The New York City based sextet, Parlour Tricks is known for its retro grit and powerful harmonies. We at Pancakes & Whiskey had the pleasure of speaking to Lily Cato and Darah Golub ahead of their show at Webster Hall. The vocalists discussed plans for the group’s next album and revealed they were Buffalo Trace girls.
P&W: Broken Hearts/Bones was released about eight months ago. How are you feeling with the feedback so far and where do you think the next album is heading?
Lily: We’re very excited for new stuff. We’ve been recording incrementally and hopefully will have a new EP in the next few months. We’re very proud of this album. Once we released it, there actually was a release. We felt like in the most positive way we had purged it. We had been working on it for so long and then we set it out into the world and now we’re excited for the next thing, which is different. What we’re working on now is notably different and that’s exciting for us.
In what way do you think the next album is going to be different?
Lily: We are at the moment self producing and getting a little bit back to our roots. It’s less pop-like and darker, more rock n’ roll.
Darah: We’re stripping some things away from arrangements-
Lily: Yes, much less electronic stuff happening-
Darah: which is how we started and worked for many years.
You’ve said that the next album is going to be darker and this past album was lighter. You guys also have an interesting balance of three men and three women. How do you guys think this balance and the different perspectives influence your music?
Lily: We have always said that the gender balance has provided us with a real equilibrium. We get along really well and always have. It’s really easy in ways that you often hear it is not easy for bands. I don’t know if it’s related to gender. Maybe if we were all fucking dudes it would be the same and it just happens to be this group of people who know how to get along with each other. There’s good symmetry and when we travel, there’s a girls’ room and a boys’ room, which is very necessary. To be able to be a part of a big group and then take a break with-
Darah: with your sisters-
Lily: Exactly. Being in a band this long enables you to be comfortable and experiment. We would say “let’s see what happens if we do this.” Everyone threw themselves into the album, but we’re all very comfortable with the fact that that might not be where we’ll stay. There’s a kind of homeostasis and this feeling that we can take risks together and when something doesn’t work we’re not afraid of saying so. We had a really nice band meeting last night, which cemented that feeling that we are on the same page.
At one point you talked about how you were writing for three voices when you first formed the band and now there are six of you. Are you writing for six voices now and how do you make sure that all members are heard and get all your messages across?
Lily: Have no idea what message I’m trying to get across. I never have. I think there’s something profoundly powerful that comes from voices singing in harmony and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to listen to. It’s my favorite kind of music- The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Andrews Sisters. To me that’s the most potent stuff. A message is in there somewhere regardless of what the songs themselves are about. There is something visceral and powerful about voices singing in harmony so that’s always been our mission statement.
Darah: And sometimes it’s base that will accompany that.
Lily: Yeah, the other day I realized that I only write for base and three voices and when we started the band the women weren’t in it yet. It was just me and three dudes who I love so much who are so talented but there was something really really missing. Getting the six of us together cemented what I was writing. It was what I was hearing in my head.
There’s a lot of music out there and I can only imagine how difficult it is to distinguish yourselves. What is about Parlour Tricks that sets you guys apart?
Darah: (laughing) that’s so stressful-
Lily: (laughing) I know that’s the most stressful question. I think that the most gratifying thing that we hear after a show is someone saying “I’ve never seen anything like it.” That is the blessing and the curse- especially for the people that work for us. They have to sell something that is impossible to sell because you can’t describe it unless you come to a show. It’s really easy to categorize us as pop, 60’s girl-group harmonies and rock, but it’s not quite that. It’s very aggressive- we take the 60’s girl-group model of singing and apply it to 70s’ to 90s’ rock n’ roll and I honestly don’t know if other people are doing it. It’s a weird animal that we’ve created over a long period of time and it’s our own. When we hear people say “I’ve never seen anything like it” that means we’re doing something right.
Let’s shift gears to the music video for “Broken Hearts/Bones” that you recently released. I loved the symbolism at the end where these third parties are left cleaning up the mess after the couple has rolled through the grocery. Can you talk about the video and what inspired it?
Lily: I’m so happy you said that. Nobody has mentioned the end and that was a very important piece to me. A much chiller version of the video happened to me when I was at the grocery store last year and I was standing in the checkout line and a very popular love song came on the radio. I noticed that everyone had started singing, but no one was paying attention to anyone else or was acknowledging it. Everyone was in their own bubble and really into it.
Darah: I wish I could have been there to see that happening. It’s so bizarre to think of that-
Lily: It was so surreal. No one started making out or anything but it was this weird, very honest, very dramatic moment and then it was over. The line kept going but everyone around me was singing so I went home and wrote it down because it needed to be something. When I was mapping out the idea with the director (Dani Brandwein) I said to her that I didn’t want the band to be featured where all of a sudden we were on a fucking stage. I can’t stand that! We were talking about how such an important part of the story was the comedown and the fact that the scene hadn’t happened followed by the same shit that happens at the grocery store. And Dani, the director, said what if the cleanup crew is the three guys from the band who have to fix the display. That part is very special to me, thank you.
And what was the blonde girl eating? Was it marshmallow spread?
Lily: Icing. That was one of the other things on my list that I had to have- sad eating. And at first I was like it should be deli meat or something really sad and Dani was like I got this.
If Parlour Tricks was a love child of either artists, musicians, writers etc? Who would the parents be?
Lily: How many parents can there be?
Six? There can definitely be more than two.
Lily: I always say this, but The Andrews Sisters- huge vocal and harmony influence. T. Rex. I’m thinking really carefully.
Darah: I like those two. If you have to choose two then that’s the perfect two from each end.
There can always be cousins and aunts and uncles that influence you.
Lily: Yeah, super incestuous and gross influences.
You’re playing with Great Caesar tonight. Are you excited? Do you have any rivalry or love stories to share?
Lily: We played with them a year and a half ago and we had such a good time and said we have to do it again. They’re wonderful. There music is so lovely and it’s really a treat for us to play along with them.
We are Pancakes and Whiskey so I have to ask- what are your favorite whiskeys?
Darah: We have a bottle of Makers in the green room.
Lily: That’s a big one. And Buffalo Trace… You should really ask us what are our favorite kind of pancakes.
Article: Alx Bear