MAIN PEAK — TUESDAY 1/31 — 9:15 PM

Parquet Courts’ thought-provoking rock is dancing to a new tune. Sympathy For Life finds the Brooklyn band at both their most instinctive and electronic, spinning their bewitching, psychedelic storytelling into fresh territory, yet maintaining their unique identity.

Built largely from improvised jams, inspired by New York clubs, Primal Scream and Pink Floyd and produced in league with Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, Hot Chip, David Byrne), Sympathy For Life was always destined to be dancey. Unlike its globally adored predecessor, 2018’s Wide Awake! – a Top 30 hit here and an album of the year everywhere from Spin and The Skinny to NME and Australia’s Double J – the focus fell on grooves rather than rhythm.

“Wide Awake! was a record you could put on at a party,” says co-frontman Austin Brown. “Sympathy For Life is influenced by the party itself. Historically, some amazing rock records been made from mingling in dance music culture – from Talking Heads to Screamadelica. Our goal was to bring that in to our own music.

“Each of us, in our personal lives, has been going to more dance parties. Or rather, we were, pre-pandemic, which is when this record was made.”

Before sessions began at Brooklyn’s The Bridge studio in autumn 2019, as ever, the quartet (Brown and Savage plus bassist Sean Yeaton and drummer Max Savage) took time out to work on ideas separately. For co-frontman A Savage, that meant a trip to Italy armed with Mad Hatter acid.

“I took a lot of acid with me and started working out,” he says. “I call it trippy lifting. I would trip and work out during the day, then write songs at night. Three or four of the songs that made it on to album began there – Walking At A Downtown Pace, Pulcinella, Trullo. Most of my ideas for the artwork formed at that time too. I had a big piece of paper taped to the wall that read “CAN, CANNED HEAT, & THIS HEAT”. That was the sound I wanted to find.”

Back home, the jamming began.

“Most of the songs were created by taking long improvisations and moulding them through our own editing,” explains Brown. “The biggest asset we have as artists is the band. After 10 years together, our greatest instrument is each other. The purest expression of Parquet Courts is when we are improvising.”

Dreamy lead single Plant Life, released in June, was edited to 10 minutes from a 40 minute-plus jam and almost halved again for the album. Digital disco-punk anthem Marathon Of Anger, which began as a largely electronic jam inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests, was painstakingly snipped from 41 minutes to a neat four and a half.

In between was where the hard work occurred.

“More than any of our albums, this one was about the process,” says Brown. “It was about viewing the themes through a dance music lens and our own filter to discover where it would take us. Seven albums in, the pressure is on to do something new, but still sound like us.”

Key to the complex process was working with McDonald, first at The Bridge, then for an intense fortnight at The Outlier Inn, a sprawling, bucolic studio in the Catskills, where 2014’s Sunbathing Animal was recorded.

“I met Rodaidh when I was DJing in LA,” notes Brown. “I brought my records to his house and we spent days talking about what we wanted to do and sampling stuff from both of our collections for references. When he came to New York to record, we mashed up some of those samples to make beats and grooves and jammed over the top. It was a cool way to work, completely different for us.”

Also central was a Korg MS-20 synthesiser, through which the guitars were fed. Austin often switched to synths. Max Savage played lots of e-drums live. In the Catskills, they used a geodesic dome as a reverb tank and Brown manned a dub station.

“On some of the songs, I wasn’t playing anything but everyone else’s instruments,” he says. “For Plant Life and Marathon Of Anger, I ran everything through the mixer doing the echoes and delay. It’s the same way you’d mix a dub album.”

In March last year, the band decamped to Real World Studios near Bath to work with John Parish on Sympathy For Life’s Sandinista!-esque title track and the sensual, strung-out Pulcinella.

“While we were there, the papers were full of Covid stories, but we were too busy to read them,” explains Savage. “We thought the headlines were unnecessarily alarmist until we arrived at the airport to fly home and people were wearing masks. We left two days before lockdown.”

By then, the album was almost finished and all of the lyrics were written. Spookily, Sympathy For Life opens and ends with songs which reference masks. Closer Pulcinella was inspired by a souvenir of the masked Commedia dell’Arte character of the same name.

“Only afterwards it occurred to me that Commedia dell’Arte was very popular during the Great Plague,” says Savage.

Why did he gravitate to this character while in Italy?

“Perhaps I had a plague premonition,” he smiles.

As everything shut down around the world, so – inevitably – the album release was postponed too. It finally arrives this October, exactly a year late, yet also right on time.

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Dear Destination Chaos Attendees,

Due to key personnel departures at Upstart Entertainment so close to the event and related circumstances that would have affected the event experience, it is with the deepest regret that we must announce Destination Chaos is being postponed until the fall. We are currently working with the artists, and their agents and managers, to retain as much of this amazing lineup as possible and bring in the key staff and talent to produce the rescheduled event which will most likely be in mid-October, 2023. Many bands, though disappointed, have also expressed their desire for a postponement and to work to make Destination Chaos the event we have all envisioned. We will release the new date in a formal announcement with additional details this Sunday, December 18.

Most importantly, we want you all to know that you are our top priority, and helping you adjust to this change will be our sole focus. Within the next few days, we will be sharing additional information on social, via email, and by way of SMS. We will be providing FULL optionality to select from the following choices:

  • Retain your exact booking for the new date
  • Process a claim via our insurance partner for a refund. All U.S residents are covered regardless of when you purchased your room.
  • Receive a direct refund (International residents)

Concerning booked flights, we are working with a travel agency to help you make all necessary flight changes or cancellations. If you can’t make the fall dates, we’ll work with your airline to accommodate your needs as best as possible. If you opt to come along for the new dates, we will be paying any change fees for you.

We expect to have full information to you in the next few days. We appreciate your patience and continued faith in Destination Chaos. We are extremely fortunate to have such amazing friends on both the talent and guest side of things. We fully recognize that, and we are very much looking forward to returning the favor by giving you the week of your lifetime.

With greatest regards,

Chris Wicke
Upstart Entertainment
Further information to follow.


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this weekend!

BUY any play package and receive a $500 discount taken at checkout.

enter code: "goodthings" at checkout.
limited offering

Click the BOOK NOW button below. At checkout, enter code GOODTHINGS below the calendar to receive this special flash sale:

Room Type: Any PLAY package
7 Night Minimum night stay required

***Not changeable or upgradable***

Finance for up to 24 months
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*Cancellation & Travel Insurance Available for USA Residents Only