Matt James gazed endlessly into his Crystal Ball and then whispered a single word, “…Parallels”.
Aah, so you’re interested in the new music, eh? Wanna know about the “best of the best before the rest”? Well congratulations! You haven’t just clicked on another page whilst randomly surfing the net in your lunch hour. Oh no. You have entered another dimension! You have been singled out as an adventurer, an explorer, a fellow revolutionary! Oh there are quite a few of you though [thinks]. Ok let’s split you up. Could those of you reading this “in the future” who want to revisit Parallels before they became the towering synthpop pheonomenon as you know them in your age step to the left – wow, OK – and those in the dark days of mid 2009 who’re just intrigued, lookin’ for some mojo or maybe just wandered in by mistake please step to the right. Ok, we all ready? Let our journey begin!!
Hello Parallels! For those yet still to hear your amazingly sophisticated and sultry synthpop – can you please introduce yourselves and state your musical manifesto for the record…
Holly: I sing and play keyboards.
Cam: Drummer and Producer.
Joey: Joined Parallels recently and I play synths and keyboards.
Songs like Ultralight and Vienna have massive crossover potential and are enormo-pop hits in waiting. Are you ready to become filthy rich and famous or does the prospect of celebrity in the 21st century terrify you?
Holly: The fact that ‘youtube celebrities’ exist – celebrity in the 21st century terrifies me. The idea of celebrity is too distracting, the focus should be on the songs.
Synths are always ‘the sound of the future’ to me. As a kid I always thought by 2009, we’d have flying cars and robots that could do all the hoovering, yes, even under the bed. What were your futuristic visions as children?
Holly: I’m hoping time travel will happen for real some time soon.
Joey: Reawakening dormant parts of the brain that unlock the secrets of man – which is really just the ability to fly…obviously.
A rising UK synthpop starlet, La Roux, recently declared “guitars were dead”. As a band that mixes live instruments with synths what do you reckon? Is she talking crap or is this The Revolution?
Holly: Guitars have been around for a very long time, I don’t think they will die any time soon. I think many people will always have a soft spot in their hearts for classic guitar hooks.
Cam: I don’t think it’s a revolution. Guitars are probably just taking a short nap. No offence, but it’s sort of a bogus statement in our opinion.
Joey: I think the classic rock trio consisting of a guitarist, bassist and drummer is in the process of restructuring itself. But that doesn’t mean guitars are dead. Synths, like guitars, have been around forever, and it’s just a fad that they have such a presence in pop music right now. They’ve been used in TV and film for decades, which is where my passion for them originated. So if there was a synth revolution going on, it would definitely be because of people like Vangelis (Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire) and Mark Snow (X-Files, Millenium).
Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys used to label particular strands of synthpop as “tragi-disco” – beautiful electronic music you dance to and enjoy, but whilst feeling melancholic and reflective. When I’m describing Parallels to people the phrase “tragi-disco” is often a key reference – what do you think?
Joey: I guess it is a bit dramatic.
Holly: I think it could stick…but I’m dramatic sometimes.
Cam: I agree.
Cam, you played with Crystal Castles during their meteoric rise last year. The tour was seemingly a travelling carnival of blood, drugs and switchblades. Well, if you believe the NME. Or was it really all cream teas and crossword puzzles backstage? C’mon ‘fess up.
Cam: They forgot to mention rituals and sacrifices.
The Crystal Castles gig I saw last year was one of my most invigorating musical highlights of the decade. What did you learn from the CC experience that has held you in good stead for Parallels?
Cam: Touring non-stop and being able to drum for a living inspired me to want to get my own project off the ground, also I wanted to play songs that I’d been working on, live. So drumming for those guys got me into a good routine.
Holly, on your MySpace page you say your recent solo album The Carousel was influenced by “Fleetwood Mac and Liberace” – will this kaleidoscopic dreamland of fairytales, princesses and animated dolls be finding its way into the Parallels gigs? Please say yes!
Holly: We usually like to think of my solo music is a separate space, it’s a different side of me, Parallels has a much different dynamic. Fleetwood Mac inspired me to not be afraid to shut the door on the world and write, and Liberace…inspired me to not be afraid of sequined capes. But one of my songs, called Berlin may change and sneak into a Parallels set.
Looking at photos of the Parallels HQ – Marigold Studios – it looks like something out of Star Wars. That’s a helluva lotta boxes, lights and wires. What’s your favourite bit of kit and what does it do for us non-techies?
Holly: Marigold studios has been around since the late ’80’s, so there is a lot of old gadgets and equipment that was forgotten about, and collecting dust. So that’s always fun to find little jems in a lot of junk. Because it was originally set up for analogue recording, there is a lot of vintage hardware – like the same types of equalizers that Queen or Phil Spector would have used – and those are nice to be able to play around with.
Cam: Lots of vintage synths too…DSI Prophet 8, Juno 106 and some heavy reverbs.
Joey: I love the Roland TR505. Also known as the ‘budget’ drum machine.
I read you were brought together in electric dreams by a shared love of Dame David of Bowie. The bloke’s a legend. Is there a Bowie track you’d love to remix or cover and what would you do to it to give it the Parallels treatment?
Cam: Maybe Blue Jean, but we wouldn’t want to risk butchering anything.
Holly: I’d be afraid we’d ruin it too…but my favourite Bowie song is Oh! You Pretty Things.
A lot of electronic bands seem intent on building a myth or hiding behind a mask; from Kraftwerk to Daft Punk to Justice. But on Parallels.fm you seem to be trying to make a direct connection with fans of your music – is this important to you?
Cam: I don’t think we’d ever thought about hiding behind a mask or anything. With things like Twitter, and Facebook, it’s become a little more difficult to keep your identity a secret – hiding would be more difficult for what it’s worth. But, people don’t need to know every single detail about you. So yes I think it’s important to us to establish a connection with fans online, but only by relaying information that’s important and related to the music.
Holly: Parallels started out as Cam’s side project, and he always had an intention of putting a face to the music but he was touring with Crystal Castles for a few years so he really didn’t have the time to put a band together. Being able to connect with your fans is something that the major record labels did away with to help create some sort of mystique. We are lucky to be able to connect with people who like our music directly, because it’s something that didn’t exist before. But just because there is a connection with fans, doesn’t mean anything is lost in your music. Writing and recording – being inspired to create something even – is a mysterious process, it’s usually hard to put into words. In that way, that’s why music can mean so much because how it came into being is always somewhat of a mystery. Just with things like Twitter…I think it’s kind of overkill, too much information.
A lot of electronic music is let down by, let’s be honest, lazy lyrics. Parallels – thank God – have Holly writing the lyrics! Her words bring an emotive sense of urgency, poetry and drama to the music. For me they “humanize” the electronic music, give it a heart – What are Holly’s influences lyrically?
Holly: Lyrics and melodies are always the part of the song that stand out to me, that’s how I’ve always related to certain songs. Writing lyrics is the most satisfying task for me, it’s probably the part or making music I love the most. Sometimes I like to write stories in lyrics, influenced by different characters or situations, or books I’ve read. Sometimes they are dark, sometimes more lighthearted…it’s really hard to say.
You’ve made some of your tracks available to download for free on Parallels.fm and other blogs – do you think it’s an incredibly liberating period for musicians given the ease of delivering music to a mass audience, or do you feel like the music industry as we know it is sinking like the Titanic?
Holly: The ‘industry’ is in complete disarray – but it’s just a transition time and the dust will probably settle soon. But its going to be very liberating for the artists. The chokeholds that the major labels had on distribution, radio, connecting with fans has disappeared. For artists right now, I think it’s just about making good music and making it available.
Cam: Both are true. We want to be able to reach as many people as possible, so spreading mp3s around online is something that we encourage. We believe in doing as much as we can ourselves, and encourage other artists to do the same when it comes to getting music out there. As for the music industry it’s the old model that’s suffering, and that’s something we aren’t too concerned about.
The artwork for the EP’s so far seems to often involve what looks like a shop window dummy under some sort of scanning laser. This is very cool, but also a little spooky. What the hell is it?
Holly: It’s Cam’s self portrait, minus skin.
You have your own studio facility, Marigold Productions Ltd, and you’ve recently done a marvellous job remixing Brit band Detachments’ The Flowers That Fell. Who would you most like – alive or dead – to walk through its doors next asking for that Marigold mojo?
Cam: Definitely Gino Soccio (influential Canadian disco pioneer).
Canada has sneakily dispatched a lot of ace music our way recently. Are there any other bands in Toronto waiting to ride the pop charts like Seabiscuit? What names should we drop to impress our mates?
Cam: We all love Hounds of Hate (who currently live in London though!).
As a youngster I always dreamt of being in a uber sophisticated pop band alongside a poetic princess and taking the charts by storm. Tragically I was a born with the kind of limited musical ability that makes Sid Vicious sound like Mozart. What were you all like as youngsters?
Holly: I was shy, read a lot of books.
Cam: I gave my parents a lot of trouble..
Joey: I watched a lot of Batman, the animated series.
I have a irrational phobia of Sharks. Even if I see a photo of one I have to pick my feet up off the floor incase one appears “through the floorboards”. I even feel queasy writing this question. Pathetic I know. What are your irrational fears or ridiculous quirks?
Holly: Afraid of catching the plague.
Cam: Being caught in Bear traps.
Joey: I found out I had a fear of butterflies while in a rainforest conservatory in Singapore. Sounds beautiful, but it was awful.
You’ve released several EP’s now since forming two years ago – when can we expect the full length debut Parallels album and what can we expect?
Cam: It looks to be sooner than we originally thought, we’ve been writing quite a lot. We were thinking early next year but it’s quite possible that it will happen sooner.
Us in Blighty adore our brainy, emotive synthpop from Human League, Depeche Mode, PSB to Xenomania and Little Boots. Parallels will go down a storm in the UK f’sure – when the hell are you coming over to take your rightful place amongst the greats?
Cam: At some point soon hopefully!
Adieu lovely Parallels. So there you go, there are some new stars in the sky tonight boys and girls. Oh what’s this? They’ve kindly left some stardust gifts for you too, in the form of recent Single Of The Week Ultralight and hot heartmelter Reservoir. Enjoy and bon voyage comrades!!
FREE DOWNLOAD: Ultralight
FREE DOWNLOAD: Reservoir (Demo)
For more on Parallels visit them on MySpace.
All photos by Norman Wong / Make-up by Krystjan Hayden.