Brooklyn-based quartet Parquet Courts has come a long way in its six-year tenure as a band. Members Andrew Savage (vocals, guitar), Austin Brown (vocals, guitar), Sean Yeaton (bass), and Max Savage (drums) released their debut album, 2011’s American Specialities, as a limited cassette release, followed up with 2012’s Light Up Gold, 2014’s Sunbathing Animal, and 2014’s Content Nausea (as Parkay Quartz). While Sunbathing Animal hit #55 on the Billboard charts, it’s not album sales the group is concerned about; it’s more about creating a memorable experience for the audience, whether at a live show or as a recording. Savage and Brown met at a record listening club in college called “Knights of the Round Turntable,” where they would geek out with fellow music nerds. Even though Savage was more into hardcore punk and Brown liked mostly indie rock bands, they bonded over a love of Belle & Sebastian. Somehow, it made sense to start a band together. Savage and Brown had time to talk Texas, songwriting and why words are important.
BandWagon Magazine (Kyle Eustice): What took you to Brooklyn?
Andrew Savage: I can only speak for myself, but for me, it was the most opposite place from Denton [Texas] that I could move to, really. I think what attracted me was coming from a small down, the anonymity factor of it. It’s a small scene, a small town in Denton and everybody knows each other’s business. What you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. That gets tiring. Anonymity is something that everyone should be entitled to and that’s hard to find in a place like Denton. Being a face in the crowd was the most appealing thing.
Austin Brown: I guess it has something to do with how I was living in a really small town. I only lived in small towns in Texas. I think it’s pretty easy for everyone to be in everybody else’s business. It’s hard to have the confidence to get something started when you’re in close watch of your peers and friends who sometimes maybe aren’t as understanding to a lifestyle change. I think they can be judgmental, even if they mean well. It’s a difficult place to evolve in for a young person.
Why did you do Content Nausea under a different spelling of Parquet Courts?
AS: It’s not the first time we’ve done that. I can’t really give an exact reason other than that’s one of the reasons we chose the band name because there were several variations of how you could spell it. To keep people on their toes is the shortest way to put it.
Sean and Max are mostly absent on the new record. Any particular reason for that?
AS: They just weren’t there for the most part recording it. It was a lot of me and Austin. Max plays drums on most of the songs that have drums on them. He was recording, but he just wasn’t there for the whole process because last semester, last fall, was his last semester of college so he was pretty tied up. I was amazed he was there to play drums as much as he was. Sean had his first kid in September so he was busy with that. He couldn’t really do anything. He wrote a song and played bass on a song. He couldn’t be there so Austin and I had to do a lot of things, including playing bass and songwriting.
Speaking of, I read something in Interview Magazine where you said, “Words should be important.” Why should words be important?
AS: I do agree with it. I don’t know if that’s necessarily for every band. Not every band is lyrical. In a genre like hip-hop, it’s kind of the primary force of the music is the beat and words. Not to say, that’s the sole focus of listening to music, but for me, it’s an important part of creating it. For Parquet Courts, one thing that distinguishes it from other bands that I’ve done, it’s a band where I get my kicks from writing the words. Other bands, I think most bands in the pop realm, would say lyrics are the secondary supplement to music and melody. Not that that’s wrong, some of that is great, but for me one of the things that got me into music was the message, reading lyrics, identifying with them, et cetera. I guess I just want that same experience to be there for fans of my bands.
Tell me about Knights of the Round Turntable. That’s how you met Austin, right? What exactly was that?
AS: That’s how I met Austin 11 years ago. It’s dreadfully boring. It just involves really nerdy, socially awkward people listening to music in relative silence in a fluorescent lit classroom. I can’t really glamorize it for you. It was the most socially inept nerdy people being together and trying to communicate the only way they know how and that’s talking about music.
Everything makes sense but the fluorescent lights. I imagined lots of black lights.
AS: No, no it was in a classroom. We were all sitting at desks and we had the turntable on one of them [laughs].
AB: It wasn’t like we were sitting around getting stoned and listening to records. It was very analytical and nerdy. I guess in the beginning, we bonded over more indie rock music and then more noise stuff and improvised music. Andrew is more into hardcore punk and rock music. We found an interesting bridge with Belle & Sebastian. It was a band we could relate to even if we didn’t find any real camaraderie on other kinds of music. Belle and Sebastian is kind of genre-less.
I like that you really take the album making process seriously, the cover art, everything. Do you think digital downloads cheapen the experience of getting a new album in a way?
AS: I agree something is just lost in the digital realm when something only exclusively exists there. I think it’s good and convenient for people to have a record digitally to listen to when they skate or whatever, but to me, records exist in a purist form, in a hard copy, something you can hold and something tangible. It’s not the materialist in me speaking, it’s the traditionalist. I don’t think records being in a physical copy is inherently good in and of itself. Conspicuous consumption exists within music culture like it does in everything else. It’s not about the object. It’s about the relationship with the object as a piece of art.