It's a rare circumstance when a band can boast of collaborating with Daft Punk, befriending Hollywood actresses, and having toured the world once-over before even releasing their debut album. Well, Parcels are that rarity.
Migrating from Australia's Byron Bay to the nerve-centre of contemporary electronic music in Berlin, it didn't take an awful lot of time before their retro-leaning brand of infectious disco-pop caught the eye of French label Kitsuné. Along with a legion of expectant admirers, that is, praying that Parcels will spark a disco-revival of sorts. Embarking on another world tour, including a sell-out show at London's iconic Roundhouse, it would appear that this may be the case. After all, who can blame those with a penchant for a shimmy and a shake?
Showered with critical acclaim after the recent release of their self-titled debut album, we caught up with the gents to discuss their burgeoning popularity, their influences, and the key to harmonising.
Firstly gentlemen, congrats on the release of your debut album. Could you envisage what it’d be like to arrive at this moment when you all flew the coop to Berlin?
Thank you! It feels like a big deal to us for sure and it truly felt an eternity away when we arrived here three years ago. More than anything else we’ve achieved these last years, though, it's probably the only moment we could have ever predicted getting to. Every band needs to release their debut at some point.
I’m sure it always comes up in the conversation, but what initially drew you to Berlin? Did Paris or London not fit the bill, for instance?
It comes up a lot [laughs]. Berlin was almost completely random, we just had a romanticised idea about it in our heads. In high school, we remember seeing a video of Whitest Boy Alive jamming in a shop window in Mitte to a huge crowd on the street which was super cool. Paris only really makes sense now in hindsight, and London was always warned to be too expensive. Regardless, we’re here now and loving it.
When the five of you started writing and rehearsing together, was there an idea of sorts as to what sound you wanted to embrace, or was it an entirely natural process?
We formed chasing a strictly electronic sound which was fun for writing songs in a new way but when we went to start playing live, the only way we knew how was the old-fashioned way with guitars, keyboards, amps and drums. After some serious touring in Europe, it became clear that being strictly electronic in the studio was more of a limitation than anything else so once we flicked that off, the sound was allowed to develop naturally to what it is now.
Your sound has been described as somewhere on the spectrum between Chic and The Beach Boys. Maybe because the majority of tracks on your debut album are infectiously danceable, yet there’s a delicate sense of introspection and longing, lyrically. Have you been directly influenced by either of the aforementioned and how would you personally describe your sound?
Chic and Beach Boys are definitely influences but only amongst everything else we’ve listened to in the past few years. Our sound since the beginning has been based off the requirement that there’s a strong groove of some sort so you can move to it. Then the songwriting comes from an emotional place because we want to make pop music before anything else. You summed it up pretty well I’d say!
Your harmonies are pretty immaculate, I must say. Have you had any Spinal Tap-esque moments when trying to figure them out, or does it just come organically?
[Laughing] That video reminds me a lot of when our drummer Toto jumps in on harmonies because he’s a fiend for the finger in the ear trick. We discovered that actually makes you sing worse in the end, maybe because it’s more about listening to the sound you’re making together than to yourself. Truthfully though, we spend ages working harmonies out and it usually sounds terrible until we’ve failed in front of a crowd ten or more times. Then slowly, slowly, it starts to come together. Sometimes it doesn’t though...
Photo by Anna-Lena Krause and Olive Brown
It’s rare that a band has managed to cultivate such a fervent following before releasing their debut album - the crowd at Les Eurockéennes last year, in particular, stand out as they went mad for you. Are there any other memorable festival appearances where you’ve been taken aback by the reception, or just really vibed it?
Les Eurockéennes was ridiculous. We were genuinely shocked at how insane the crowd were to the point where we couldn’t even start the next song because they were too loud. It was so much fun. A great one this year was Popaganda in Sweden. It was our first time in the country and we were playing a smaller stage off the back of some pretty huge shows in France. The crowd were having so much fun, and the sun was high, and it was the best fun we’ve had all summer.
You grabbed Kitsuné’s attention pretty swiftly, and you also grabbed the attention of a certain Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. How did it feel when Daft Punk offered to work with you? It’s no mean feat luring them out of hibernation…
It was great. Every up and coming band should get the chance to do it. Honestly, with all the secrecy we didn’t know it was happening until we were literally in the studio with them and then when it finished, we wondered if it had even happened because we didn’t hear from them for a year. That said, it felt like we learned more in that week than you could in years of traditional study.
How come you decided not to include 'Overnight' on the album? Do you think it's not indicative of the way you've sonically progressed to this point?
Recording 'Overnight' was hugely influential for us but we recorded it nearly two years before the rest of the songs on the album so including it would’ve felt dishonest to the rest of the record. As it stands, the album feels the perfect snapshot of us at this time.
Are there any other artists you’d want to collaborate with?
Quincy Jones. Bon Jovi.
The video for 'Withorwithout' stars Milla Jovovich. How did that come about, and had you struck up a friendship before shooting?
Milla contacted us simply because she was a fan and wanted to meet us. We posted that we were playing at Cannes Film Festival this year, and she just rocked up totally dominating the dance floor. We came up with the idea of the video together after we went out for dinner in Berlin one night and bonded over a shared love of horror films. Once we decided to do it, she kicked some Hollywood gears in motion and we were shooting a few weeks later, as is the LA way.
Bookending the album with the 'Credits' was a bold move. What inspired the cinematic end?
The idea came from wanting to thank everyone who worked on the album and for us to acknowledge the listener for listening to the whole thing from start to finish. The inspiration for Dean to do it came from watching Soul Train videos and seeing the announcer thank the band and producers over a funk groove at the end of every show. As soon as he got on the mic, we knew it was perfect to end the album with, it was the very last thing we recorded.
Your headline European and North American tours are on the doorstep. Personally, I’m really psyched about seeing you at the London Roundhouse in November as your enjoyment whilst performing is most definitely contagious. Are you looking forward to getting out on the road?
I’m really psyched about Roundhouse as well, its such an iconic venue. We’re a little nervous about doing the album justice live but excited for when it’s feeling tight and ready and we can give everyone a great show. I’m sure we’ll get there eventually.