In The Middle with Parcels

Parcels are a band renowned for their style, sincerity and, above all, their song-writing. Tom Paul got the chance to chat to the Aussie collective on the penultimate stop in the UK stretch of their world tour, which just so happened to be backstage at the Brudenell Social Club.

When I arrive to chat to Parcels on a typically dreary Leeds afternoon, they have already made themselves at home on one of the Brudenell’s plush sofas, comfortably working through the string of interviews lined up for the day. Hot off the release of their self-titled full-length debut album, the Aussie collective have just embarked on a world tour with four stops in the UK, culminating in a sold-out show at London’s Roundhouse. I sit down with Anatole (drummer) and Patrick (vocals and keys) to chat touring, album production and their signature sense of style.

It’s their first time in Leeds, a city that they say is something of a “mythical place” for the band. “There’s an inside joke about it where Toto’s trying to hitchhike to Leeds,” Pat explains, “he’s like a backpacker, always asking for a lift to Leeds, but no one can ever take him there.” Now that they’ve arrived on British shores, the prospect of playing to packed-out venues across the UK is a very real prospect; “because of the musical history here it always feels like a bigger deal to me. It always makes me think about all the classic bands,” Anatole says.

Since releasing their first EP in 2016 and producing breakout single ‘Overnight’ with Daft Punk last year, anticipation of a full-length debut album from Parcels has built immensely. To ensure that their first project was an accurate expression of their collective identity, the band made the decision to self-produce. “When we started this project, that was always kinda the main concept,” Pat says. Recording sessions started out focused around writing music on their laptops and fiddling around with electronics, but things quickly changed course. “We became inspired by more live music, more classic music. We wanted to do something special and something more live, so we kept the idea of producing ourselves.”

The album that resulted is unmistakably Parcels, but it’s clearly distinct from the live experience that fans have become familiar with. Speaking about their decision to reign things in on the album, Anatole explains that “you can get away with things musically on stage that, when you record them, it’s maybe a little cheesy.” It’s a stylistic choice that goes hand-in-hand with the omission of previous, dancier singles ‘Myenemy’ and ‘Older’, which the band felt were too far removed from the softer sound they were striving for on the album. “We were starting this record in Berlin and we were recording it all in the same studio, so it really felt like all these songs match,” Anatole says.

Anatole explains that “you can get away with things musically on stage that, when you record them, it’s maybe a little cheesy.”

Just prior to heading off on tour, the band posted a playlist chock-full of what they’ve been listening to on the road. Noted highlights in the tracklisting come courtesy of Serge Gainsbourg and The Grateful Dead, both of which Pat talks about with palpable enthusiasm:

Image credit: Eigenes Werk

“I love that kind of sloppy, 70s reggae inspiration – that’s super nice. Same with that really long Grateful Dead track; I love them and all their guitar work is super inspiring to me.” On the topic of whether any of this material has influenced their own sound, they point to sixties exotica as one of the main inspirations for the album’s aesthetic; so much so that one of its tracks is named after the genre. “We used this sound for a lot of percussion on the record and a lot of the room-y reverb tone; even when we were working on these 70s disco-inspired grooves we would be coming back to this classic tone.”

It is yet another indicator of a band who have a very clear understanding of their image. For the singles and album artwork, the group worked with Jules’ (guitar, vocals) sister, Carmen Crommelin, who took on a creative producer role for all their visuals: “she knows us so well, and she put a lot of thinking time into it and listening to the album, trying to match it all up.” The look was also inspired by an image from renowned American photographer, William Eggleston, of a cocktail glass next to an aeroplane window, the influence of which is strikingly apparent in the glossy, nostalgic single covers that the band settled on.

Another thing the band were sure of was that they wanted to have a credits track as the album’s closer. “We value everyone who’s helped us so much and we wanna say thank you to them,” Pat explains, “and also musically it’s just really a lot of fun.” I ask the pair if this reflects an album designed to be listened to from start to finish, and how more traditional releases like theirs fit into today’s streaming culture. They explain that whilst they use streaming for almost everything, they still tend to listen to albums rather than playlists: “unfortunately not so many new albums, though, because that’s not the way they’re made so much these days,” Pat says. “We always wanted to make a proper album; that’s what we’re inspired by.”

This is maybe the best encapsulation of Parcels that an interview like this can offer. They are a young band doing it the old-fashioned way; they have the kind of experience it takes most bands years to accrue; they are putting in the work and reaping the rewards. And boy, is it going down a treat.

Tom Paul

Header image via NME / Antoine Henault