Heading to the UK on the back of album five, Parquet Courts are growing more than ever. Five studio albums in as many years says everything that needs to be said about the productivity of the band. As bassist Sean Yeaton reveals, they had upwards of 35 songs written for their latest album Human Performance; clearly not short of inspiration.
Human Performance came full of melody and meaning, with lyrical themes given attention after the largely instrumental 2015 EP Monastic Living, and Yeaton emphasises the extra time the band had at their disposal in the studio as a reason for the melting pot of sounds that appear. The band recorded the album over the course of a year, in that time spending two weeks at Wilco’s studio, The Loft, in Chicago – “a toy store for musicians” – and the same amount of time in New York at Dreamland Studios, going into the last fifteen minutes of their allotted time at both.
“All this equipment at our disposal meant we could experiment and add all manner of things to the songs”
“We’d never had the time before to add anything into the songs that wasn’t guitars, bass, drums and maybe a tiny bit of keyboard – having excess time at these studios with all this equipment at our disposal meant we could experiment and add all manner of things to the songs.”
The band’s lauded live show comes to the UK this month; Yeaton isn’t worried about the multitude of instruments on Human Performance or recreating them exactly, instead relishing the fact that the band are a whole lot tighter now and that the studio versions of these songs capture a moment in time – a first, scrappy introduction to the fifth age of Parquet Courts.
“We play the songs so much more tightly now, and I’ve been changing a load of parts around – nothing glaring or crazy, but there’s a lot of live improvisation,” he explains. “Everyone expects the recorded version of a song to be the best one, but in some instances that was the first time we’d played some of those songs all together, and they’re obviously going to grow and improve with time.”
“We’re a band that appreciate the freshness of going into something blindly. A lot of the songs on this record, and even on all of our records, have used the first take we properly record.” This process serves as a ‘moment in time’ snapshot of the band, with progress and improvisation then allowed into the live environment. This isn’t to say that the band disregard their studio material at all – Yeaton excitedly recalls “the energy of four people in a room together being a little bit hesitant and wanting to play everything exactly right. That brings a looseness, and it’s a looseness that’s inherent, not forced. When you take an album out of that immediate environment and on tour, it somewhat loses that immediate punch, so we try and mix things up when playing live.”
Despite this, Yeaton stresses that the improvisations on their songs are only slight: “You’ll be able to tell which song is which, don’t worry – it’s not that drastic.”
Speaking of the twenty songs from the Human Performance recording sessions that didn’t make the album, he believes they deserve a place in the future but also enjoys seeing the band as one so productive that such a number of songs could be set aside completely. “There’s something about all of the songs that made it onto Human Performance, and although I think certain songs that didn’t make it are probably better than a few that did, they didn’t fit the overall feel of the album.”
“We’re a band that appreciate the freshness of going into something blindly”
As a band with four lyricists and songwriters, Parquet Courts’ albums could easily feel disjointed, but Yeaton tells how, five albums in, the band have become extremely competent at playing to each other’s strengths. “We’ll all know what we want from the other members of the band when writing a song, and will always write in a way that can showcase all of us at our best.”
Indeed, Human Performance shows the band at their most proficient, with all four members intertwining consistently, making their most together record yet. This togetherness comes through lyrically too, explains Yeaton. “Everyone has their lyrics tightly clutched to their chest until the last possible moment, and the ones from the 35 that made the record were the ones that wormed together with each other and carried the same meanings.”
Given the response so far, Parquet Courts have announced even more UK shows for October, before the new live show has even had its first outing here. The band are changing more than ever on album five, and whatever may be to come off the back of Human Performance, it won’t be what you expect.
Human Performance is out now via Rough Trade Records. They play Trinity on 14th June.
Check out ‘Berlin Got Blurry’ right here: