RENDEZVOUS: A Quick Catch Up With Parsnip
“I feel that it is my duty as a songwriter to bring some light into the world if I can. I find it extremely uplifting to create a joyous tune and it makes me even happier if others can experience that too.“
Earlier this month, Melbourne four-piece Parsnip released their debut LP, When The Tree Bears Fruit. It’s a glorious collection of cleverly-constructed tracks – a vibrant album that perfectly balances their jubilant sound with their effortless punk edge. One moment you’re whisked away with the 60s inspired garage rock, the next you’re harmonising at a children’s concert. While you don’t often hear those words in the same sentence, rest assured that it’s unique and it works. We caught up with lead singer Paris Richens to chat about their new album, drawing inspiration from Nuggets compilations and more importantly, how they rip on the dance floor.
As always, please press play below to enrich your reading experience.
Can you tell us a bit about the recording process for your brilliant debut LP ‘When The Tree Bears Fruit’?
In July 2018 we recorded 14 tracks at Bakehouse Studios with our friend Tim Dunn, who had previously helped mix our first EP. The standard instruments were recorded live, while overdubs were done on vocals, piano, percussion, saxophone and additional twelve string guitar parts. The vocal overdubs were a little challenging at first, as Tim opted to record them without headphones while the track played through a small speaker nearby - but then it also allowed us to go pretty bonkers and jump around if we were feeling it! Two of the songs were released as a single on Antifade that same year, another two towards a split release with pals The Shifters on Future Folklore and the rest are on the LP. There is one track ‘Seafarer’ that I recorded at home on Garageband that is just keys, bass and a whole lot of midi sounds. It includes a reprise of ‘Lighthouse Beacon’ where I had initially intended the band version to be spliced in somehow... but instead my wacko demo made the cut!
What does the usual Parsnip creative process look like? Who writes the songs?
Everyone pitches in a tune or two - we’re all creative beings and like to keep open to anything anyone has to contribute. We tend to share demos with each other online and develop and refine together at practice. There’s generally quite a bit of freedom to let members modify their parts. I’m never that finicky about drum parts for example, and trust Carolyn to make something that suits - she already has to deal with some of my weird timing as it is, so I really appreciate her commitment! Also, I can’t shred like Stella so I’m always happy to leave that up to her.
A lot of the songs on the album are extremely catchy. What’s the trick to making music that sticks on the mind?
Perhaps it has to do with some of the joyous gang vocals that we opt for on most tracks. Definitely repetition, lots of the tunes are a bit bouncy too. I like to muck around lyrically - wordplay, alliteration and lots of strong imagery that might contribute to some catchiness!
What’s one of the weirdest instruments or recording techniques you used on the album?
I can’t recall any instruments that were too out of the ordinary - except when Carolyn was suggesting that we use a vibraslap on some tracks, but we couldn’t remember the name so it was referred to as the ‘ca-a-a-a-a-a-a’ thingamabob. Bec played the studio’s piano that was slightly out of tune too but still featured on some songs. Tim did an excellent job of recording Stella’s saxophone part! The vocal process wasn’t necessarily weird - just not what we were accustomed to.
There’s a very nostalgic theme on this record. Not only in the 60s-esque instrumentals, but the glittering of almost children’s music throughout. What were you all listening to when making the album?
Oh - I can’t really speak for everyone. But I think a lot of my songwriting stems from all kinds of obscurity like The Monks, Syd Barrett, Daniel Johnston and of course, The Beatles for instance. Stella and I similarly grew up listening to garage compilations like Nuggets, Pebbles, and Back From The Grave. Teenage Shutdown compilations are a big influence too - a lot of the songwriters mightn’t have hit puberty yet - so yeah, kids are pretty integral to the sound!
While I’m guilty of reading too much into things a lot of the time. I do have to ask - does it feel nice to be delivering such a joyous and playful piece of art into what is so often such a frustrating and/or dark world?
Yes! That is exactly my intention when I pen a joyful tune! Music is very powerful at conveying moods or messages, and I suppose I find it easier to communicate through song than I do just speaking plain ol’ English. I feel that it is my duty as a songwriter to bring some light into the world if I can. I find it extremely uplifting to create a joyous tune and it makes me even happier if others can experience that too.
On that note, do you find making this kind of infectious jangly-pop therapeutic?
Generally, I prefer not to write songs that hold onto pain or are meant as an attack towards anyone, if further down the track I have accepted the circumstances/forgiven/moved on. That’s not to say that I haven’t penned a disgruntled or sad song! But in that way - I still like to inject a bit of hope or make it fun. Yes, the process of writing a cheerful tune can actually make me somewhat manic! A wonderful form of expression but also makes me loco when I get in the zone.
There’s a real sense of freedom that comes with Parsnip. What would your band motto be if you had to have one?
Well - we tend to say ‘oii shamoii’ a lot… which, I’m not sure if anyone really knows the meaning behind it but it just feels good and funny to say. Stella developed a habit of using it as an expression and then it spread throughout the group. Whether or not that passes as a motto… there is at least plenty of freedom as to how we might use the term considering I haven’t been able to find a definition for it!
Who are some local artists you are loving/listening to at the moment?
Eggy, Bananagun, Leah Senior, Girlatones, Thibault, The Snakes, The Faculty, The Shifters… and yeah, the list goes on - pretty spoilt for choice in Melbourne. I recently picked up a copy of the Snake & Friends record which has had quite a few spins now.
Your live shows are pretty damn special. What do you want people to feel when they walk away from a Parsnip gig?
Oh! Well, we are really awkward and maybe don’t practice as much as we should, but we just kinda laugh through it and make stupid noises and speak in silly voices to try and mask how crazy and nervous we are. So - perhaps people will walk away with a smile… that’s good enough for me!
Finally, you obviously have an ear for music. How do you go on the dance floor?
Oh yes, Parsnip BLOW THE D-FLOOR UP.