It’s not every day that a band that you’ve never heard of will blow you away. After coming across Parlour Tricks, What The Sound had the opportunity to chat with the band's frontwoman Lily Cato. Parlour Tricks just recently released their debut album Broken Hearts/Bones, and are touring the nation with Electric Six, a band coming to be known for their "lets-go-bananas" vibe. Parlour Tricks, a NYC-based rock sextet communicate energy through their happy and unique take on alternative pop resulting in an upbeat live show atmosphere. Check out our interview with Lily below. We recommend listening with open ears and an open heart.
What The Sound: Big congrats on the release of Broken Hearts/Bones. It's really cool, I love how simple and organic your version of pop music is. Definitely unique and something that we don't come by often. Can you tell us a little bit about how your group got started?
Lily: We all went to the same college in New York, I had just started writing music relatively recently. I asked some of my friends from school if they'd play through it with me because I didn't know if it was any good. That was a very anti-climatic formation of a band but we just started gigging, it was terrible. Then the more I wrote, the more I realized that I was writing for three voices. When we first started, it was just me and the three dudes. Then I asked Morgane and DeeDee, the two other women in the band, if they would hop on and sing through the music with us. We had never sung together before, I just had known that they had sick voices from school, and that was it. It's always sort of been like that, very natural, evolution, progress.
WTS: That's awesome. Sounds like your group must get along well. I know originally the band was titled "Lily & The Parlour Tricks" and just recently you changed it to "Parlour Tricks"?
Lily: As for the name change, half of it was super practical, Lily & The Parlour Tricks was super long and no one ever understood when we said it. We would have to repeat ourselves, so we knew it was time to trim it back. Then, the other part of it, we were sort of getting pigeonholed because "blank & the blank" names are common but also are sort of genre pigeonholed. People would think that we are more retro because of the name and the format of the band. It was hard because bookers would see the name and make assumptions and put us with any other female-fronted bands without even listening to us. It got frustrating, not that I have any problem playing with other women-fronted bands, that's not the issue. It's just like "listen to the music!" See what actually fits. It was always about the fact that there were three girls in the band or that I am a female lead singer, which was frustrating. At least without my name in the title there's a greater chance that someone will actually click on a song and hear what it sounds like before making assumptions.
WTS: Did you have any musical background before you decided to sing one day and make a group out of it?
Lily: Yeah! I wanted to be a jazz singer. I grew up listening to jazz, when I was in high school I started performing in jazz clubs in New York, and I went to school for it. My musical tastes would always run towards rock n' roll. I grew up listening to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, T-Rex, and the Beach Boys. I went to school for jazz, but I was a little disenchanted with it. It wasn't the school's fault, I don't think; I had started writing and the things that I was writing were kind of rock n' roll, kind of pop music. It wasn't conscious, it just started happening. I still sort of feel that way about writing because it's relatively new. It’s new and experimental which is a part of the fun. I have always wanted to be an archaeologist too, maybe there's still time for that...
WTS: Ha! Nice. Have you written a song about archaeology or archaeology-like subjects yet?
Lily: That's a very good question, no, I haven't. Although, I've written a lot of songs about history, without sounding too boring. Maybe my next album will be a themed album.
WTS: What's your writing process like, are you the only songwriter? If so, how do you interact with the rest of the band once you have a song. How do they contribute?
Lily: I am the only writer. I write at home, usually on the piano or an omnichord. I love the omnichord. I'm a terrible instrumentalist, which is sometimes really frustrating when you are a songwriter, but the omnichord has made my life so much easier. It's so much fun. Anyways, I'll write at home and record demos on my computer. I'd say 90% of the time I have the form pretty much fleshed out. I will definitely have the vocal part done of the chords, very rarely we'll change something chordal. Then I'll send the band the demo and we'll work through it. It's always the most fun when we end up going in a totally different direction than I had anticipated when writing it. That's my latest joy when working with five people who I'm really comfortable with. There's an exchange of ideas that is easy, there are no egos in this band. Nobody is afraid of saying "that sucks! Let's try this...", because you never know. I feel very fortunate about that all the time. It feels very good to have a wide open exchange of ideas when it comes to new music, because you never know.
WTS: I know you're playing with Electric Six on this tour of yours.
Lily: They are SO crazy. Have you looked them up? They're from Detroit. I had heard of them but never actively listened to them but when we got the offer for the tour, I looked them up and as soon as I heard that song "Gay Bar" and "Danger! High Voltage"... Holy shit, they're so bananas. We're very excited.
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