Over the past few years Parcels have checked off any and all milestones an Australian band could hope to achieve. And not only did they do it without Triple J, they did it without the entire Australian music scene.
Parcels circumvented Australia entirely by moving to Berlin where a chance encounter with Daft Punk at their first gig led them to co-produce Overnight, the name inspired by Daft Punk’s rigorous work ethic.
This year the Byron Bay boys have a self-written and produced 12 track self-titled album and have been touring Europe with it. Before they tour Australia, I managed to chat to guitarist and vocalist, Jules, about Parcels, both the record and the band.
LB: First off, congrats on the album. It’s a fantastic record with a diverse tracklist, was it difficult to democratically decide what stays and what doesn’t?
Jules: In a way, we didn’t have many finished tracks when we got through the recording process, we kind of filtered through the tracks as we went and to be honest we didn’t have much time. The tracks that are on the album are essentially the songs that we thought ‘okay – these are the ones,’ and maybe we left one or two behind.
LB: Were the time constraints difficult? And were these restraints imposed by you guys or external parties?
Jules: The time constraints were difficult, and actually we put it on ourselves. We had the option of releasing this year or January next year and we knew that people were waiting. We didn’t want to wait too long before releasing the album and we already had a tour prepared, and we’re on tour now, so basically we’d be doing this tour without a record out. There was kind of the pressure on the expectation of putting an album out eventually, so we said ‘yep, let’s do it this year’.
LB: Individually do you have a specific songwriting process and how does that compare to writing with the band?
Jules: For the album, I think it originated with me writing songs for Parcels, it’s always been alone. I like to write songs alone because I feel a bit shy when it comes to writing music and I think it comes from the background of me not feeling very comfortable singing around people. How I started singing was me recording my voice and making Parcels demos, it was the first time I had ever suns. So the process always begins for my songs alone, then I show the guys and we work on it all together, we flesh it out a little bit more so it’s like the second tier of the demoing process and we arrange the song a little bit further then we go to the studio and record it properly. Then there’s usually a bit more nitpicky stuff with the arrangement there or we get influenced by the sound of the recording and we make some changes then.
LB: The album definitely showcases some developments from your earlier records, was that a conscious decision to change the sound or did it just mature naturally?
Jules: It was just natural. As a band we wanna be constantly changing, we’re constantly learning about new music and being influenced by new music and it was certainly a conscious decision to make an album that was diverse enough for people to understand that that’s what we’re going to do in the future. If we were to make an album that was the same as Hideout or the same feeling as Overnight then people wouldn’t be ready for us to make a change later.
LB: Moving to Berlin, obviously that’s a huge decision that paid off immensely for you guys, is it something that you’d recommend to other Australian bands?
Jules: That’s a tough one because I’m not sure if I can recommend it because when we moved we didn’t really do our research very well… the other boys had never been to Europe. I went over there because I had a job teaching music. I went over and checked out Berlin and, you know, I didn’t really like the place, to be honest. The fact that we all decided on one location was enough, I wasn’t going to disrupt that settled decision, so I just went ‘let’s do it’. We knew it was gonna be cheap. The initial reason to move to Berlin was based on the understanding that there is a full electronic music scene. We didn’t realise that it was just DJs, we thought that there would be electro bands, people making electro music live but that’s not a thing. It’s just a DJ community so I don’t know if I can recommend it.
LB: Is it difficult being in Europe with so much more competition than in Australia? Is there any benefit to being a big fish in a small pond or vice versa?
Jules: Yeah we felt alone in Berlin in a way, we couldn’t find any other disco bands or bands that were similar to us. We eventually found one that we’re taking on tour with us, they’re supporting us but in a way, it didn’t feel like a big pond so it just depends I guess. Maybe if you’re a punk band in Berlin you’ll feel like it’s a big pond or more of a modern electronic home producer you might feel like it’s a big pond, but for us, it wasn’t.
LB: Is there any other advice you could give Australian bands that are just starting out?
Jules: I feel like I’m still working it out, we’re still learning the ropes. The only advice that I can give is to work hard and don’t have a plan B.
LB: Moving to a new continent is always going to be difficult. Did finding success compound that or has it made it easier?
Jules: I wouldn’t know because I don’t have another alternative. But for us, we kinda moved as a family in a way. I know it would be harder if it was just myself moving from Australia to Europe. I remember friends making that big move and I found it extremely scary, the prospect of moving to another country. But when we did it with each other we had each other and we had a goal. We’re still working on that goal, we don’t feel successful. We feel like we’re still searching for something.
LB: How did you find the transition moving from being a recording project to a live band?
Jules: Well we’d all been playing our instruments for a very long time so that was pretty hand-in-hand with what we were doing. The only difficult part I guess was when we did record songs, working out who would play what. Trying to divvy out all the arrangements to the instruments. Because of that, we arranged our album really simply with only the instruments that we can play live. We don’t want to fill our songs with sounds we can’t play live.
LB: What’s it like seeing the Australian music from the outside? Do you think you have a clearer view of it?
Jules: To be honest living in Europe I find the Australian music scene peering in. Europeans see the Australian music scene as a huge thing, they compare us with Tame Impala and Pond like we’re this group of crazy guys and apparently we all know each other.
LB: In another interview, you mentioned how you idolised Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hendrix and Dean Brown and that you were playing guitar since you were five. How have those artists influenced your style and tone and are there any projects where fans of Parcels can hear you shred?
Jules: Yeah I went on a pretty guitar heavy road when I was into metal music, and I had a band called Prowler that you can find on the internet. We didn’t have many recordings but you can find some shredding… or attempted shredding. But I idolised this guitarist called Chris Poland who was a Jazz player who went to thrash metal and I used to play for hours and hours every day just to sound like him. Throughout my whole guitar playing life I’ve picked up little bits from everybody, a lot from Stevie Ray Vaughan, I love how solidly he plays the blues and really bends the strings and makes the guitar cry, I really like that. Of course, when I found the Nile Rodgers style I took a lot from that too and I try to avoid that now because I’ve stolen too much from him.
LB: Speaking of funky guitar, what’s the provenance of your pretty pink pearlised Stratocaster with lipstick pickups?
Jules: Haha classic! I got that from a very conservative German guy from the suburban outskirts of Berlin. I went an hour and a half out of Berlin to get it because I liked the look and colour. I wanted a new Stratocaster because I’d just flown to Berlin from Australia and to be honest I just liked the colour. It’s a strange reissue, the lipstick pickups that are in there don’t actually sound good I’ve realised after two years of playing it, so I put a new pickup in the neck pickup. But you know what, I much preferred the guitar I had in Australia. I had a 1979 Stratocaster and I really miss it.
LB: It wouldn’t be a Parcels interview if I didn’t at least make reference to Daft Punk. In another interview you said how they changed your outlook on songwriting. Is that something you can put into words or is it more intangible than that?
Jules: Yeah they definitely did, it’s a bit of a mass conversation because that whole experience was kind of unforgettable and opened our minds so much on exactly that, the view on songwriting. They see recording as a sacred process, a very meticulous process that I think a lot of people don’t see it that way, it was very, very inspiring.
LB: What was unique about their approach?
Jules: I guess what’s great about their style is finding the core of a certain song or a certain idea. They’re always trying to find out what is unique about a song, why a melody is so catchy and they’re very sacred around finding out what that is. They don’t use any musical logic or knowledge to try and work that out. They go in with a very open mind and I find that very inspiring, almost as babies going in and trying things even though they know so much and they’re so calculated when it comes to production.
LB: What do you look forward to the most when you have trips home like your upcoming Australian tour?
Jules: The smell of the airman and the birds. You don’t realise that you don’t hear any birds in Berlin, and when I get back to Byron Bay there are birds singing in the morning – and there’s surfing and the lifestyle.
That Australian tour is kicking off at The Triffid in Brisbane on January 9th and will include shows in Sydney and Melbourne but if you’ve read this far I’m sure you’ve already got tickets.
Parcels Live Tour
January 9, The Triffid, Brisbane QLD
January 10, Hotel Brunswick, Brunswick Heads NSW
January 12, Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
January 14, 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC
January 15, 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC