Words Anthony Moore.
Photos Paul Dunham.
There are a few reasons why I wanted to do a Q&A with Joel Parnell, firstly, he writes exceptional pieces for Desert Highways, but that’s not the only reason, he’s also an awesome musician and songwriter. His newest creation, The Parnells (with younger brother Michael) are about to release their debut and do a double EP launch with Rathead at The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar.
I started with what I thought to be a ridiculous first question and Joel (who later admitted he was going to tell me to fuck off but wasn’t sure if I was being serious or not), went along and answered it beautifully.
Anthony Moore: Where does your band name come from?
Joel Parnell: Obviously the band name comes from our last name, which is Parnell. I guess we thought that it would be cool to use it because it has the feel of something like ‘The Ramones’ or ‘The Smiths’, only it actually is our real name. We also hope to bring in other Parnells on future records as most of the people in our family play music. If we have any success with the band, it would be nice to have made our name something to be proud of.
Anthony: The launch gig is 23 April, is that the official launch date as well?
Joel: Yeah, it will be available on CD via bandcamp. We probably won’t put it on iTunes or Spotify because I’ve done that with past albums I’ve made and it just doesn’t seem worth it. You’re basically pirating your own music.The EP will only be available on CD, with this first run being very, very limited. There may only be a handful left after the launch so get down if you can.
Anthony: The EP was recorded with Dave Payne (ex-Drifter), is there any particular reason why you went with him?
Joel: I’ve known Dave for years and he’s familiar with my music and the kind of stuff I like. Dave is also a great musician in his own right, so he knows what he’s talking about. Aside from those assets, Dave is just a really good bloke and I thought he’d be fun to work with. The tape manipulation and sound collages that appear on the EP were all his idea. He gets invested in the recording process and goes that extra mile to make something cool.
Anthony: What was the recording process like? How did it go?
Joel: We did the recording at Three Phase Rehearsal Studios in Brunswick. We would wait until the studio had closed for business and we would commandeer three rooms: One for the guitar amp, one for the drums and one for the recording equipment and sound desk. The EP was recorded to 8-Track tape, so the instrumental portion of each track was played live and had to be nailed all in the one take. After getting six songs recorded, we went outside for a joint and some beers. When we came back in, we spent hours just jamming. We did record the jams but we decided not to include them on the EP as we were pretty smashed by that point and the takes weren’t perfect. We slept in the studio and I came back a couple of weeks later to do vocals, which ended similarly.
Anthony: It was mastered by Loki Lockwood (Spooky Records – Sun God Replica, The Drones, Harry Howard and The NDE), How did that come about?
Joel: I had heard his work on the Drifter album Violent At Altitude, which I actually did a little backing vocals on. When Dave suggested we go with him, I had no qualms. He’s great at what he does.
Anthony: What sort of set up / gear do you use? Is there anything different or standout from the norm?
Joel: I play through a Marshall cab with a Hi – Watt Hi Gain 50 on top. On the pedal board I use a BOSS DS-1 for distortion, a BOSS Super Octave for added bass and a Behringer Ultra Chorus for effect. My guitar is a cheap Mexican Fender Strat. Michael played Dave’s drums on the record, so there was probably a lot of cool shit on there. Fucked if I know what it is though [72 Ludwig kit and black beauty snare – Thanx Dave].
Anthony: The Parnell’s is yourself and your brother Michael on drums, does anyone else appear on the EP?
Joel: Dave does a vocal harmony with me on the song ‘Juice Me’. Apart from that it’s just me and Michael.
Anthony: How did yourself and Michael come about playing together? Was it just from living under the same roof or something different?
Joel: We actually never played together until fairly recently. A bit over a year ago I was at a party and we were one member short of having an Inedia reunion. Michael was there and he offered to play drums. I thought he was joking. I didn’t even know he could play an instrument, let alone drums. We played a few songs and he was great. A little while after that, Michael moved in with me and my girlfriend. We started getting high and jamming together for fun. One thing lead to another and here we are releasing a CD.
Anthony: Is it easier or harder being in a band with a sibling? How does it differ?
Joel: For me, it’s actually really good. Michael is my younger brother, so he’s my biggest fan. He knows all of my songs and we pretty much like all the same bands. Some ‘Brother Bands’ bicker and squabble a lot but we don’t really do that. We’re honest with each other and we get along well.
Anthony: Any other bands you’re both involved with that you’d like totalk about?
Joel: I play in Three Headed Fool, for which I’ll be recording a debut album in May. I also still play the occasional show with Inedia. Michael just does The Parnells as far as I know. We do have some interesting collaboration plans but I’ll keep that under wraps for now.
Anthony: How does playing and recording with The Parnell’s differ from anything else you’ve done?
Joel: The main thing is that a two piece functions in an entirely different way to a three or four piece. With a conventional line up style, you can hide behind other members and step forward when it suits you. That goes for the live performance but also for band life off the stage. A two piece is easier in the way that monogamy is easier than polygamy. There’s only one other person you have to deal with. Having said that, The Parnells comes with it’s own challenges too. All bands face challenges though. It’s a long way to the top.
Anthony: Describe your sound for someone that has never heard you without using genre’s.
Joel: Lean, mean, hairy and green.
Anthony: In your press release The Parnell’s are described as “angst driven punk rock”, what are you angsty about?
Joel: Michael and I had a rough upbringing. I think a lot of our pent up aggression about that is evident in the music we make.
Anthony: What sort of themes are covered on the album and how did they affect each songs sound?
Joel: The title track, ‘Juice Me’, is a tricky one to pin down. It’s meant to sound like a musing on unrequited love from the perspective of a rejected admirer but beneath the surface it is actually a lament on the fickle nature of the music industry. Pretty high-brow, huh? It’s sung in my normal speaking accent, I guess because it feels more autobiographical than the other songs which feature more vague, ambiguous subtexts. The general vibe of the EP is one of apathy and desperate aggression.
Anthony: Where do you draw your influences from and how do you feel they come out in your playing and affect your sound?
Joel: We were both listening to a lot of Courtney Barnett at the time of the recording, so I feel like that’s on there in some way. Inedia plays a big part in it as well because some of the songs we recorded are actually Inedia out-takes. Some of the new stuff we are working on is heavily piano based, which I think is a bit of Fleetwood Mac and even Wu Tang clan shining through. Pink Floyd, Queens Of The Stone Age, Jeff The Brotherhood, Uncle Acid, Anthrax and Metallica all play a big part in what we do too.
Anthony: Are there any musicians you’ve played with, other than band members that have impressed you?
Joel: When my other band Three Headed Fool started recording last year, we had Stevie Williams from Clowns come in and do some guest vocals for the album. He’s probably one of the best heavy rock singers in the country. He’s got a fucking killer scream and he takes his music very seriously. “Impressive” is an understatement.
Anthony: Is there anyone in particular that you think is out there really pushing the boundaries in terms of music (playing / writing / recording / live)?
Joel: Again, Clowns are a band you can’t overlook in that regard. Their live game is second to none. There’s a rapper from Shepparton called Briggs, who I think is rad. He plays with a live band behind him, which hardly anyone does in hip hop. I think Courtney Barnett is every bit as good a songwriter as Kurt Cobain. Aarti Jadu is a Melbourne singer / songwriter who blends traditional Indian devotional music with acoustic folk and jazz, go see her if you get the chance. She’s sublime.
Anthony: How do you think the music scene is right now and do you think it’s changing in any way compared to say 5 / 10 years ago? Any positive / negative affects?
Joel: I think the music scene in Australia is absolutely brimming with talent but there’s a lot of bullshit there too. There’s a lot of cliquey behaviour perpetuated by bands and labels and it makes it hard for people who aren’t politically connected to succeed. Support slots and record deals are snapped up by those kissing ass, rather than those kicking it. Bands are following trends, rather than setting them. Hipster culture is a weed that has grown out of control in the garden of the arts sector and draining life from those who would otherwise flourish. That’s how it looks from where I’m standing anyway.
Anthony: With so many ways now to get your music heard, do you think it makes it easier or harder for a band to find listeners?
Joel: It definitely makes it easier to get your music heard. Having said that, it can sometimes make you feel like your music is a small fish in a big pond. You know people can see the fish, but are they looking at your fish?
Anthony: What current bands are you listening to right now / who’s impressing the hell out of you?
Joel: We both tend to explore music of the past more than we listen to the latest stuff. Lately we have been flogging Judas Priest, The Doobie Brothers, Budgie, Black Sabbath (with Dio), Jeff The Brotherhood, Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Mountain, Magic Dirt and The Offspring.
Anthony: The Parnell’s / Rathead double launch is coming up with Spacejunk and Brad Pot, is there a reason why you’re having a double launch / why did you ask those bands to be a part of the night?
Joel: The guys in Rathead are close friends of ours and we coincidentally ended up recording our EPs on the exact same day. After having a giggle about that little coinkidink, we agreed it would be cool to release them on the same day as well. Spacejunk and Brad Pot are on there because they’re real motherfuckers who play sick music.
Anthony: What can people expect on the night?
Joel: A whole lot of beer drinkin, loud music and fine lookin ladies. What more could you want?
Anthony: You’ve released a clip for ‘Antichrist’ from the Juice Me EP, what’s the message in the song you’re trying to get across and where did the idea for the clip come from?
Joel: I actually had a friend ask me the other night “Is it about me?” It’s not really about anything and there’s no specific message we’re trying to convey. It’s just one of those songs you play because it sounds cool. The idea for the clip is pretty basic. We dressed up in corpse paint and filmed a lot of skulls and horrific shit to tie in with the title. There’s a little snippet in it where you can see the severed head of a rat and half of its skull sitting next to it. That’s our little nod to our mates in Rathead.
Anthony: Apart from the launch, what’s next for The Parnell’s?
Joel: Next on the cards is making a proper full length album and maybe even a split 7 inch before that. We write a lot of shit so we like to get things recorded so we don’t forget.
Anthony: Do you have any plans to launch / play / tour outside of Melbourne?
Joel: Nothing confirmed at the moment. We may do some touring next year but we haven’t planned that far ahead gig-wise to be honest. But hey, if you’re reading this and you want us to play in your town, send us a message and we’ll probably do it.
Anthony: Anything happening with Inedia we should know about?
Joel: Inedia will be reuniting for a benefit show for our mates band Tusk, who lost all of their band equipment in a tragic fire. It will be at The Music Man Megastore in Bendigo on June 3rd and will also feature Tusk, Eater Of The Sky, Jack Harlon And The Dead Crows and Rathead. Come and drop some coin to help out some good people.
Anthony: Have you ever been given any good advice in terms of playing / writing / recording music, or being in a band etc that has helped you? Or maybe sucked?
Joel: Raul Sanchez (Magic Dirt, River Of Snakes, Midnight Woolf) recorded an album for Inedia once. We were getting real hungry during the session and someone suggested we order pizza. Raul objected, saying that you should never eat before you play. I’ve stuck by that ever since. Once, I asked Luke Henery from Violent Soho if he had any tips for making it big in the music business. He said “Swallow”.
Anthony: What have been your greatest challenges and how have you persevered despite them?
Joel: My greatest challenge has been self-managing my music career despite being a terribly unorganised and uneducated person. I have always struggled with the business side of music. Somehow, I have managed to stay relevant enough throughout the years to be the subject of this interview. I would give just about anything to have a manager.
Anthony: What do you do to relax?
Joel: I play music to relax. When I want to be excited, I get on stage and play something exciting. When I want to feel relaxed, I sit on my bed and play something chill. Music is the ultimate mood stabiliser.
Anthony: Any questions that you wish I had asked?
Joel: I wish you had asked me about Coldplay, so I could tell you how much I fucking hate them.
Anthony: Anything else we should know?
Joel: Zeppelin rules.
The Parnells are launching their long awaited debut EP Juice Me as part of a Double EP Launch with fellow Shepparton bred Rathead on Saturday 23 April at The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar, North Melbourne along with Spacejunk and Brad Pot.
Facebook event: www.facebook.com/events/496680320515485