Our Editor and Lead Photographer Chris Sturk got the chance to talk with brothers, Glen Hodgson (Bass/Keys/Backing Vocals) and Paul Hodgson (Lead Guitar) of The Parlotones this past weekend.
Read the full written interview below!
Q: “I am always interested in how bands and artists create their music and the process behind it. When writing this new record or when your recording in general do you as a band collectively go into the studio and just start playing and see what you like or do each of you come to the studio with ideas, concepts and lyrics already written and work on bringing each band members ideas together to create a song?”
A: Glen: What normally happens is that someone - Kahn [Morbee], for example, will write a song and bring the basic structure to the rehearsal room, or record a basic demo and let the rest of the band listen to it. If we decide that it's a demo we'd like to work on, then we all build on it. Other times someone will bring in just an idea and we'll work that idea into an existing demo, or write a new song altogether. Each member tends to contribute most of the time, 'China' has songs written by myself, Rob [Davidson], and Kahn individually, as well as songs where we all chipped in.
A: Paul: With this album, we actually started working on songs before we got to the recording studio. These days you can easily record at home on your laptop or even an iPad. Kahn would create a basic version of the song, usually just a guitar and some vocals, occasionally some programmed drumbeat. Usually he doesn’t have all the lyrics worked out, so there’s a lot of “la la la” and humming of melodies. He then emails the rest of the band this and we can work on our parts at home, so by the time we all get to the practice room or the recording studio, we all have an idea of what’s going on in the song. It’s a lot quicker than spending hours playing the song over and over. Glen and Rob wrote demo songs in a similar manner. Then once we all got to studio, we started recording these parts, with the added advice and assistance of the studio producer. As the recordings of the songs progress, Kahn works on his lyrics, which are usually recorded last.
Q: “Lyrically some of the bands songs bring a vulnerability of emotion and openness to the forefront. When writing certain songs do you ever stop and say “no, I am not sharing that” or “that is too personal”?”
A: Glen: I'm a fan of putting exactly what I'm feeling onto paper, same with Rob, whereas Kahn prefers the metaphorical route - drawing inspiration from things that he sees in life, as well as personal experience. So no, I've never held back from personal lyrics.
A: Paul: I didn’t write any of the lyrics on this album, but I know Glen and Rob tend to write more obviously personal lyrics, whereas Kahn tends to be more poetic about what he writes. Almost all the songs have a personal slant to the lyrics, but also a universal appeal. Most people can identify themselves in our songs, or at least easily identify the thoughts and emotions behind the words.
Q: “For you as a group how does this album compare to your previous albums and do you feel as a band you guys have grown musically and are in a better place creatively?”
A: Glen: We are definitely in a better, more free-er place creatively and as a band in general. This album serves as a snapshot of that, with musical and lyrical expression flowing from each member.
A: Paul: We feel this album is a big step forward for us. We used a new studio and producer for the first time in years, and this new environment brought a new sense of creativity and freedom. Also, the whole band got involved in songwriting and putting the parts together right from the beginning. We really put a lot of hard work into this album, and it feels like the beginning of a new phase in our career. We have the energy and enthusiasm that we felt in our early years, and it’s exciting.
Q: “The first song of the new record "Antidote" personally gives me this vibe of driving down the highway with the top down during a summer day. It brings an almost 80’s like upbeat but smooth sound to my ears. The lyrics though talk about change and this hope for acceptance from others to see these personal changes this person is making. Such as the lyric “All the things that I've done wrong I'll rearrange” the song to me felt like an apology in a way. When writing this song in particular what was your process and emotion you were wanting to convey?”
A: Glen: This song was written by Rob and is pretty much just that - an apology and I promise to change. I can't really speak for him though, as it's a very personal song.
A: Paul: This was a song written almost completely by Rob, who is a new addition to the band. He has come out of some tough and challenging years and is channelling some positive energy into writing songs. There is definitely a strong 80s vibe to the song, very keyboard driven, and adds a fresh element to the album.
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Written by Parlotones member Rob Davidson, "Antidote" plays with a dark theme while being embraced in an upbeat 80’s inspired feel. “The song tackles the theme of ‘last chances’ and admitting fault in one's self," Davidson explains. "It pleads for one more shot at being the person the other one deserves by changing their selfish ways and growing as a person. Originally written as a piano ballad, it took on an 80's synth pop vibe reminiscent of Pet Shop Boys/Depeche Mode to create a more upbeat song but with a darker undertone. It asks for forgiveness but also knows you have to sleep in the bed you made.”
Q: "Leave The Light" and "Can You Feel It" from the new record is on constant repeat and there are so many good songs from this album it’s hard to choose!. Does each band member have a particular song they love playing live or is there a certain song from this album or previous albums that fans love and sing with you during your performances?”
A: Glen: I think 'Beautiful Life' is becoming a crowd favorite cos it's got that sing-along vibe to it. Otherwise yeah definitely 'CYFI' and 'LALO' are def band and crowd favorites too. Personally my favorite song to play is 'Downtown Love.'
B: Paul: We play both “Leave a Light On” and “Can You Feel It?” at every show, and they’re becoming crowd favorites. It’s great adding new songs to the set-list, but we need to keep a balance of old and new, as well as keeping in all the classics that people expect to hear at every show. “Downtown Love” is also doing well live, and “Antidote” is our “get up and dance people!” song.
Q: “When on tour do you as a band play different songs for each show or have a set list of songs you play?”
A: Glen: We generally plan and rehearse a set-list before a tour and keep that set-list for the whole tour, sometimes adding or taking out songs depending on how long we get to play.
A: Paul: We usually make a set-list for a whole tour, but fine-tune it over the first two or three shows; either adding or removing songs or changing the song order around. Also, there’s always a special request or two, so we tend to add those in when we can. It’s easier to stick to a set list of songs, so you start to learn the order and don’t have to keep looking at your set-list to see what’s next, as we sometimes put a few songs together and play them back to back without a break.
Q: “When on tour do you guys have certain things you take with you or things you can’t live without from home?”
A: Glen: I try to pack as little as possible, Kahn is the exact opposite. We pretty much need to tow a trailer just for his luggage bags. I'll pack my 'stage clothes' first, then normal clothes and running shoes and get everything to fit in the smallest bag I have (because once Kahn's bags are in there's not much space left for the rest of us.) Anything I forget I'll just buy on the road. There's nothing that I take from home specifically besides an extra cellphone, and I'm always sure to have a bottle of whiskey with me at all times.
A: Paul: Lip balm, iPad (mostly for the Kindle app and Garage band), hair bands, lots of plectrums and spare guitar strings, headphones, and a sense of hope.
Q: “Do you have any bands or artists that you gain inspiration from or listen to on a regular basis that helps you creatively and also emotionally?”
A: Glen: Yes. One constant super source of inspiration for me is David Ramirez, a singer-songwriter I was introduced to a few years back. Other than that Social Distortion and Rancid are my all-time favourite bands and never fail to inspire me.
A: Paul: There’s actually a playlist on Spotify called “Soundtrack to China” that includes most of the songs and bands we’ve been listening to recently. https://open.spotify.com/user/theparlotonesofficial/playlist/7phpocZ412H8dnRcSo0gXL?si=EMykbZI7S-eTeWjq0eotuQ For me personally, I am always listening to Manchester Orchestra, Bright Eyes, Radiohead, Wilco, Cake, Eels, and Glen has got us all addicted to David Ramirez. So most of my music tends toward the more melancholic side of things, but then I also love the Toy Dolls…
Q: “You guys have been together for a long time. How did the band come to be and how would you define your band’s sound as a whole?”
A: Glen: This year is 21 years since we got together in Neil's dad's garage for what would be our first practice. Paul, Neil and Kahn knew each other from school, and I'm Paul's younger brother. We called ourselves 'Crayon' at the time, and that eventually became The Parlotones. I think what set us apart musically at the time was that we were all influenced by British bands, or at least that kind of British sound - The Smiths, The Cure, Radiohead, REM and so, while the rest of SA bands were trying to sound like American rock bands. As far as our genre goes, I can really only define our sound as 'Parlotones!'
A: Paul: How we met is kind of a long story, it could be a TV show “How I met my band mates” … but basically we were the only guys in our hometown and wider circle of friends that wanted to play music, so maybe it was inevitable we’d cross paths eventually, but there’s been so many happy coincidences and lucky moments, that it’s hard not to believe it’s all providence…We sometimes call our sound “Indie Rock and Roll”, after the song by The Killers.
Final Notes: “Thank you guys for sitting down and taking the time to talk with us. The new records is a refreshing musical art piece that we thoroughly enjoyed reviewing. In a world of mostly repetitive mundane pop and alternative copycats your new album brings a much-needed breakthrough. We definitely recommend this record to everyone. Is there anything else you would like to add that you would like current fans and future fans to know?”
A: Paul: Thank you so much for the kind words, we really appreciate you taking the time to listen to us and spread the love. We hope to see you soon on tour! Play China to everyone you know, loudly and often. (China is the traditional gift for 20 years of marriage, and the band is 20 years old now, that’s the story behind the name, just by the way, in case you were wondering…)
I want to thank Paul and Glen for taking time out of their busy schedule to talk with us! If you have not checked out the album yet you are really missing out. We did our full review on the album and it will be on our list of top albums for 2019 which comes out the end of this year. ~ Chris Sturk
You can see our contributing editor Allyson’s full review here.