The new school of rock
New York’s Parquet Courts lands in Davis to talk buzz bands, faking it and why college is pointless
Finals will wrap up, summer vacations shall ensue (see also: seasonal jobs), and Parquet Courts is set to land in Davis to wound the spirits of undergrads with a dose of reality rock. The are no road-cone-dispensing jobs or summer lifeguard jobs awaiting them, however. Rather, Parquet Courts arrive with the comforting words, “There are still careers in combat, my son.”
Those lyrics from the Parquet Courts track “Careers in Combat” are telling of the intelligence, wit and painstaking truth the New York four-piece poured into its album Light Up Gold. UC Davis holds its commencement for undergrads throughout June, but the unofficial keynote speakers arrive June 10, at the Davis Bike Collective to share stories from alumni life beyond the career-center pamphlets.
Light Up Gold is heavily influenced by meandering post-collegiate life that anoints dull as the new cool. If there was one concept songwriter and guitarist Austin Brown could cast out of the social ideology, he’d choose the institutional necessity of college.
“Going to college, for me, was a huge mistake in some ways,” he said. “I think everyone is told in school they have to go to college and get a degree to get a good job. Obviously, that is total bullshit. I had a great time in college and enjoyed the classes I actually attended, but I’d be in a lot less debt and more self-made had I skipped that whole portion of my life.”
Take it from him, kids; Brown’s in a successful rock band. Or listen to the anthemic album opener, “Master of My Craft,” for career advice. The song stands in defiance of material wealth, making concessions to the quiet reward of mastered craftsmanship. In recognizing the one skill, musicianship, they cultivated at college, Parquet Court’s success isn’t temp work, but rather a résumé builder.
“I feel like we allow ourselves the freedom to make the music we want to make,” Brown said. “That’s what got us whatever spotlight we may have for the moment, so I think to consider [changing] would be detrimental to our craft. That’s the last thing anybody wants.”
Sonically, Light Up Gold is enriched with the immediacy of a three-day tear of live recording. It’s noisy when it needs to be, sprawling when the narrator is disillusioned and stoned, and wound together like a set performed tirelessly by the perpetual opening band no one bothered to see. The New York-based label What’s Your Rupture? pressed a rerelease of the originally limited-run of vinyl in January. Brown said despite the original pressing on his bandmate’s indie, Dull Tools, Parquet Courts’ buzz is not a second wind, but a steady climb since its formation.
“There’s very few bands that make it past their initial buzz,” Brown said. “What that actually has to do with the music, I don’t know. I’ll tell you a year from now.”
Lyrically, Parquet Courts exists under the guidance of Brown and Andrew Savage, two Texas-raised New York transplants who met in college and write songs like graduates of campus radio. Take the Guided By Voices-like fantasy of “Caster of Worthless Spells,” or the inverted Rockwellian vision of North Dakota as a vast expanse of “train death paintings and anti-meth murals.”
While Brown minces few words on the hazard of higher learning, he briefly conceded that it led to meeting Savage. Sort of, anyways.
“We were there at the same time, but I don’t think we were brought together by our studies.”
The band spent April writing new songs, which is good news for the tour. Brown said the band views it as an opportunity to try the material.
“We’ve added a lot of new songs to our set,” he said. “If there’s a song that doesn’t feel exciting anymore, we won’t play it for a while. It sucks because sometimes those are more popular songs that people want to hear, but if we’re not feeling it when we’re playing, there’s no reason to fake it.”