You may have seen him recently as part of the acoustic supergroup, Basement Birds, but the APRA-Award winning, Perth singer/songwriter Steve Parkin has been crafting shiny pop songs for well over a decade.
His former band, Autopilot, released an EP called Pure Gold Baby in 1999, which garnered a four-star review in Rolling Stone as well as national radio play and many a heralded tour support spot. Now, Steve Parkin is set to release his debut solo album Mighty Big Light.
Mighty Big Light represents a consolidation of Steve Parkin’s experience thus far and the new roads ahead.
The pop flavour that characterised Autopilot (and Parkin’s previous release with the Foreign Films, 2004’s Sandytown) again comes to the fore, but in a manner befitting the maturation of Parkin as a writer.
“There’s songs on there that are the best I’ve ever recorded, or written,” he says.
“I wanted to make it the shiniest, brightest, pop record I had in me to make.”
Mighty Big Light does feel like a band album, it’s not your typical singer/songwriter thing.
“The lyrics have come very much at the last minute, I didn’t fuss over the lyrics too much, because I really wanted it to be more of a feel album, where I wasn’t really trying to say anything in particular,” he explains. “The classic pop songs have that kind of ambiguity in the lyrics, where it’s more the melody or the hook that takes over.”
Mighty Big Light LP (2011)
Live at the Fly By Night EP (2009)
Sandytown LP - "Goodbye Sandy" and "Vacuum Man" received high rotation on Triple J
Out of the Sun EP
Pure Gold Baby EP (Autopilot) - received radio play on Triple J
Steve Parkin at Norfolk Basement supporting Skipping Girl Vinegar
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"...Quietly, almost shyly, Perth's Sphere-Headed Gloom-Pop-Savant ambles onto the stage. "Hello." H..."...Quietly, almost shyly, Perth's Sphere-Headed Gloom-Pop-Savant ambles onto the stage. "Hello." He starts. "I'm a local guys." And launches into a yearning, beautiful ballad about California, captivating the already attentive crowd. All of this happens so fluidly. One moment there are people milling about, the lights are coloured but static, lemon slices surf waves of ice in noisy glasses, foam buzzes atop long glasses of beer and someone's choice of music plays over the PA. Then all of a sudden a gangly man is finding his spot on the stage, he speaks, he is warm and you like him immediately. Then you are listening to some serene genius. A single man standing amidst a sea of still instruments, artifacts of someone else's music, and you are transfixed. Steve Parkin is one of those acts who make you wonder just how it all fits inside one human body.
The audience swells, multiplies from the outer edges like dust-bunnies collecting around the foot of a bookshelf. The peal of Steve Parkin and his Maton guitar quiets the whole of the Norfolk Basement and makes those who were unaware that the evening of music had started, wander up and pay attention. If Parkin is aware that he holds this pogrom enthralled, he doesn't show it.
"I did a little bit of work with a little band recently, Eskimo Joe? You might have heard of them." He smiles, fiddles with the headstock. A snicker bubbles through the crowd. "I asked for Grinspoon, but, you know, I got them." He shrugs. The audience laughs, they love him now.
Parkin plays Sun Stealer a beautiful song from what he assures the audience is an imminent album, on what he has received help from those Eskimo boys. He follows up with Hello Sandy from his debut solo LP "Sandytown".
Parkin pauses between songs to sip clear liquid from an icy tumbler, he smiles and tells the Norfolk Basement audience, with more than a little sarcasm, that even though he is a music 'veteran', he is about to use a capo for the first time. He fumbles with the neck of his guitar. "Does it go this way up or the other?" "Can of worms mate" Someone yells out. Parkin chuckles, and launches into a cover of Nada Surf's "Blonde on Blonde". He follows up with "You Win When You Lose", "Starlight", and "Picture of a boy and a girl."
There is something raw and precious about watching Steve Parkin, the audience of the Norfolk Basement are charmed and engrossed. Parkin is an artful picture, from the wrinkled cuffs of his coffee coloured shirt, emerging from the sleeves of his jacket like dead leaves, rustling around his hands, to the ethereal voice, like some demented cabaret chanteuse, he teeters on the knife edge of true greatness."
Steve Parkin & The Foreign Films
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Steve Parkin and The Foreign Films who stand tall on stage with a charisma and flow you'd expect fro...Steve Parkin and The Foreign Films who stand tall on stage with a charisma and flow you'd expect from a group of individual pieced together from some fine defunct Perth bands. Parkin is a great front man with a carefree and accomplished attitude and the crowd really took the rollicking nature of the set.
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Steve Parkin has released his debut solo LP, Sandytown, which shows that the singer-songwriter has d...Steve Parkin has released his debut solo LP, Sandytown, which shows that the singer-songwriter has discovered more about writing a melody as his decade-long career has evolved. Parkin's aspirations seem to lie closer to his artistic sentiments.
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Autopilot never hide their pop roots. In fact, they try their best to perfect what a good pop band ...Autopilot never hide their pop roots. In fact, they try their best to perfect what a good pop band should be, never shying away from delicious three part harmonies, soaked in heavenly guitar melodies to die for.
Autopilot CD Review
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The concept is to produce totally classic pop songs...whimsical songs with tons of hooks - Autopilot...The concept is to produce totally classic pop songs...whimsical songs with tons of hooks - Autopilot, Pure Gold Baby
"Mighty Big Light" Review
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You gotta love an album that comes with informative directions. In the liner notes of Steve Parkin’s...You gotta love an album that comes with informative directions. In the liner notes of Steve Parkin’s debut solo record, Mighty Big Light, it helpfully states, “This is a pop album with some rock elements. It should be played loud from a CD or at least a WAV file for maximum value.” And musician and songwriter, Steve Parkin should know ‘cos he wrote it. But perhaps less obvious in the notes is who else worked on this particular gem and let’s just say it’s a combination of the who’s who from the Perth music scene.
Let’s back things up a little. For those who don’t know, Steve Parkin has a rather long list of credentials; having performed and collaborated with lots of people over the years. He has played with some of music’s biggest names and more recently was a member of the Basement Birds supergroup alongside Josh Pyke, Kevin Mitchell (Jebediah, Bob Evans) and Kav Temperley (Eskimo Joe). The latter two also assisted in co-writing songs for Mighty Big Light, especially Temperley with his Eskies bandmates Stu MacLeod and Joel Quartermain (who also doubled as producer).
The record opens with Lost Highway where Parkin is sitting all alone with just an acoustic guitar for company as he sings of Just another tequila sunrise. Eventually, the track sees things splinter off and take it up a notch but not until it has paid adequate homage to The Eagles, some Bob Evans’ style folk romancing and Harmonising 101 à la Fleet Foxes.
The music continues to jaunt along with a soft rock-meets-Americana apple pie feel. California contains some lush strings as Parkin sings of his desire to move to the famous West Coast state. City Tonight is all about the strawberry kisses synonymous with heady young love, while I Won’t Be begins with some of the eeriness found in Sarah Blasko’s All I Want and is similarly heartfelt.
Pleasantly soft and dolling out bite-sized pieces of happiness and emotion without overstaying its welcome, Mighty Big Light gets better and reveals more with repeat listens. It should help put Parkin’s name on the musical map as a formidable tour de force heralding from a city known for both its isolation and musical greatness with an added emphasis on the latter.
"Mighty Big Light" Review
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Stever Parkin is not a household name. Yet chances are, you have heard is voice before. He’s one qua...Stever Parkin is not a household name. Yet chances are, you have heard is voice before. He’s one quartet of Aussie ‘super’ group, Basement Birds, a former member of Autopilot and has been crafting his pop songs for well over a decade in his hometown of Perth.
Shadowed by the star power of Basement Birds, Parkin didn’t spread his wings within the nest like his fellow band members. But with his solo record, Mighty Big Light all of that is about to change. Parkin finally has the chance to let his voice be heard amongst the recent greats of the indie folk scene. Opening track Lost Highway is too mellow to open the album, with raspy, perhaps shy vocals from Parkin. “This is everything, you’ve ever always wanted” he says subtlety and ambiguously. The seem to be second fiddle to the instrumentals of the track, but it’s merely a ruse so that Parkin can properly project himself later on, something of a prologue to the album.
The upbeat side of Parkin is revealed through Sun Stealer (the album’s highlight) and California. Sun Stealer is the overall stand out track on this album. It’s radio friendly, catchy and engaging, a great song which really shows Parkin’s potential in full. California seems to be influenced by his fellow basement bird, Kav Temperly. It creates imagery of cruising along ocean roads with the sun roof down. Refreshing, a nice touch which leaves a craving for the Summer sunshine that has just passed us by.
But the ballads come out with Sad Girls, it’s a mid album somber moment, where Parkin has his down time. Compensating for the track is City Tonight. Again, it’s very much inspired by Eskimo Joe. Clean rock and roll, something you can dance to at a gig. And while the lyrics are a tad bit cliché, it’s the guitar hooks that take over the listeners’ attention.
As the album reaches the end, the pace slows down with Starlight, and while it’s probably the most unoriginal song title in history, the song itself is a lovely piece that concludes an album that I can honestly say has truly surprised me.
Parkin wanted to make an emotional feel album and what Mighty Big Light feels like a mighty big band album. There are so many different compositions and arrangements happening within, it’s hard to comprehend that one man has envisioned this. The simple fact that Parkin has crafted such a graceful solo effort is truly a marvel.
"Sun Stealer" Video Clip review
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Mighty Big Light was one of the first albums I really connected with this year, so I’m thrilled to s...Mighty Big Light was one of the first albums I really connected with this year, so I’m thrilled to see Steve Parkin’s released a music video for one of its stand-out tracks, “Sun Stealer.”
It’s a gorgeous looking thing, which is little wonder considering Steve enlisted the help of AFI Award winning filmmaker Nick Matthews for the project. Funnily enough it wasn’t Nick’s resume that impressed Steve, but his work on a film clip for a little Adelaide indie band.
Steve was confident Nick could interpret his vision, and I think he was right. There’s such a gorgeous warmth and color about this video, and a really great story. What a fitting accompaniment to a great song!
"Mighty Big Light" Review
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STEVE PARKIN Mighty Big Light Warner Best known (perhaps unfairly) as ‘the other guy’ from Base...STEVE PARKIN
Mighty Big Light
Best known (perhaps unfairly) as ‘the other guy’ from Basement Birds – the folksy supergroup also comprising Kav Temperley (Eskimo Joe), Bob Evans and Josh Pyke – Steve Parkin has spread his wings with second solo outing Mighty Big Light.
Showcasing a voice with greater depth than some fair-weather fans of past ventures may have given him credit for, there is a real richness to his words on the album (best evidenced in lead single, Turn In Around) – a richness that’s roughed-up at the edges, for sure, but it’s core is warm and sincere.
If Mighty Big Light has flaws – it is certainly guilty of losing a little steam in the final stretch, with the last section of tracks tending to meld into one.
The album as a whole is perfectly inoffensive however, and Parkin gets away with it by simply sticking to what he does best, and having his audience never expect anything more. It’s a desirable position for a singer-songwriter to be in, but Parkin has earned it through quiet consistency and a general ability to hang around and deliver the goods.
While this record doesn’t mark a great departure from Parkin’s previous jams, it does excel by allowing Parkin space to breathe. And he has never had as much oxygen as he does on Mighty Big Light.
Originally published in X-Press Magazine #1264 (4 May 2011)
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