Australian-born band Parcels celebrate growth, roots, and unlimited freedom on their seismic sophomore LP ‘Day/Night,’ a conceptual record diving into the crossing of worlds.
Stream: “LIGHT” – Parcels
It’s bright, hot, and picture-esque.
Opening with “Light,” Parcels take their listeners home on a journey into themselves and their world. The five individuals – guitarist Jules Crommelin, keyboardist Louie Swain, keyboardist/guitarist Patrick Hetherington, bassist Noah Hill, and drummer Anatole “Toto” Serret – were raised in Byron Bay, Australia, a place resembling paradise. When they hit adolescence, Parcels’ band members wanted to escape, and the desire to build a new life ultimately took them to Berlin, which, in the aspect of weather, was the complete antithesis of their hometown. Graced by a burgeoning party scene, the band members’ experiences over the past five years are now translated into song chords on Parcels’ long-awaited sophomore LP, the conceptual double album Day/Night (out now).
See that sun
See that sun
Don’t look down
Here it comes
Feel it now
– “LIGHT,” Parcels
Parcels’ new record thrives on the concept of duality: Day and night, two worlds crossing paths every 24 hours. The opening of the album is reminiscent of a sunrise; it’s a new beginning, not only for the band, but also for all of us. In the first half of the record, they take their fans on a journey down memory lane. The memories of the past five years shaped them into the human beings they are today.
After constant touring following 2018’s self-titled debut album, the pandemic forced Parcels to take a break and create a new record.
“It felt almost like we have never written an album before,” says band member Louie Swain.
The “day” part of the record would be golden if it had a colour. In contrast, the “night” part would be violet.
It is Parcels’ vision of combining Solar Power and Melodrama into one. At night, personalities are sometimes hidden, whereas in the daylight, they come suddenly alive. Glowing on substances, people try to explore their higher selves. In the record, the “night” part digs deep into layers of self-discovery, young adult anxiety, and the fine line between being lost and found.
Day/Night is a beautiful compilation of the band members’ individual identities: For the first time, a Parcels record features a few of Patrick Hetherington’s folk songs, taking listener on a cottagecore journey that lasts over and beyond the lockdown trends.
After the release of the band’s namesake debut record in 2018, they are finally back with a sweeping, seismic new record – one which is currently being toured on stages across the United States. It is not only about a story, but it’s also their story: Parcels’ truths told through beautiful strings, sweeping melodies, high highs, and low lows.
Atwood Magazine sat down with Parcels’ Louie Swain in Berlin pre-tour to discuss all things Day/Night, self-discovery, and what fame means these days.
Stream: ‘Day/Night’ – Parcels
A CONVERSATION WITH PARCELS
Atwood Magazine: The album opener, ''Light'' feels like the entry into a utopia, stepping into a new world full of new sounds- what was the concept behind this track and what made it the opener?
Parcels: I think it was a very early demo that we worked on. It was one of Pat’s songs, which had initially a completely different sound. What we kept of that was the chorus line, three chords and the line “see the sun”. We really wanted to capture the feeling of an Australian sunrise opening up the majestic landscape of the new album. We jammed this song with this pure cinematic image in our minds, rather than trying to convey meaning of some sort.
That is really cool. It reminds me of Lorde’s new album, where she emphasized capturing a New Zealand summer. I guess that part of the world must be pretty special.
Parcels: I think living overseas makes you yearn a bit more for it. You start to appreciate it more for what it is. Growing up there, we were never particularly into the nature of the Australian landscape. Being located on the other side of the world really changes your perspective on that.
It seems like you took some off since your first record, and the second record is known to be the beast that is hard to combat. What was it like to start writing an album again?
Parcels: It’s crazy, it felt like we had never done it before. We needed to start completely from scratch. We needed to relearn our instruments and our relationship with each other. We scrapped everything we’ve done before and started again from nothing. We made a conscious effort to break out of our patterns in order to create something completely new. I don’t know why we did it this way, but it was definitely a natural response to starting a new album.
Watch: “Free” – Parcels
How much time did you take off between the two records?
Parcels: Well, we didn’t really take time off between the two. The first album came out in 2018, and then we toured the whole year. 2019 was this crazy, huge year of touring and then we wanted to start recording the new album, so we could tour in 2020. We ended up having a lot more time to work on this album, so it does not really feel like a break. It feels more like surprisingly having more time to make this album.
I am a huge fan of your first record, it got me through various all-nighters in university. What made you combine day and night, two complete opposites in this conceptual album?
Parcels: We wanted to play with that. We wanted to split the band into two parts, so we could become more of both sides of ourselves. We always had a side that wanted to be more theatrical, heavier and darker. At the same time, we feel naturally drawn to the sunnier, lighter more organic field, which is a part of the band as well. In the end, it worked as a functional concept that allowed us to try to be both but give each other the space we needed to breathe.
It’s an extraordinary record. Being from Byron Bay, which I imagine as a very light, very golden place - what made you relocate to the dark and cold Berlin?
Parcels: We moved just after high school. Most of us were only 18 years old, and it is just a real natural thing to do. As someone who grew up in a small town in Australia, or maybe anywhere in the world, when you hit a certain age, you just have this urge to get out and go somewhere, that is the complete opposite of where you grew up. The difference between those two places has become such a part of the band’s DNA, which has also been translated into our records.
Speaking about Berlin, a city that is known for its burgeoning nightlife - has this inspired any songs on the record? If so, which ones?
Parcels: It’s hard to say. It’s hard to pick specific ones. It’s been our home for five years now, but we’ve had such a complicated relationship with the city, which has caused a lot of feelings of isolation, especially in the long winters, and never feeling truly settled. It was never enough of a home to feel connected to when we came back from touring. It was always more like stopping by before we jumped the road again. We never really had the time to properly fall in love with it, like you usually should, especially when you live there. This relationship inspired a lot of the song writing.
What keeps you in Berlin??
Parcels:I don’t know. It’s a point of difference within the band. I love the city, I think it’s really amazing. It has been the perfect place for us for the past five years, but I do think that we will wanna change soon.
Deep diving into the record, ''Shadow'' is the perfect introduction to the second part of the album. As I understand it, it is a more intense, more deep, and more layered version of ''Light.'' The night feels complex to most of us, how was it like to capture something so intimate in a song?
Parcels: Shadow came off light and was a reinterpretation of a sunset. The chords and the words are the same. We handed it over to the guy who arranges the strings for us and he twisted it in the craziest and most dissonant way to represent what the night was going to be. We were so inspired by the arrangement he created for that song.
Watch: “Shadow” – Parcels
I am a huge fan of that track, I fell in love with it whilst I re-listened to the album last night. Progressing on the night part of the album, another track that I loved was ''Neverloved.'' What is the story behind the song?
Parcels: That was one of Jule’s songs, which he had a pretty cool demo for early on. For a lot of the songs on this album, including this one, we worked from a very visual place first before we recorded it. We kept talking about Batman during this one a lot. The visual setting was this large, evil metropolis city with big skyscrapers at nighttime. I kept imagining this character, who was Batman, standing on top of a skyscraper, screaming “I never loved her.”
After the release of your first record, you got quite famous. From what I read, the process of becoming famous is quite transcendental. Did this inform any of the tracks on the record?
Parcels: Personally, I don’t feel like we became famous after our first record. We have been working very hard for six years now, touring a lot, and slowly we are noticing an increase of people and fans that come to the shows. It’s hard to feel famous today when you could easily just go on an app and get a billion views out of the blue. That’s a scale that’s just ridiculous. It’s so out of proportion with what we do. I think the song “famous” is about that side of things. It’s about the question of what fame means today. We like to play with the image and idea of fame in an old-school way, like a band being famous in the 70s or 80s, which is obviously of less relevance today.
Speaking of the night part of the record, I want to speak about ''TheFear.'' Lyrically, it reminded me so much of ''Sober II'' on Lorde’s Melodrama, which is based around the concept of the different stages of a house party. What was the story behind this song, and what language is the last verse in??
Parcels: I haven’t listened to that Lorde song in a long time. The last verse of “TheFear” is in reverse English. It’s a classic studio move where you just put the tape backward. It came out of an accident, the guy we were mixing it with just hit a button accidentally and it threw the whole chorus in reverse. We loved it, it sounded amazing. Thematically, it worked really well with the song, since the song is meant to be at the point where you feel very isolated at the night. It’s the point when you are so in your head, everything is closing in, and you lose sight of the bigger picture. When the voice is starting, it represents a loss of understanding- you can’t comprehend the people around you anymore. The rising tension at the end is a climatic point before it all opens up and lashes out for the rest of the album.
Lyrically, as well as musically, the record is a masterpiece and blew the expectations of your listeners. If you had to pick a favourite track, which one would it be and why?
Parcels:I am so happy with this album, especially that we got to play some of Patrick’s original songs, which have a kind of folky feeling. He writes so many of those per year, maybe even hundreds. They are very beautiful, he is great at poetry. They probably wouldn’t have had space on the record, if it wasn’t a double album concept. I think they are unique to these records.
By the way, why are you guys called Parcels?
Parcels: We always used to rehearse in my parent’s house when we were growing up. We moved houses a lot. But the one thing that my parents always brought around with us was this big old train sign, which said “Parcels”. It was the background to our childhood in a lot of ways. We always said, if we’d ever be in a band that sticks around for a long time, we’d call it parcels.
I am a big fan of the orchestral sounds you used in this record, combined with disco beats - the beginning of ''LordHenry'' is quite epic. What inspired this song?
Parcels: It’s hard to know how it ended up where it was, but it was the song where we decided not to cut anything off and go completely excessive and everywhere. There is a full orchestra on it. There are more chords and changes than on any other song. I guess it’s the part of the story where the character is living a life of excess and going over the top in lifestyle.
Watch: “Famous” – Parcels
You keep mentioning a character. Are those fictional characters or are those yourselves?
Parcels: There is a story that the album follows, which we were talking about a lot. We are playing to a narrative. That helped guide the flow of the album. Whenever we didn’t have the lyrics, we could look back to the story to inform what we were going to do next.
So, what’s the story?
Parcels: It’s kind of our story in a way, where a lot of us are the character. It encapsulates what we have been through the last five years. At the same time, we did not want to make it so explicit as the “story of the album”. It was ours whilst we made it, and now it belongs to anyone who listens to it.
That’s very true. Artistic work becomes public property once it’s out there in the world. It’s kind of beautiful, it’s almost like it has a second life, beyond the room you created it in?
Parcels: Yeah, exactly. You don’t want to come and tell people how to interpret it, that just takes away the best part.
Very true. Your home, your roots are in Australia. Are there any references to this place in the record?
Parcels: It was a guiding image for most of the “day” part of the record. We were often thinking about Australia, particularly the area we grew up in. All the rain forests, oceans, and the sun. The song “Nightwalk” was inspired by a bushwalk in a forest near where we grew up. Jules had a moment, and recorded the first demo to that song in the middle of the night. We knew the image, so when he brought it back to the band, we all knew exactly what he was trying to do and play to it.
Speaking of places, if you could pick a setting, how would you like the listeners to listen to your record?
Parcels: I think it’s a good split up. Listen to one side, have a break and then listen to the other side. For the ideal setting, I’d like it to be somewhere in nature, but not necessarily on headphones. For the “day” side, sit somewhere with a rocky outcross with great speakers. For the “night” side, go very low-lit 60s Whiskey bar, jazz club, or something like that.
That is very cool. Speaking of the 60s, I can hear a lot of references from that time period in the record. What was the musical inspiration behind ''once''?
Parcels: It was one of Pat’s songs. We had this image of a night cowboy, who was just an omnipresent character throughout the album, but you’d never really see him. Once you’d see him for the first time, he has an eternal presence whilst walking through the Australian desert. It’s a very lyrically climate song. The lyrics tell the story.
It somehow reminded me of Leonard Cohen?
Parcels: Yeah, definitely a big inspiration.
I know it’s hard to pinpoint one message out of one record, which is more like a storybook, telling tales to those who can imagine - but if this record has a message which one would it be?
Parcels: I think it’s just being open to the world, stepping outside yourself, and being confident. I almost don’t want to sum it up. We get asked this question quite a bit. For us, it was a real journey of working out a lot of things internally within the band, and ourselves as people. Now it’s finished and it’s out there. I don’t want it to be solemnly about us anymore. It should really be about the listener.
Stream: “Once” – Parcels
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