The thing is …
Icy blonde Rykarda Parasol brings her brooding rock to Chico
It’s just after 11:30 on a Friday morning. Over the phone from San Francisco, Rykarda Parasol says she “had some people over last night.” There seems to be an implication, and she notices immediately that it’s nowhere even close to getting picked up on. She nudges the ball of yarn a little, explaining: “A thing, with some bands … “
Parasol’s living quarters are squeezed into a small corner room of The Hive, her large San Francisco “salon and club” that she uses for a variety of art and social events. It sounds like the type of place where brilliant people from various spheres of the artistic community go to enjoy a “thing” with some bands, and if you didn’t hear about it, then you weren’t invited.
The former Austin, Texas, resident returned to her native San Francisco in 2001 and formed the band that is now Rykarda Parasol and the Tower Ravens. The band delivers a murky, moody tone that is equal parts dread and refinement, like drinking hemlock from a martini glass.
Accompanying this atmosphere are songs concerning, as Parasol explains, “morally challenged characters.” For subject matter, the gang’s all here: murder, heartbreak, lust. The grinning devils haunting western fiction all throw a ticker tape parade in Parasol’s songs.
“There was something about wanting to connect,” Parasol says, concerning her choice to make music. “It’s intimate. There’s drama and reaction. I studied painting when I was younger. Then I discovered I have a low, raspy voice, and I was frustrated with how women in music were represented in the ‘90s. They were always screaming. My mother was already yelling at me, and I didn’t need more of that!”
This hope to produce something new and original remains. Comparisons to Parasol’s music are both easy and difficult to make, but she brings up one of the more interesting comparisons.
“I get compared to Alfred Hitchcock,” she said. “I like this because I feel attached to him. I think people often consider me an icy blonde, and I’m aware of that part of me, certainly. I think I was born with it, at least the icy part.”
As for more predictable juxtapositions, Parasol notes that when she gets compared to other female artists, she feels that people simply aren’t giving it a thorough listen.
“I mean, I understand what people are connecting between me and PJ Harvey, but I think there are aspects of her music that aren’t there in mine, and vice versa,” Parasol explains. “At the same time though, if someone compared what I’m doing to Michelle Branch or someone, I’d jump out a window in a very tall building.”
Parasol talks a bit about a children’s book she started. She barely remembers what it was about: “It involved a girl with imaginary friends. She finds a puppet … I think it was going to help kids overcome their shyness.”
This leads to talking about overcoming shyness herself. She rattles off about living in Austin (they know how to be in bands there, according to her) and using nonreligious characters in music (which she feels is an engaging change of pace from religious-themed songs of her contemporaries).
Has she ever played in Chico before? “No,” she says. “I hear it’s a party town.”
Guess that means Friday night at Nick’s Night Club with a couple other bands will be quite a “thing.”