Parsonsfield’s fifth album ‘Happy Hour on the Floor’ is bright airy folk-pop with life lessons as simple as they are important. The melodic breath of fresh air combined with poetically piercing words is the flawless combination of music and lyrics that we need right now.
Stream: ‘Happy Hour on the Floor’ – Parsonsfield
The simplest concepts are sometimes the hardest to live; be in the moment, follow your heart, and don’t take what you have for granted. These three statements as common as could be are often overlooked and ignored, however, if they were lived by and followed would allow for an abundance of happier lives. Parsonsfield weaves these themes delicately and effortlessly throughout their indie folk feelgood album, Happy Hour on the Floor (released April 3, 2020 via Signature Sounds).
Originally formed at the University of Connecticut and now based outside of Boston, Parsonsfield consists of Chris Freeman, Antonio Alcorn, Max Shakun, and Erik Hischmann. As the band puts it, “We wrote over 30 songs for the record. They were personal, in our own voice, and told stories of our own experience. Soon we roped some friends into letting us record in their barn, and spent 20 days tracking in the summer heat. The songs tell a bunch of smaller connected stories. But in a bigger sense, this album is a story of leaning into each other.”
Happy Hour on the Floor is filled with bright airy folk-pop; holding the weight of words as heavy as The Avett Brothers with melodies as catchy as The Lumineers. The melodic breath of fresh air combined with poetically piercing words is the flawless combination of music we need right now.
“Paper Floor,” the premiere track of the album, begins with birds chirping, signaling the morning, or appropriately, the beginning. Quickly it ramps up, bringing the energy that the rest of the album eagerly fulfills. “Paper Floor,” is the right-minded, optimistic start that sets the tone for the entire body of work. This is a story about following your heart. It is about not letting status and money be the driver, but instead, love and passion. A message that while simple and seemingly sensical, allows you to get into a peak inside of Parsonsfield, what they believe and how they live.
“Til I Die” is the Irish-folksy feel good tune while still bearing a pain that is specific and raw. The plight plucks of the strings paired with the wispy harmonies draw you in and don’t let you go until the song reaches its end. As the band states, “There are all sorts of little references in the song. The Di section, or the chorus, is loosely based on a choral arrangement of “Loch Lomond”, a Scottish folk song, that Max and I sang in an a cappella group in college. There is a beautiful arrangement of the song by Jonathan Quick that features a lilting section which we sang the first time my wife came to hear me sing in college. We also visited Loch Lomond in Scotland on our honeymoon. Our band came from a folk music club where we played a lot of English and Irish ballads, so this felt very natural for us to pull from, despite the unexpected lilting for what became a pop album.”
“River Town,” similar to “Paper Floor,” encapsulates Happy Hour on the Floor. It’s about appreciating what you have in the moment and knowing that if it is all you will ever have, that will be good enough.
Our little river town
with you sleeping next to me
And the sun breaking through the clouds
Our little river town follow the water down
It was made for us
this must be the place for us
Our little river town
The album slaps on with the bass-driven “Now That You’re Gone” and then dreamy melodic anthem “Running River.” The musicality of the album is balanced perfectly. From feel great to melancholy to sitting with the lyrics and taking every word in, Parsonsfield mastered the flow of a start to finish piece of work.
In their words, “We enlisted the help of producer Benjamin Lazar Davis, who approached music with an enthusiasm unlike anyone we’d worked with before. There was no room to record more than one thing at once; we tracked almost the whole album on one microphone, one instrument at time. We used Logic instead of Pro Tools, borrowed most of the gear from friends, and hauled Chris’ childhood piano to the barn. We covered the piano strings in duct tape to make weird sounds, and used drum machines and looping to create a pallet to build an arrangement off of. In the sweltering barn we didn’t see ourselves as a folk band, an indie band or by any other label. Just a group of friends who came together to make these songs fly.”
“Emery” not only holds the album title’s lyrics, but also its meaning. As the band put it, “My wife came home from work one day and said, “We quit early and had happy hour on the floor.” I thought, yes that’s the first line of the song. I didn’t know it would come to embody the whole record… It’s about wanting something more in your life, but taking what joy you have in the moment. There is both depression and hope all at once in this moment.”
The album begins to slow with the ear pleasing, peaceful “Horizon Line.” This was the first song written on the album; a song written about being apart from the one you love and wanting more than anything to be back with that person.
And the city lights don’t shine
like they did when I was a child
I wanna live out on the horizon line
and just be yours for a while
Can I just be yours for a while?
“Sweet Dream” is the beautifully precise ribbon that ties the story together: A groovy lull that carries us through to a satisfying end. A message, needed now more than ever, that if we’re there for each other and we appreciate what we have – everything is going to be alright. “This song closing the album is so fitting because it gives that sense of contentment again. That despite all the trials of daily life, we can settle into one another and be there for each other. That we fought hard to get to the moment we are in and it is time to enjoy it. There are so many nightmares on the way to love. But when you find something true, it is undeniable.”
After listening to Parsonsfield’s Happy Hour on the Floor, it is impossible to not feel a little less alone and little happier.
We’re all human, and therefore, we’re all susceptible to falling into ruts, to questioning our day to day and to wondering if we should be doing something more or different. Happy Hour on the Floor reminds us to take a step back and a look around to realize that what you have right now is something your younger self would have never dreamed was possible. It’s about acknowledging and appreciating what you have, because when you do that, you realize that what you have is pretty damn good.
Experience the full record via the below stream, and peek inside Parsonsfield’s Happy Hour on the Floor with Atwood Magazine as the band go track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their fifth album!
Stream: ‘Happy Hour on the Floor’ – Parsonsfield
:: Inside Happy Hour on the Floor ::
This song tells a love story between two young law clerks. From its secret beginnings filled with infatuation, to a fading love for one another. The song is stuck in between wanting to become part of the New York City elite, or wanting a more meaningful life. The lovers choose different paths in the end. “Paper Floor” is the idea that money and social status can not hold you up. Love is the bones that keep a home together. The higher you live in an apartment complex, the harder the fall if the floor is made of paper.
The lyrics of this song were written by my cousin. He wrote them to the melody of “Ghosts Next Door” from our first album and sent them to us as a poem. They fit the groove we were jamming on one day and built the song.
Til I Die
I was raised by a family of pessimists. We always expect things to go wrong despite the fact that they have gone right for so much of our lives. So this song is about the happiness that I felt leading up to our wedding but with a familial eye on the end. It became a sort of emo/goth first dance song where I can’t live in the happy moment without my mind wandering, thinking about when it will end. We wrote this song the day after I went to meet with a JOP for my wedding. We were informed of a Massachusetts law that if a woman is changing her name, she cannot keep her maiden name as a middle name. It is an all or nothing law. It seems to be antiquated but it is still robbing her of her previous identity.
There are all sorts of little references in the song. The Di section, or the chorus, is loosely based on a choral arrangement of “Loch Lomond”, a Scottish folk song, that Max and I sang in an a cappella group in college. There is a beautiful arrangement of the song by Jonathan Quick that features a lilting section which we sang the first time my wife came to hear me sing in college. We also visited Loch Lomond in Scotland on our honeymoon.
Our band came from a folk music club where we played a lot of English and Irish ballads so this felt very natural for us to pull from, despite the unexpected lilting for what became a pop album.
Thank God for Erik who doesn’t hold the same pessimistic take on love that my mind seems to revert to. This is a lovely, simple song about being in a place of contentment with the one you love. Just the opposite of “Til I Die” it is about love where you understand what you have and are able to live in the moment. Not looking ahead to the day when it will go away. In the time since I’ve been singing it, we realized that it really seems like more of a fantasy then an actual reality. It is a place that I can go in my mind when things get tough. It is really what Happy Hour on the Floor is all about. You don’t need material things when you can go to the “River Town” in your mind.
Now That You’re Gone
This song came alive when Antonio spent a Saturday playing bass. He did something that I truly admire which is to dive into an instrument that he never really played before and like a child learning words for the first time, used it in a way that a trained bass player never would. The melodic fuzz of the bass set the tone for the rest of the arrangement.
The whole song felt like an experiment after that. From the simplicity of the chorus to the use of electronic drums, we felt this was our chance to really stretch our sound with that same childlike wonder.
After years of touring, what was once excitement of travel and shows can become draining. It can feel like another job that we are getting up for in the morning. When I talk to people who have never been on tour I can hear the jealousy in their voices that we get to play a concert every night. I remember going to concerts when I was in college and thinking how lucky that band is that what is my highlight of the week is just another night for them.
However, it drains you and playing the same songs every night can make you feel like a monkey. But at the same time, those enthusiastic voices are right. We are so lucky to get to go around the country and experience different cultures and be surrounded by so much love wherever we go. Music tends to attract interesting people who welcome us into their homes and make us breakfast in the morning. We get to meet other bands that change our own perspective on what it means to be making music for a living, that stretch us to want to be better. And the more you tour, the more people you know in different places you’ve been. We have a deep understanding of the country in ways that we never could have without being so lucky to do this for a living.
This song explores that dichotomy of waking up early, driving all day, playing to what is sometimes a festival of thousands looking on and other times a sparsely filled rock club, or worse a casino with slot machines in the bar. We love it at times, we hate it at others, but I know we will have good stories to tell. The most important one is remembering that we gave it all we had in order to be free and do what we found inspiring.
Oh My, Man
This is a song about getting ghosted in the midst of a cross country road trip. It’s one of the most personal and specific songs we’ve written. It explores how hate and love are on two sides of the same coin. There is very little space between them once you are in that territory. When you have a chance to be so close to someone and you give part of yourself to them, they have a chance to either give part of themselves back or they can just take you with them. In this case we felt taken. It’s hard to lose a relationship that in my mind could have so easily been saved. But when my thoughts were cyclical, always going back to this throughout the spring, this song had to come out.
We are always coming and going. We spend half our lives in a revolving door between who we are on the road and who we are at home. The sadness of saying good- bye and leaving for tour is replaced by the thrill of chasing a dream on the road. The thrill fades to loneliness and anxiety from the constant grind of touring. But soon that anxiety becomes a moon, replaced by the sunrise of renewed love when we get back home.
I’ve formed a fictional character in my mind who sings this song. He is a recovered drug addict who has found love and sworn off his old habits. He’s a musician off on tour in Europe, just a plane ride away from his love and his home. Surrounded by the excitement and temptations that go along with being on the road, he is constantly reminding himself that what is back home is really what’s important.
We’ve never been on tour in Europe but we have been a plane ride away. We’re hoping to sing this song across the pond one day! We were excited to get my wife and my sister singing background vocals at the end. Plus our former tour manager is now training to become a pilot and we have him talking to the control tower in there at the end.
My wife came home from work one day and said, “We quit early and had happy hour on the floor.” I thought, yes that’s the first line of the song. I didn’t know it would come to embody the whole record. It’s the feeling of being so finished with a job that when you get a chance, you sit on the floor of your office with your one co -worker and drink paper cups filled with wine. It’s about wanting something more in your life but taking what joy you have in the moment. There is both depression and hope all at once in this moment. They are a bit resigned to their current station, but they will not allow a boss or depression to keep them down. There is hope in venting, we’re not finished yet!
This was the first song written for this record. It was September 28, 2016 and we were in an airbnb somewhere in Wisconsin. It was my wife’s birthday and like many before, I was gone on tour. I was sick of it and feeling bad about not being there for her. I thought of being on tour like getting lost in a city. Where, in this case, like in “Paper Floor”, you may be physically close but emotionally distant. In that case you just want to love each other without any distractions. It’s about wanting to say goodbye to everything except the love you have for one another and swim in that everlasting present moment.
It was also the first song recorded in the Happy Hour On The Floor sessions. It’s a song that we couldn’t get right for years and never played it live or anything. Immediately Benjamin built the loop that you hear at the beginning of the song, and changed the drums and guitar rhythm on the chorus and it came alive. He writes brilliant melodies and counter melodies. It was great working with him!
This song closing the album is so fitting because it gives that sense of contentment again. That despite all the trials of daily life, we can settle into one another and be there for each other. That we fought hard to get to the moment we are in and it is time to enjoy it. There are so many nightmares on the way to love. But when you find something true, it is undeniable. I love playing this song live. It’s so groovy and relaxing.
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