we went. It sounded great. I just wish I could have seen everyone on stage.
J: I saw Hood for their “Outside Closer” tour. The band was incredible, but there was a very drunk guy standing right in front of me, center stage, who decided he was going to freestyle rap as loud as he could over Hood’s beats to impress his girlfriend. Obviously that was a major distraction from enjoying the concert. In general, I find that it’s other audience members that make concerts bad, not the actual band or performance.
Favorite lyrics of all time?
D: It all depends on the moment, on my mood, or where I am, in general, that determines what my favorite lyrics or song would be. But, one lyric that has resonated with me recently is a line from St. Vincent’s “Slow Disco”: “I’m so glad I came/ but I can’t wait to leave” That sums up how I feel about a lot of things right now.
J: As someone who is obsessive about lyrics picking a favorite is very hard. But if I wanna stay true to my roots, my original inspiration to start playing music and writing lyrics, was The Cure. I’m a huge fan of Robert Smiths darker, more existential lyrics. At the moment I am thinking of “Play for Today”, which expresses a sort of pure, almost self-centered existentialism. My favorite lyric in that song is the very end, “It’s not a case of aiming to please, you know you’re always crying. It’s just your part in the play for today” And I’m also thinking of “Fear of Ghosts” which is expresses the absurd isolation, inability to truly connect, and loneliness we each feel “And the further I get from the things that I care about, the less I care about how much further away I get” and “I expect you to understand, to feel it too but I know that even if you will you cannot ever help me, nor can I ever help you”
If you were to rob a bank, what would be the song playing in the getaway car as you escape?
D: “How It Feels To Be Something On” by Sunny Day Real Estate. I am not sure why I am robbing a bank, but I would absolutely assume I would be experiencing an existential crisis if I did.
J: “Rob the Bank” by Placebo. It’s definitely not their best song, but it seems like a logical choice to me.
What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
D: I went, by myself, to see The Kills at the long ago closed Berbati’s Pan in downtown Portland in the 2000’s. It was a hot summer night and I just remember losing myself during their show. I was sweaty and elated after the show and decided to wander aimlessly around downtown in the warm air. I felt so free that night. I loved walking past Berbati’s after the show seeing Jamie Hince outside talking to some people. I wish I could relive that night.
J: “Best” is so definitive. I’m just not that decisive. But I’ve seen Low more times than I’ve seen any other band. They are, or were, I guess, one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen and always deeply emotionally impactful. They’re also truly wonderful people and it’s heartbreaking that Mimi passed away. Speaking of favorite lyrics, “When I Go Deaf” is brilliant.
What’s your favorite method of listening to music?
A: Vinyl and cassette. Each for different reasons.
D: It just depends on the setting, environment, music, and my mood—all of that determines how I choose to listen to music. They all can create and shape the sound and experience. There is no absolute favorite or right way for me.
J: Walking, listening on headphones.
What’s one thing I should know before listening to ‘Body Horror’?
J: We absolutely meant it to have that much bass. Everything is purposeful and all the lyrics are personal and true, unlike our previous records.
D: I didn’t write the lyrics. I sing and perform them. And I am proud of that. But I am not a great lyricist. I have had my moments. I have written some lyrics here-and-there. I mostly suggest an idea or a prompt and let Jeremy take it from there. If I wrote the lyrics there would be a lot of “Ooh, baby, baby/let’s do it/get down/do it/do it” kind of shit. I mean, I am being a bit hyperbolic, but I just don’t craft lyrics as well as Jeremy. To put it more simply: he’s my Martin Gore and I am his Dave Gahan.
Where did that album name come from?
D: The Body Horror film genre popularized by David Cronenberg and others. Jeremy can elaborate.
J: I used to work at a video store. I was one of those guys. – But Body Horror, the album and title, is about the struggles we deal with, being human, in weird and uncomfortable human bodies with erratic emotions. I deal with a lot of body dysmorphia issues so I think the psychological themes and disturbing imagery of those films has always appealed to me.
This whole album is amazing but what’s your #1 favorite track on it?
D: It’s hard to pick a favorite song. I do really like the lyrics to “Trauma Glam.” Those lyrics have a lot to do with being a hesitant performer, always asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” The ultimate irony is that every time I stand upon a stage I own it the most when I deliver those lyrics. I feel them the most. Self-hatred, insecurity, fear—these are powerful emotions.
J: Again, I’m just not that decisive. My babies and all. But most days it’s either “Body Horror” or “Resistance”.
Stylistically, you’re a bit all over the place here. There’s definitely an indie-electro vibe but I’m also getting almost industrial metal and then hip-hop at times. Who would you say your biggest influence was when creating this masterpiece?
D: Us. Each other. We are our greatest influences. Because each one of us brings something different to the plate. Different tastes, influences, ideas, experiences, and so on. Body Horror, but, really, all of We Are Parasols’ music over the last decade, is more a reflection of us than any specific artist that has influenced us.
J: I think you are getting all the ingredients right; indie-electronic, industrial, some metal, hip-hop, trip-hop, new wave, plus Deb’s pop vocal influences. But for me, my biggest single influence for songwriting, arranging, and production was and always is Depeche Mode.
If you had to have a country singer cover this entire album, who would you want it to be?
D: Patsy Cline or Tammy Wynette. Their voices both hold and tear at your heart. There are lyrics that Jeremy writes, for We Are Parasols and other past bands, that I think either of them would capture the words, the story, so perfectly with their voices alone.
What does the near future hold for We Are Parasols?
J: We’re getting ready to release a music video for “My Heart is all Blurred” that we’re very excited about. That could really happen at any time. We’re continuing to play live shows and have quite a few booked around the Pacific Northwest through the end of the year. We’re also working on a bit of nerdy-tech self indulgent creative project where I’m re-editing and remixing two of our older releases, Inertia and No Center Line. I discovered right after we finished up Body Horror that because of the amount of electronics and plugins we use in our process that mixing sound better (or at least different) at higher sample rates. I was always skeptical about high sample rate recording and mixing in the past. I also didn’t have a computer that could handle it. Now I do and I’ve done multiple tests at 96k and I think the difference is really obvious. But in addition to the technical differences we’re using this as an opportunity to make some creative changes to both of those releases also. Anyone who becomes a member of our Bandcamp subscription will get those reissues as soon as they are finished and well before we release them publicly.
D: I really don’t know how to answer that one. I feel like we’re kind of at a crossroads and I am unsure what path we’re going to embark upon. I know that sounds a bit ominous, but it’s the truth. And right now I am embracing what is true, real, honest, sincere more than ever.
Much like the music of We Are Parasols, I feel like each answer from each member to these seemingly random questions came with a lot of thought and heart. Honestly, I don’t like the act that D talked about how the band is at a crossroads right now because, although they have a lot of material out there, ‘Body Horror’ is the first that I’m hearing about We Are Parasols and it has me craving a live show from this band — even with all of the bass which was absolutely intentional. I truly hope that the crossroads this band finds themselves in somehow leads them to the Midwest. Until then, I will just have to settle for playing their music at full volume for all of my neighbors to hear.
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