Parcels is a band commonly likened to the Beach Boys, but the weighty comparison only touches the bright surface of their music. Their new self-titled debut album smoothly transitions between moods, from the bass-slapping rhythm of “IknowhowIfeel” to the disco-steeped groove of the single “Tieduprightnow.” Regardless, there’s an undeniable movement in their songs, an air of fun and a beat for dancing. There’s no wonder the album cover itself shows the band mid-action, boarding a plane before being distracted by a faceless passerby. Given the group’s transformative beginnings, it only makes sense that they’re introduced on the move.
Hailing from Australia, guitarist Jules Crommelin, bassist Noah Hill, synth players Louie Swain and Patrick Hetherington and drummer Anatole Serret moved to Germany shortly after high school, not certain of much except that they were starting to get serious about being a band and to do that, they needed to get out there.
“We always had an idea of moving to Europe because Australia feels very disconnected when you live your whole life there,” Patrick explained. “We were lucky enough to find ourselves in Berlin, which we love.”
And their risk paid off — practically upon arrival, the band signed with French indie label Kitsuné, had their first collaboration with Daft Punk on the funky single “Overnight,” and performed for crowds of 15,000, all before making a full-length album. With the release of the 12-track Parcels in October, they’re now on a global tour.
“I think we’re all a bit tired, but every night has brought back some energy. The shows have been incredible with the crowds,” Patrick said, taking a break before sound check in Wiesbaden, Germany. You can’t blame them for feeling tired – the 21-year-olds kicked off their tour with three sold out shows in a row in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“Its been crazy,” Patrick said simply. “When we were creating the album and going into releasing it, during that whole process…we just kind of forget that there’s people out there listening. And then when we come play these shows, I’m reminded that what we’re doing is really affecting people and its really, really beautiful.”
Having come from an odd array of bands in their high school days, from folk to heavy metal, Parcels has combined their backgrounds to settle into a retro pop sound. Patrick said, “In the end, pop is like a really nice umbrella that allows us to combine everything we’ve practiced and worked on over the years. For us, it taps into a tangible emotion that anybody can feel.”
In that way, the band’s seemingly ubiquitous comparison to the Beach Boys hasn’t been misplaced; from their harmonies to their style, Parcels combines an old-school sensibility with modern synth, a sort of modern disco to an accessible, funky beat. Patrick admitted that the beach-y element of their sound can also trace back to their Australian roots, saying, “Sometimes, there’s a longing for home and a longing for warmth; that feeling of warmth is always very in there.”
Although they’re now changing location almost every day, Patrick explained how, as a group that appreciates tradition, the band has tried to keep some grounding in the things they’ve had since their start. “We don’t like change; we like to hold on to ritual in ways,” the musician said.
Besides a secret before-show ritual, the band has adhered to a space-less style for all of their song titles. When asked about the quirk, Patrick revealed with a laugh, “I’ve given up trying to be serious about that. It originates from my laptop while we were balancing out the original demos of the first songs we ever made…. My computer had a broken space bar.”
Their recording equipment has slightly upgraded since then, beginning with when they joined Daft Punk in the studio on “Overnight.” Patrick described how that experience helped inform the process of recording Parcels. He said, “We learned so much and it changed a lot for us. It really got us inspired on recording live studio music in a different way and focusing on songwriting.”
That’s why, with almost minimal experience, the band took up the project of self-producing their first full album. “It was important for us to learn and to go through that process of the album because, when we stepped into it, we were kind of confident, but very ignorant,” Patrick said. “We wanted to make things our way. And, we wanted people to know we produced this.”
The album vocals, provided in part by harmonies from all the members, creates a layered sound that morphs from mellow to otherworldly, depending on the song. As creators, the band has always strived to approach the pop sound in a more meaningful way than the levity normally ascribed to the genre.
This revamp translates clearly in their latest music video for the single, “Withorwithout,” directed by Benjamin Howdeshell. At first listen, the song is dreamlike, reminiscent of an old love song with verse after verse of “You are….” But with the metaphors of “You were the start of something I don’t need / You were the world I wish I’d never seen,” there’s also a bitter, mournful tone.
Featuring model and actress Milla Jovovich, the video plays with this contrast, beginning with a suburban couple in a strained relationship that becomes subject to a violent home invasion. On social media, the band described the video as “our celebration of the American slasher film. The masks, the kitchen knife, the home invasion and, of course, the final girl – which in our case got to be Milla, the iconic queen of horror herself.” With the combination of Milla flexing her horror background and seeing the band wielding pick axes in glittery face paint, it’s worth a watch -– and then a rewatch to retrace the twist.
“There’s definitely an angsty vibe to that song and its always felt to us not as summery as it may sound,” Patrick said on the bands decision to go in a darker direction with the visuals. “At the same time, we get that its kind of sugary and I really like that contrast. Louie’s always been a huge fan of horror and slasher movies and he got really got inspired on this idea from the start.”
But how did they come to work with the Resident Evil star? “Well, we met her kind of randomly,” Patrick recounted. “First, we saw that she was posting on a lot of our Instagrams and thought it was pretty cool. And then we met her spontaneously at the Cannes Film Festival where we were playing in a little club. She came along — she’s kind of a big fan — and we ended up talking to her and bonding over the music and also over horror movies and that genre. It was really perfect.”
Patrick was careful to avoid sharing his own interpretations of the “Parcels” album, not wanting to project his experiences onto other listeners before they form their own. He said, “We’re really proud of the album and I just hope people listen and take an emotional journey out of it for themselves.” Parcels continues their tour in Australia, Japan and South Korea before coming to the US in February. Patrick enthused, “We’re really excited to get back to the States more in the next year. We have such fun shows there and we can’t wait to get back.”