Despite having “a raging and raw power-pop sound that bullies Fountains of Wayne around the playground” (SPIN) and being a “beautiful mess of raw (but never ridiculous) emotion” (Montreal Mirror), Parlovr profess simply to make not-quite-normal, but ridiculously catchy pop that, just maybe, might make (a pre-convicted?) Phil Spector proud.
Comprising Alex Cooper (keyboard, vocals), Louis David Jackson (vocals, guitar) and Jeremy MacCuish (drums), this Montreal trio are a must-see live (they’ve deftly supported the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys and Handsome Furs), though their freshly-released Kook Soul LP, replete with quirky tales of love gone awry, begs to at first be savored in attentive solitude.
Just days prior to its debut, band member Jeremy MacCuish reveals that even though Parlovr came together via a series of well-timed “accidents,” the music they make is filled with purpose: to be loud, optimistic and soulful – while faithfully erring on the side of kooky.
Why the name Parlovr?
My band mates Alex and Louis were roommates in a loft while they were putting together demos. The loft was zoned for commercial, so they incorporated themselves as ‘The Parlour’ – I think it was from a book that Alex was reading at the time. It just sort of naturally became the name of the band when it came time to name it. There were a few other bands with the same name, so they went with a Roman ‘u’ in the spelling. Now when we tour in Quebec, people often refer to us as Par-luv-errr…We like that; it rolls off the tongue (laughs).
How did you come to form the band?
Alex and Louis have been songwriters for a long time and I’ve played drums for pretty much my whole life – but honestly, it was a series of accidents that brought us together. Alex and Louis moved in together then realized they both wrote songs; then just as they were losing they’re drummer, I ran into Louis outside of Fairmont Bagels and they ended up asking me to drum. I don’t think we even meant to devote so much time to it but things just started to happen. Now, we’re about to release our second record – and we spent a lot of time and energy to make it what it is.
Your bio describes your sound as a “blend of retro surf and soul” – but how do you describe it?
I think Alex actually coined that description long ago; we had kind of a concept for our record and as it so often happens, it kind of became something else as we went along. We make pop songs but definitely put a ‘weird’ spin on them. If it sounds too normal, we don’t like it and we have to sabotage it somehow (laughs). We listen to The Beatles, Chuck Berry, Phil Spector-produced groups – the artists that laid the foundation for rock and pop, so at the core, we aim to make straight-up rock and roll that could fit on a 45-rpm and could have been written a long time ago.
TIME magazine recently named Montreal as having the most influential indie scene in the world. Do you have any theories on why artists from this city seem to be creating such waves lately?
It’s a cheap place to live so musicians have an easier time of existing here and doing their thing, you know?
How does the city’s music scene stack up from an insider’s perspective?
It seems like a lot of Montreal-based musicians are from elsewhere – Vancouver, Detroit – and they come here because it’s cheap and there’s already an infrastructure to support indie music. Bands from certain cities that I’ve played in a lot, like Toronto or New York, seem to be under pressure to sound a certain way…you know, to sound ‘sellable.’ There are a lot of great things going on in these cities but this pressure does exist… I feel like in Montreal, it’s considerably less.
A lot of ‘lo-fi’ bands that I speak to claim to sound that way purely out of necessity: ‘Our instruments are crappy so this is the best we can do!’ (laughs) So, how much of Parlovr’s sound comes from a desire to sound lo-fi versus the need to be lo-fi?
There’s both in there. We can’t afford the best instruments but I don’t know that we would want to own them even if we could, you know? Lo-fi has become the proxy for ‘indie.’ Indie used to mean one thing and now it’s used so generally it’s almost come to mean something else. Every other commercial has an indie-rock band in it now but that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘independently-crafted’ or ‘DIY’ anymore.
So what’s a ‘Kook Soul’? (laughs)
I think Louis came up with that. We listened to a lot of soul while we were planning the album – a lot of Sam Cooke – and we’re not accomplished soul musicians by any means so we’re ‘kook’ soul (laughs)…I don’t know; that’s just my little interpretation of it. I’m sure Louis would have something very different to say about it.
With song titles, like Holding on to Something, Now That You’re Gone and Fisticuffs & Affidavits I guess I can safely assume the major theme driving this record…
Yeah (laughs)…it’s definitely about personal hardships. Alex had a 7-year relationship that he thought was a permanent thing and turns out it wasn’t, and Louis also went through a breakup, too. There’s lot of disillusionment-with-love themes on there.
I read that you drew on inspirations like Flaming Lips Soft Bulletin. What was it about that album you were hoping to apply to your own record?
Mostly that kind of really optimistic pop with tragic lyrics…and those sort of ‘hi-fi’ sounds that make their way in and out to emphasize specific moments.
What’s one of your live shows like?
Louder than the record…and more chaotic. We move a lot and don’t take ourselves too seriously. There’s only three of us so instead of all the overdubs and weird laying that we do a lot of on the record, we find other ways to attack our instruments. I’d actually really like to do a live record because so many songs end up sounding so different from what we put on the record.
Is Kook Soul better listened to on headphones, a living room stereo, or live?
Well, the lyrics are definitely the centerpiece of the record and that’s difficult for anyone to fully get live – unless of course you’re Bob Dylan alone with your acoustic guitar…Or unless you’ve already memorized all the lyrics. The lyrics drive the record so the music becomes what drives the development of the songs live.
With the album out so soon, how are you feeling? Excited? Nervous? Petrified?
(laughs) I’ll just be glad to go on tour again. We’ve had this record in the bag for a little while so once its out we’ll be able to hit the road and start playing a bunch of shows again. I can’t wait.
Parlovr have recently announced a North American Tour and will play dates with Flaming Lips, Of Montreal & Bleached. Kook Soul, out now, is available to stream in full at Chart Attack. To keep up on all the band’s latest adventures, visit Myspace, Facebook and Twitter.
PARLOVR TOUR DATES
06/13 – Mavericks Bar – Ottawa, ON
06/15 – The Silver Dollar Room – Toronto, ON
06/16 – NXNE @ Yonge and Dundas Square – Toronto, ON
06/19 – The Lo Pub – Winnipeg, Manitoba
06/20 – The Exchange – Regina, Saskatchewan
06/21 – New Wunderbar Hofbrauhaus – Edmonton, AB
06/22 – Dickens Pub – Calgary, AB
06/23 – Sled Island Festival Outdoor Stage – Calgary, AB
06/24 – Medicine Hat Jazz Festival @ Riverside Park – Medicine Hat, AB
06/25 – Amigos Cantina – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
06/27 – Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL
06/28 – Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
06/29 – The Mansion – Kingston, ON
06/30 – Club Lambi – Montreal, QB