The PARQUET COURTS are a punk rock band from New York made up of Andrew Savage (lead vocals, guitar) , Austin Brown (guitar), Sean Yeaton (bass) and Max Savage (drums). Their debut album, American Specialties, came out in 2011, on a cassette tape of all things. PARQUET COURTS released Light Up Gold in 2012 to some critical acclaim, and they followed the attention with some relentless touring in the USA and Europe. We caught up with Andrew Savage before the PARQUET COURTS headliner set at everyone’s favorite free show, Introducing, at Lido Club in Berlin. A Texas transplant living the last few years in New York, Andrew is taciturn and intense guy who chooses his words carefully, with a vocabulary that suggests a taste for literature (favorite books include works by David Foster Wallace and Virginia Woolf) but still stops him short in our (in)famous hope and passion question. Read on to hear about how we picked the least appropriate of their songs for our Nothing But … Garage compilation, why a track by NAPALM DEATH is an excellent karaoke choice, and what the word punk means to them.
Let’s huddle in the corner of this sweet, kind of high school setting, under this disco ball. [note: We are on the main floor of Lido Club in Berlin]. What kind of memories is this setting eliciting for you?
Feelings of adolescent alienation.
Is this where you would be, up against the wall?
Probably yeah, if I had ever gone to one of those things.
So, I read this quote you had about vinyl. I think this ties into the fact that you don’t have a Facebook page or a Twitter, and you put your first record out on cassette. Is that a conscious choice, wanting it to be something physical?
What was the quote?
It’s pretty long, but you talk about people how have records and people that listen to records. You said “I like records that I can hold in my hands, and have words to read while I listen.” You talk about it being “a piece of history that the CD doesn’t fulfill, and especially not a Bandcamp.”
Maybe you can tell me better what the link is as an outsider, not having a Facebook or Twitter and liking vinyl, I don’t know if I can see except for maybe in that in a vinyl record, the experience of listening to one and reading the liner notes… I don’t want to make it sounds too lofty but it’s kind of an immersion thing. While having a good old-fashioned analog conversation has a lot more depth than the limitations of Twitter or Facebook. Maybe it’s the age-old analog versus digital argument.
Is this is something everybody in the band is behind, would you say you’re all pretty philosophically aligned?
Yes, to varying degrees.
You work with your brother, how does that work out?
It works out great, he’s a great drummer. He’s much younger than me, he’s six years younger than me.
Tell me about the name.
Well parquet is a geometric arrangement of wooden panels, most popularly in a hatched checker pattern of opposing directions of the panels, you know what I’m talking about? It’s also the material that’s used for basketball courts, probably most famously the Boston Gardens and Sean is from Boston, so it’s kind of a geographic link for him. Also, I like that it’s kind of a distinct name, and there’s no other band name I can think of with “courts” or “parquet” in the name. It’s also allows you to have fun with some spelling variants and homophones.
Okay so the “Caster of Worthless Spells” was the song we picked for our “Nothing But … Garage” compilation. I want to know what it’s about.
Interesting, it’s probably one of my least favorite PARQUET COURTS songs. I just don’t think it’s a good representation of the band. What is the song about? Let’s see, I’m trying to go through the lyrics in my head, we would never play that one live.
“We measured the distance/of the space between islands.”
That’s talking about the East River, I wrote it by the East River. I’m talking about the space between islands: Long Island and Manhattan. There’s a karaoke line in there, I like to sing about karaoke.
You like to sing about karaoke?
Yeah, I have a few lines about karaoke, I like karaoke a lot. It talks about singing NAPALM DEATH for karaoke in that song.
Is that your jam?
Well You Suffer is a song that is less than one second long so it’s funny to think about someone doing that for karaoke, it’s basically a grunt. It has the shortest music video of all time, allegedly. I’m always cautious of spoiling the fun by explaining what a song means. At this point, with that song being kind of distant from me, I don’t know if I would even do a good job of defining it.
So if “Caster of Worthless Spells” is not indicative of a PARQUET COURTS song, what is? What is your favorite song?
My favorite PC songs are probably Other Desert Cities, Master of my Craft, Yonder is Closer to the Heart and Light Up Gold.
PARQUET COURTS: “I’d say hope and passion are things that are ultimately rewarding if you put in– this is really too lofty. I don’t know, I really don’t know.”
In another thing that I read you talked about lyrics being really important. Who writes most of the lyrics?
If someone sings a song most likely they wrote the lyrics to it. Maybe about 60/40, me and Austin.
And it’s pretty much you bring it completely prepared or do you workshop it? We’re not talking about just words.
Yeah we definitely flesh it out together, at least lately. In the early days it was more entire songs being 100 percent written by one person, but now there’s a little bit more leniency for someone of throw their hat in the ring.
So you call yourselves a punk rock band?
We have, at times sure.
What is the most annoying thing about having to put yourself or being put in a genre?
I think people allegiance to a genre can be a bit annoying. Their need to narrow genres and overly define them. I probably have a little more liberal definition of what a punk band is. I take it from a time… I think the notion of being punk definitely pre-dates the use of the word, as we know it today. I would even go so far to call Stravinsky Rite of Spring punk. You know, THE FUGS, THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, THE KINKS definitely have their moments of being punk. I feel like a lot of people have this very narrow definition of it, one that is kind of shallow and that only talks about aesthetic as opposed to an attitude. I don’t go around boasting it, but when people ask me, it’s kind of what I think of, we’re a punk band. That’s what I know: the majority of the music I listen to I would describe as such and it’s the way I learned about music so I identify that why, if someone else doesn’t identify us that way it’s no skin off my nose, it’s not my job to define us, you know.
Last time you played here you had a ROXY MUSIC shirt on. What’s your favorite ROXY MUSIC song?
Mother of Pearl. That’s a great one to come home really trashed to and put on, because I feel like that’s what he’s talking about in the song. A really gorgeous song.
We are called NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION, so I have to ask you: what do hope and passion mean to you?
Oh man, I mean when I’m put on the spot I’d like to … come up with something fairly wise. I don’t know, hope and passion… I’d say they are words that are synonymous with a lot of things, including dedication. It’s kind of a romantic notion having hope and passion but also a kind of rewarding one when you really decide to put yourself into something, be it a project or a relationship with someone or something artistic or just even put into your own life. I don’t know, I’d say hope and passion are things that are ultimately rewarding if you put in– this is really too lofty. I don’t know, I really don’t know.
Why are you guys doing this? Why are you in a band?
I suppose you could call that passion, being in a band. Having an inherent need to create something, that’s probably why we do it.
Like if this didn’t work what would you do?
Oh I don’t know. It’s working, it never hasn’t worked. I don’t mean that in a big-headed way, to me it would still be working if we were playing once a year to nobody. It’s what you do because it feels right.