I first saw Parzival perform several years ago in a Pioneer Square alley as part of the excellent First Thursday Art Walk. People were milling about and chatting, snacking, sipping wine and admiring the art displays. Then, as the band began to play, everyone turned their focus to the stage. It was captivating, feel-good music, and people, Seattlites no less, started to dance! I liked the set so much that I bought the album, ‘Postmodern Love’, and its combination of deeply personal singer-songwriter charm and unstoppable rhythm quickly made it my favorite go-to album of 2011.
|Parzival Performing at First Thursday Art Walk in Pioneer Square, Seattle, September 1, 2011.|
So, when I learned he was writing a new record (his fourth, but second major release) titled ‘Pisces Rising’, and the opportunity came up in June to join a close group of friends for a premiere of some of the new material, I jumped on the chance. The performance included piano, vocals, and guitar, with accompaniment on the fiddle and cajon, and just like before, friends from the blues dancing community were there, dancing along and having a great time.
|‘Pisces Rising’ First Live Performance, June 2013.|
After the show I contacted him to learn more about the recording process (then still underway in Eugene, OR). Here’s what he had to say:
NGD: What genre do you identify your music with?
Parzival: When I started writing music I was heavily influenced by alternative rock artists of the 90s and early 2000s especially the ones with an acoustic element - Wallflowers, Tonic, Coldplay. So I feel a strong identification with that genre. Because I've performed a lot solo and because songwriting and lyrics are very important to me, I also put myself in the singer-songwriter category. All that said, of course I feel my music is its own unique thing and can’t be fully categorized, haha.
NGD: Can you explain what Pisces Rising means to you and to this album?
Parzival: Pisces Rising means my core, unadorned self. Another name for this album could be “Bare”, or “Naked” – except it isn’t a Christina Aguilera album, so I’m expressing that in a more nuanced, symbolic way. In astrology your "rising" sign represents what you are underneath it all. Pisces Rising is an exploration of my core self and the kinds of thoughts and feelings a Pisces rising has, which is my actual rising sign.
NGD: How do you feel this album is different from your first major release, Postmodern Love?
Parzival: Glad you asked! My first record Postmodern Love was highly produced, because we wanted to prove we could compete with "radio" music. This album is taking a relatively more bare, stripped down approach to record-making, sticking for the most part to what a three-piece acoustic band could perform, and recording and mixing the record in six weeks rather than taking four months like on the first album. This way the production can capture some of that raw, unguarded character that Pisces Rising is meant to represent. Also, the songs have a little more serious side, with more minor key tonality. But I think listeners will recognize them as sibling albums.
NGD: How's the recording process going so far?
Parzival: So far recording has been focused and fun. I'm tracking piano on this album, which is new to me, so that's a challenge. Also, you never know exactly the sound you'll end up with [on the album] until the creative process has unfolded, so there's still some unknown there, which is exciting and sometimes a little unnerving.
NGD: How long have you been dancing, and how has it influenced your music?
Parzival: Ah, I really appreciate this question, Nikki. I've been social dancing for five years. Dancing really has had a formative influence on my music. Dancing and playing for dances has brought out two elements in my music: keeping a steady groove, and having the overall feeling of the music lend itself to people connecting with each other. Partner dancing is all about connection - so from the feel of the music and voicing to the lyrics, I want people to be closer to each other after hearing my music. As a funny side note, with the acoustic instrumentation of this album, my Eugene, OR producer Jeff Davis and I liken the music a bit to Mumford and Sons if they were to periodically break down into funky, R&B-esque dance feels. Just on a conceptual level, that album aesthetic seems very cool to me.
NGD: And now for a silly question! If you could play a sold out concert anywhere and with anyone, where and who would you pick? For instance, Madison Square Garden with Bon Jovi on back-up guitar and Flea on the drums, opening for Queen Latifah.
Opening for Coldplay at the Gorge, with Jonsi from Sigur Ros coming out to add bowed guitar to my songs, and Macklemore laying down a guest rap about people connecting with each other and gradually creating world peace on my song “Seven Dances (To Save The World)”. That sounds pretty fun.
NGD: How was recording and mixing the album this summer? Did you learn anything new about the songs, or did they transform during the process?
Parzival: Recording and mixing the album took a ton of time and attention to detail. We stuck to the nine songs I came into the studio with, but a few of them did change along the way, which is always interesting. One song, “Flower Child”, had about five different versions and lyrics, and in the end I settled on something *very* similar to the original version. I was struggling with the melancholy of the song, and tried different ways to make it more upbeat. But what I learned is to think of songs sort of like children. Each child has its core nature, and even though I can affect it and mold it, to fight that unique nature is pointless. So I let the song be sad and reaped the cathartic rewards of accepting my art as it is.
So yes. The recording and mixing process had its lessons and its emotional times. Overall, though, it was a long, dedicated act of work.
NGD: Did you perform much while making this album, or is it easier to focus on the new album by taking a break from performance?
Parzival: I performed a few times while making the album. Performing especially helped me warm up my voice and stage presence for singing final vocals. I took a break from the whole round of booking and gigging, but when I was approached about sets here and there I would play them and enjoy them.
NGD: Are you performing in the coming months and if yes, where?
Parzival: There will be a CD release show on November 30th at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill. It’s a cool spot, and as you might imagine, dancing will be encouraged.
As part of this interview process, Parzival has teamed up with NGD to present a streaming copy of the first song on ‘Pisces Rising’, “Beauty Saves”. Not only is it a great album opener, but it’s a perfect example of what Parzival’s music is all about: energetic, optimistic, and full of love. It features piano, acoustic guitar, an infectious melody and fun, toe-tapping rhythms.
You can now purchase a download, limited edition CD, or other perk through Parzival’s ‘Pisces Rising’ IndieGoGo fundraiser here. Also, be sure to RSVP to his upcoming release party at Velocity Dance Center on November 30th; you might just find yourself caught up with the spirit of love and dancing.