The Parson Red Heads
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The Parson Red Heads

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In the Wu-Tang manual, the RZA confessed that he used to make certain albums hoping they’d come out in the wintertime. He describes Liquid Swords, for example, as being a “winter-up-in-your face joint….songs like “Cold World,” with the wind blowing, I want people to be in their cars…just shivering.”

King Giraffe is not a “winter-up-in your face joint.” And for good reason. Rural Oregon, where most of the Parsons grew up, is a long way off from NYC. As is Los Angeles, where the six-piece psychedelic folk rockers currently reside. So on some level, you can forgive the band for writing lyrics like “every day the sun comes out and I see the world in blue and brown.” Just don’t tell them that in Manhattan tonight, the mercury will plummet to -9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indeed, the Parson’s debut has the feel of a bright blue summer day melting into a cotton-candy pink twilight—11 songs and 45 minutes of Byrdsian jangle, super ball bouncy bass lines, stone-washed four-piece harmonies, and the occasional drowsy slide guitar lick. It’s the ideal soundtrack to a lazy afternoon cookout, with filets and BBQ-sauce smothered chicken breasts on the grill, a Corona with lime tucked into your palm.

Parson’s make no secret about trying to build upon the city’s laid-back legacy, relentlessly channeling the spirit of the Byrds, CSNY, and Gram Parsons. Indeed the album chugs along so velvet-soft and painless that its show-stopper, “Full Moon,” (a centerpiece of the band’s dynamic live show) creeps up on you with its graveyard lyrics, serpentine Zombies keyboards, and twisting miasma of psychedelic guitars. Dropping their optimism for a moment, Way and his sister Erin, the band’s keyboardist, talk murder (“When are you gonna get a gun / When are you gonna find someone to use it on?”), as the band finally lets loose, unleashing a primal squall of feedback that leads one to believe that bigger things might one day be in store for these kids.

The album isn’t perfect. Lyrically, the Parsons remain a work in progress, with Evan Way still prone to cliché (“I’m always alright / You are the ground beneath my feet”) and other than the aforementioned “Full Moon,” they fail to display much in the way of depth. But their music is a different story. Like their fellow Los Angeles buzz bands du jour, the Broken West and the Little Ones, the Parsons have an intuitive sense of melody, dropping big sing-a-long hooks and rat-a-tat rhythms seemingly at will. “Days of My Youth” and its nostalgia for 1966 begs to be snatched up to sell Volvos to Baby Boomers, while “Punctual as Usual” and its “always being on time” chorus has enough rubbery bass lines and sugary harmonies to peddle a million wristwatches.

With their snazzy all-white stage costumes and vaguely cultish Danielson feel, the Parsons have already built up a sizeable following of Eastsiders drawn in by their kinetic stage shows (not to mention the fact that their drummer, Brette Marie Gentry, bears a strong resemblance to hipster nation heartthrob, Jenny Lewis.) And from the polished, worn-in feel of King Giraffe, it’s not hard to see why. - Stylus Magazine


From the band’s bio; Originally from Oregon, they all packed their bags and headed south when they heard the call to do so. They have now brought Los Angeles a unique brand of 60’s rock/psychedelic/folk music, with hint of indie pop - full of 4 part harmonies, jangly guitar leads, and dance-able, tambourine-tinged rhythms It is music that is half happy, and half sad. But even when it’s happy, you have to think: “Is this sad?” and even when it is sad, you have to think: “Is this happy?” Apt description to give you an idea where the bands sound lays. Field Mouse Carnival is an impressive 5 track ep, that will appeal to a broad range of music fans. Very bubbly with folkish undertones. “My Head Is Bursting” begins the ep with a cute acapella track featuring helium fed female vocals. “Punctual As Usual” is the star of the show, having the bass and guitar lines that will make you think of classic college alt. rock bands, and harmonies that sounds like a soundtrack to an afternoon spent on Santa Monica beach. “Burning Up The Sky” is more of a quiet folk tune, that has the dreaminess of Iron & Wine and picks up the pace towards the end with a fun piano outro. “Different Sound” is a charming acoustic number, brings to mind Art Garfunkel playing in a modern day indie folk pop band. The ep closes out with “Speed Trials” (nope not a cover of Elliott Smith’s song of the same name), a slow song that is straight up folk, but does feature dreamy melodies that brings to mind some Mojave 3. Field Mouse Carnival is a promising debut EP that displays an impressive ability by the Parson Red Heads to combine their folkish sounds with memorable pop melodies. Recommended. - Lunapark6.com


…just in time for the grand headliners – as per usual, all dressed in white, stage decked with flowers, and crowded with band members: three guitarists (Sam Fowles, Aaron Ballard and the chief Red Head, singer/songwriter Evan Way), a bassist (David Swensen), a drummer/vocalist (Brette Marie Way, Evan’s wife) and a keyboardist/vocalist (Erin Way, Evan’s sister), who were clearly inspired by the more jammy, noisy textures of the Dazzling Strangers. Having only met online via MySpace prior to the show, they were hearing each other in their natural element for the first time. Unlike the last two Red Heads shows in San Francisco, the band went for a Lightning Bolt-style start, with Evan beginning to jam randomly off-stage with the house lights still on. Actually, Sam hadn’t made it to the stage yet, and as the band started to follow Evan’s lead, Sam quickly ran to the stage to grab his axe and join in. Winding down, they eventually began what has been their regular set-opener this year, the gorgeously uplifting “Time is Running Out.” Evan must be getting tired of me asking when this song is going to come out, as I bring it up directly or indirectly every time we meet. This time, he would only suggest that *hopefully* the band will be hitting the studio before Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy sees release.

The song goes something like this, in the first verse:

Give all the love that you have
Finish the things you began
All of the time that we spend giving up
Could be spent on the things that we have

…and then the next verse that wraps with “think of the man that you used to be / he is less than the man you’ve become” turns sage advice and consolation into a self-affirmation that buzzes like a drug. Seriously, combined with those familial Byrdsian harmonies, “Time is Running Out” can’t help but feel like a classic from the first listen. But you have to get out of your bed and into a small rock club to hear it, which actually is way cool, trust me. There’s no better place to get a song’s full effect than in a social setting, as it’s played in the moment, no pause or rewind allowed. Pay full attention. Savor every moment.

In addition to some excellent unfamiliar numbers showcasing the band’s effortless dual lead guitars that will hopefully find their way out into the world along with “Time is Running Out,” the first three tunes off this year’s Owl and Timber EP formed a high point of the Red Heads’ nine song set. A smooth segue linked “Out to Sea” with the always excitement-inducing “Got it All,” though a botched ending to “County Line” elicited some laughs from Evan and Sam. No matter, nobody else seemed to notice. And besides, it sounded cool.

The band is getting tighter and tighter, amazingly so. Like a lot of young indie bands out there, most of the Parson Red Heads hold regular hours at full-time day jobs. And yet, they manage to cruise up and down the West coast, adding a little noise and jamming here, a little extra harmony there, sharpening their sound every step of the way. They will be back in San Francisco twice more (at least) before the year is over, and from here, they begin a short tour with Everest (who, themselves, will be touring with Neil Young in the Fall). It must be those flowers and pure white uniforms that keep them from losing their collective minds. Laugh if you must, but I’ve not seen anybody walk away from a Parson Red Heads show feeling blue. There’s a positive vibe happening with them, and it’s infectious. For now, they’re L.A.’s best-kept secret. How much longer that’ll be the case, who knows – the cat’s bound to get out of the bag sooner or later. - Michael Fortes @ Popdose.com


Looking like they hitchhiked out of a California commune, sounding like they grew up with nothing but 45s from 1968, and acting like either some sort of new age cult or a Von Trapp-esque musical family, I introduce to you The Parson Red Heads. The Los Angeles-based band that originated in Eugene does not contain a single Parson, but does include at least one and a half red heads and is breaking onto the indie scene thanks in part to a throwback sound and demeanor.
The Parson Red Heads’s guitarist and lead singer, Evan Way, doesn’t mind the comparisons to ‘60s and ‘70s bands from which the band has gleaned some of their indie/pop/folk/rock licks.

“A lot of people say we sound like the Byrds, but personally, I don’t hear it,” Way says over the phone from LA as the Red Heads prepare for a West Coast tour that will drop them off at the Annex on Halloween.

“I feel like music then was really great. People were more honest about the music – the attitude was just different,” Way says of the late ‘60s, early ‘70s sound.

After heading out of Eugene in the summer of 2005, the Red Heads moved south, settling in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood, which in the past decade has become a bourgeoning breeding ground for all things indie. Although Way says Silver Lake, and the hipster haven of the Echo Park district to the east, are home to a friendly and communal music scene, it is, however, saturated in bands, many of which share some pop stylings with Way’s band. But the Red Heads are making a name in the community, and have gained enough acclaim to be taking up a highly coveted monthlong residency at the uber-hip Spaceland club.

“We sat down a while back and made a list of goals for the band, and getting the Spaceland residency was one of them. So we can check that off the list,” Way says.

During any given show, The Parson Red Heads can consist of as many as eight members (and a number of other honorary Red Heads), all wearing white matching outfits that Way calls “pleasing to the eye.” Some members simply shake a tambourine, fill in some backing vocals where needed and perhaps add an intriguing degree of novelty to the act. The band’s West Coast tour only features six Red Heads, half of which will be on guitar, but Way says that they’ll still bring plenty of tambourines for the shaking.

The mere idea of tambourines of course brings to mind folk pop acts of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but also a sense of upbeat energy – something that’s refreshing within the often snobby and elitist indie culture. It’s hard to shake a tambourine and not seem at least a bit happy.

A member of The Henry Clay People, another Silver Lake area band, once summed up the Red Heads stage presence by saying, “It’s like they took my favorite parts of the ‘70s and put it all together.”

As long as your favorite parts of the ‘70s weren’t roller derby or Billy Beer, this should also hold true for most music fans. - Source Weekly - Bend, OR


The first entry in our week of previews for upcoming LPs/EPs from Los Angeles musicians, The Parson Red Heads‘ Owl & Timber (May 20th, Parson Farm Records) EP is a hyper-melodic slice of sideways Americana, as well as a yin/yang collusion of rustic, porchspun acoustics and the heady fracture of rolling psych-folk jams.

Included in this preview for your greedy little eardrums are two tracks from the forthcoming EP: the heavy, marrow-shatter guitar pyrotechnics of roots-rocker “Got it All,” as well as the EP closer, “Crowds,” a sweetly spiraling staircase of ascending vocal harmonies and dream-pop melodicism. Listen, listen again, then listen one more time. This is as good as L.A. rock gets. - www.webinfront.net


“The key to working in a band with so many members is finding people who don’t have big egos,” says keyboardist and proud tambourine shaker for The Parson Red Heads, Erin Way.

The Red Heads’ genesis is similar to that of many bands, where core members found one another in a college classroom (at the University of Oregon in Eugene — Go Ducks!). Players came and went and things weren’t very serious for the band until nearly three years ago, when the group relocated to Los Angeles. “It was totally positive moving from Oregon to L.A.,” recalls Evan Way, brother of Erin and leader of the Red Heads. “It definitely takes some getting used to — this city has a completely different way of life.”

Helping each other acclimate to the big transition, the members became tighter. “I’ve played with Evan for a long time and he’s always chosen people he’s great friends with, and in some cases family members,” says one of the four guitarists, Sam Fowles. Evan’s sister isn’t the only family blood in the band — Evan’s wife, Brette Marie Way, plays drums and sings backup for the Red Heads. The band has been strong for their marriage, Evan explains, “You know, with the amount of time I spend doing band activities, if I didn’t have my wife in the band with me, it would get really difficult for our marriage because she’s a fulltime student, and I work fulltime. We just wouldn’t get to see each other much.”

‘07 brought the release of The Parson Red Heads’ critically praised full-length debut, King Giraffe, an album that hums and buzzes within boundless ‘60s jangle pop. “Before we left Oregon, I really felt we hadn’t done enough stuff I was satisfied with to put onto a record,” says Evan. “I was in a lot of bands that were sort of weird, playing experimental Radiohead stuff, and for the songs on King Giraffe, I was listening to a greater variety of older bands, from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.” With nods to The Byrds and later Beatles, King Giraffe rollicks through summery fields and gives way to playful rich innocence in harmony and rolling, thickly textured melody, showcasing a roster of musicians that can peak into the double digits. It features playful keyboards, many fuzzy guitars, Evan’s charming vocals, and an unremitting upbeat attitude. “Writing songs for the Red Heads is where I really started experimenting with what many say is conventional pop music,” Evan explains. “It was me realizing that pop music isn’t bad, that the concept of pop music doesn’t just mean Britney Spears, but also means REM and The Beatles. Discovering that really opens you up in a lot of ways. People often think that being more experimental means being open-minded, but often it’s the opposite.”

Evan is the irrefutable head of the Parson family. “He’s the humblest person you’ll ever meet,” says Erin. Fowles adds, “He’s a democratic, good listener of a bandleader. Every time I put my two cents in, he treats me with an equal share and responsibility in the band.” One may find it surprising that with so many people involved, Evan handles everything. “It keeps things less confusing when one person is the point of contact,” he explains. “Not everyone has the time or opportunity to do offstage stuff. I’m lucky to have a job where I’m on a computer most of the day.” Evan adds that there’s also no risk for double booking shows, or someone saying something that misrepresents the band, and everybody else agrees.

The bandleader duties extend beyond being the band manager, as Evan is also the Red Heads’ principal songwriter. “A song starts as a skeleton, which Evan brings to the core members, and we all, through trial and error, noodle with the piece and develop our parts, helping each other when a member hits a creative block,” says Fowles. Many trios have a hard enough time writing songs for three instruments, and one would expect the difficulty to grow exponentially for the Red Heads. “With so many musicians, we have to make sure extra musicians are there for texture and not playing all the time,” Evan says. “It’s not cool to have like five guitars bang away on the same chords together, it’s not interesting. We try to have everyone do something different, but in a way that doesn’t feel congested.”

After King Giraffe, the band fulfilled its contract with Yukon Records and was set free to record independently. “A lot of bands these days are recording and releasing stuff on their own, and it seems like the perfect time to do the same. Though it does mean we all have to work a little harder,” says Evan. Brette adds, “We always knew the contract would end with Yukon, and we found while trying to shop for a new larger label, it was really off-putting to do so when we were currently signed, even though we were at the end of our contract. For legal reasons it gets complicated. So one of our goals then became to release stuff on our own, which is less scary to labels — being completely unattached makes it easier to find a new label.” So the Red Heads are - Performer Magazine


The Los Angeles by way of Oregon five some are releasing their latest 7″, Orangufang, on April 28th. The band (currently signed to JAXART) is made up of Evan Way (vocals, guitar), his wife Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Sam Fowles (guitar, vocals), Aaron Ballard (guitar, vocals) and Andy Creighton (bass, vocals). The 7″ is limited to 200 copies, but you also get a digital download card if you order the vinyl. Each 7″ comes in hand silk-screened envelopes all made with love by The Parson Red Heads and friends.

We just got sent the 7″, and it sounds fantastic. I wouldn’t quite describe it as psyche/folk, but it’s definitely leaning towards that genre. It has a more modern and relaxed vibe to it, especially on the last track, “I Knew A Young Girl.” “I Knew A Young Girl” features haunting harmonies, and is definitely my favorite song on the 7″. The first track, “Raymond” has a more poppy and electric vibe to it, but also features great harmony layering. The second track on the 7″, “You Can Leave It”, is the most up-tempo of the three and has a real 60’s revival sound to it. All three songs are really good, but if I were to pick one, it would definitely be “I Knew A Young Girl.” I just pre-ordered my copy, and if you hurry up you’ll still be able to grab one… Right here.
- thetapeisnotsticky.com


Discography

Field Mouse Carnival - EP (Yukon Records)
King Giraffe - LP (Yukon Records)
Owl & Timber - EP (Parson Farm Records)
Orangufang - 7" (JaxArt Records)
Early Birds - EP (Parson Farm Records)

Photos

Bio

Change is often a good thing, and no one knows that better than The Parson Red Heads. In 2005 they packed up and moved to Los Angeles, leaving behind their family and friends in Oregon to share their music with a bigger audience. It worked, and over the past five years they have become an integral part of Los Angeles east side music scene with residencies at Silver Lake Lounge, The Echo and Spaceland, and have been featured on KCRW along with about every other musical outlet Los Angeles has to offer. They’ve loved their new home of Los Angeles, but in the same spirit that they came here, the band is seeking to continue their musical journey this fall in their old home of Oregon, this time in Portland, where a lower cost of living and a closeness to numerous musicians there will help them continue to explore their art and keep them on the road.

The band of Evan Way (vocals, guitar), his wife Brett Marie Way (drums, vocals) and Sam Fowles (guitar, vocals) have busily been working away on a new full length album the past few months. Recorded in part with Raymond Richards (Local Natives, Broken West) in Los Angeles and with Chris Stamey (Whiskeytown, Yo La Tengo) in Chapel Hill, NC the new full length will be released later this year. In the meantime, and because they wanted to offer their fans something new on their upcoming summer tour, the group put together a 4 song tour only EP entitled Early Birds. With the upcoming move it was only fitting that the group returned to some of their oldest material from their days in Eugene and updated it to current Parson standards. “Choose”, “First Movement” and “I Miss Your Smile” where all originally written and performed by the band back in 2003-2004 and were released on the now out of print Ghost of a Crab and Songs for Lions. Those songs now feature the group’s trademark vocal harmonies and guitar work, while new song “Never Ending Road” is a delicate Beatles-esque ballad served up by Fowles. Early Birds will be available only as a CD and only at their shows, so if you want your copy, make sure you get out to see the band on tour this summer.