It is probably a fair statement to say that most people were first introduced to the Parkington Sisters’ music, a winning mix of rock, traditional folk, country and classical, by seeing them support the Dropkick Murphys. While, the pairing may have initially seemed to be a bit of a curveball, the Parkington Sisters were one of the few Dropkicks’ openers who actually commanded the audience’s attention. On further review, the pairing makes quite a bit of sense. Both groups exhibit a deep knowledge and respect of their musical ancestors, and both play with a ton of energy and joy.
Unlike many famous musical siblings such as Oasis’ Gallagher brothers or the Robinson brothers of the Black Crowes, the Parkington Sisters have managed to create a happy democracy, with the ladies (Rose, Ariel, Nora and Sarah) sharing songwrting, singing and multi-instrumental duties. In the ultimate example of sisterly democracy, the band, whose members were scattered on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean at the time of this interview, submitted its answers in the form of a single voice.
Noise: Since this is the issue of two Massachusetts’ Capes, I have to ask if/ how living on the Cape influences your music or has any effect on your career, either positive or negative.
Parkington Sisters: Growing up on Cape Cod has had a profound influence on our music. The nature of the landscape is reflected in what we write. Some of our lyrics talk about lying on the cold sand in the winter alone at the beach or about the peacefulness of the sea. The melancholy and spacious feel to some of our music can reflect the feel of the wind walking on the beach or through the low lying pines. Our hearts are in this place, and home is the Cape.
Noise: I’m guessing you might be tired of answering questions about playing with the Dropkick Murphys, but I’m sure that’s how a lot of people were introduced to you. I’ve seen Dropkick Murphys fans serenade many an established punk band with the “Let’s Go Murphys” chant, yet when I saw you, you not only avoided the chant, you won over the crowd. Were you expecting to get such a great reaction?
Parkington Sisters: We weren’t really thinking much about it. Before we knew it we were backstage in Chicago at Congress Theatre hearing the crowd chanting. Ken Casey and Al Barr, the lead singers of the Dropkicks, gave us some good advice; they just said get out there and do what you do with energy. At that moment we weren’t sure how we’d go over, but we were psyched with how the audience responded since we were a curveball musically and an unexpected opener.
Noise: One thing I noticed when I saw you play was that it was a surprisingly rowdy performance. Do you always have more of an edge live than on record, or is it more of a case of tailoring your performance for your audience?
Parkington Sisters: We are fueled by the energy of an audience! As artists, we do tailor our performance to the different settings we play. For instance, when you are playing an outdoor music festival, you don’t really want to play all slow melancholy tunes. We like to play a variety of songs and keep it interesting for ourselves and the audience. Sometimes we play a more upbeat set, other times a more subdued one. That’s the beauty of music.
Noise: What are the best and worst things about being in a band with your siblings?
Parkington Sisters: The best part is that writing music comes really naturally to us as a group and we all write, sing and lend an equal voice in the band. There’s a chemistry between us that has been there from the beginning. It’s awesome to be able to create some really beautiful vocal harmonies, and because we’re sisters, our voices blend really nicely. It’s a double edged sword though. It can be very difficult because the way we interact has been formed over decades of growing up together, and sometimes it’s hard to break habits. On the other hand, we are best friends; we know each other inside and out. Therefore we know how to really support and comfort each other. There’s a lot of strength in that. It’s also nice when you’re out touring to have your family with you; it makes you a little less homesick.
Noise: Listening to your albums, there’s a pretty wide range of influences. How do you go about bringing in all your influences, while also maintaining a cohesive sound?
Parkington Sisters: It’s so awesome to have a band in which each member writes and brings their ideas to the table. Each of us has different writing styles, but with one idea, the rest of the band adds pieces, and it inherently creates a sound that is ours as a group. We are in the process of writing for a new album and sometimes there are ideas that we can’t figure out how to make work with the rest of the songs, but it creates a fun challenge. We try to let the ideas come and not cross anything off the list because it doesn’t quite fit. It’s freeing and healthy as an artist to go with the flow and not have any set rules about what is good or not good, or whether it is ‘Parkington Sisters’ sounding or not. In the end the songs that feel right are what we hold on to. Sometimes songs that don’t feel right just slip away or wait for a future time when they are looked at again.
Noise: When it comes to songwriting, is the band a democracy, or do one or two band members hold more sway?
Parkington Sisters: Complete democracy. We all have an equal voice and we all respect and utilize our strengths and weaknesses to our advantage.
Noise: Was music a big part of your life growing up?
Parkington Sisters: Yes. Our parents are both musicians. It was a big part of our life and one that our parents intentionally nourished throughout our childhood. They always made sure that we each had music lessons, which looking back on it is pretty incredible since they had seven kids. They were always juggling multiple jobs and my mother was in school, but still they always found the time to really support our creative instincts. And they still do! Thank you Mom and Dad!
Noise: If you could share a bill with anyone (dead or alive, famous or not), who would it be?
Parkington Sisters: Each of us would have a different answer to that question. For Ariel, John Lennon or Neil Young! For Rose, Stevie Wonder would be epic! For Sarah, Nina Simone! For Nora, Johnny Cash!
Noise: What’s next for you guys? Is there a new record on the horizon? If so, how should the listener expect it to be different from your previous work?
Parkington Sisters: Yes! We are heading into the studio to start recording our next album in a few weeks! This next album will be the culmination of all of our writing from the past year and a half. A lot has happened in our lives, a band member decided to move on; there was a lot of death, along with amazing opportunity and adventure. So people can expect this album to express what we as a group have experienced in the last couple of years since the release of our last album.
Noise: That’s all I have. Thank you for your time. I look forward to the new record!
OLD CAPE COD
by Thurston Kelp
There is no way NO WAY to write a summer preview that isn’t entirely heinous. It’s just a given. Summer previews are, almost without exception, a week off for writers so they can just put in a list of projects, interspersed with liberally quoted press releases, and thus not have to say or invent anything real for a change. Also a week off for readers, who are best served by a quick scan of the list to note anything they’re remotely interested in, so they can catch up with it later when it’s actually happening and being written about by someone other than publicists. Summer previews suck—it has always been thus.
And with that let’s see what’s happening on the tiny peninsula of Cape Cod, an area that, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, scarcely exists except for two or three months a year, and whose greatest contribution to the world of pop culture in the last 50 years was made by Moulty & the Barbarians.
Or was it? I have to admit that there’s actually a larger amount of music being made by regular people out here that doesn’t suck than I’ve ever perceived before (and I’ve lived out here for, like, seven, maybe eight hundred years.) I offer, as evidence, Tripping Lily, Patty Larkin, the Greenheads, the Parkington Sisters, Kami Lyle, the Spampinato Brothers, the Ticks, Carla Kihlstedt & Matthias Bossi and whatever they’re called this week, Sarah Swain, Fred Fried, Bruce Maclean (aka Link Montana), Polka Dan & His Beetbox Band, and all my stupid bands [Ed: readers should know that some of the bands that Chandler, I mean Thurston, plays in are the Incredible Casuals, the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, Three-O, and the Catbirds].
And christ, what I really wanna say more than anything else is, to whoever I forgot in my journalist schmear, I love you and you are great and good and I’m so sorry if I haven’t included you, but I have 20 minutes to finish this fucking thing now, and fuck off (but in a nice way.)
God, I can’t believe I’m doing this! This is such a bad idea…
So, anyway, if you can see any of these people, you really should. Let’s see why and where or something: Tripping Lily—very appealing young quartet (counting the bassist, the always estimable Laird Boles, tho who does count bassists, anyway?) (and I speak as a bassist, myself, a really fucking bitter bassist.) (And don’t think I won’t be using that word “fuck” again pretty soon, to pep things up as needed) (and more parentheses! parentheses are great) with great harmonies working around a single mic. My favorite song of theirs is a Christmas song called “Santa Will Find You” that’s just such a stunner, go buy it now, please. Do yourself a favor, NOW!! I’ll wait here.
Take all the time you need.
Right. They’ve got a handful of shows up on their website, trippinglily.com, two with the Cape Cod Symphony (which they did last year, too, so it must’ve gone okay; and a couple of Citizens Bank Summer Concert Series appearances, in Hyannis and Chatham for free outdoor shows on July 3 and August 8.
(I’m definitely never doing this again. I shouldn’t be doing it now.)
Oh, crap: end of first page, one band covered. I told you this would suck. Stop reading, NOW! JUST STOP.
Okay, your life…
Well, the Greenheads I like so much I stole their guitar player. And their bass player frequently rides horses with my wife, the humblingly lovely Mrs. Kelp, the brazen slattern for whom shame is just the name of a Western hero mis-spelled; or, at least, did until she got (as the Unknown Hinson would say) “pregnunt again.” I speak, of course, of Sarah Swain, who’s in about 12 bands, and just finished up her second album (recorded at David Minehan’s Woolly Mammoth studio, with her band, Jerry Smith, Liam Hogg and Ron Siegel as well as special appearances by Terry Adams of NRBQ, Steve Wood of the Greenheads/ Catbirds, the Ticks, and Monica Rizzio of Tripping Lily.) Sarah even covers one of my fabulous songs, poor thing. She’ll be doing a handful of jobs this summer and then having Stanley.
The Greenheads guitar player I stole is Steve Wood, who is a brute, and who plays with Rikki Bates, Dinty Child, and myself in the Catbirds—we’ve got a new album, “Catbirds Say Yeah,” coming out in about twenty minutes. I’ve stolen him before; he’s ridiculous. We’ll be working at the Juice in Wellfleet, the Starvin’ Marlin in Brewster, Bubala’s in P’town, the Beachcomber in Wellfleet… anywhere with the requisite $45.
Oops, forgot singer/ songwriter/ fab guitarist Patty Larkin, who’s, like, clearly one of our best and brightest and has been all along. Patty plays rarely locally, but when she does it’s always a special occasion, and she’s a very special and magnetic performer. Looks like we only get a couple of cracks at her this summer in Massachusetts, August 2 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and in Wellfleet (her hometown) at the Congregational Church on August 9 (a benefit for Peaked Hill Trust.)
Speaking of maddeningly gifted guitarists, if you’re a guitar player and you really want to feel like shit and a total slacker, check out Orleans jazz guitarist Fred Fried, who plays the eight-string guitar (I’ve told him this is cheating, having extra strings; he does not care.) His wizardry is not of the lightning-fast ilk, but of the crazy chord clusters family, and can be experienced Wednesdays at the Lyric in Yarmouthport and at Bubala’s in P’town (in that order, perhaps); and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at Mooncusser’s in Harwichport, Stewart’s in Eastham, and the Harvest in Dennis, respectively (all nice restaurants that also serve music, the pick of the litter being Bubala’s and the Harvest Gallery Wine Bar.)
Look, this is running long, I can’t get all these people in here, I’m totally screwed!
You’ve got to see Kami Lyle, whose husband, bassist Joey Spampinato (NRBQ, Keith Richards) accompanies her, along with guitarist Tad Price; Kami’s a keyboardist/trumpetist/total babe and one of the funniest people in the world, and she’ll be playing Wednesdays at Bubala’s (although that’s what Fred said, too—one of ’em has to be lying) and a whole lot of Mondays at the Harvest Gallery Wine Bar in Dennis, as well as some Arts Foundation of Cape Cod Summer Concerts at Brooks Park in Harwich at 6pm, Monday, July 16,and at Peg Noonan Park in Falmouth on Friday, Aug. 10 (also 6pm, also free).
Carla Kihlstedt is the violinist and singer for (until recently) a largely instrumental band called Tin Hat (formerly the Tin Hat Trio) and she, too, is just a ridiculously exquisite musician with an extraordinary range, which her husband percussionist, etc.-ist, helps her exploit to the fullest in a variety of settings (among them, the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Now You, and other exotically named projects. Tin hat’s new album, which Carla describes as “the usual tin hat intimate chamber vibe with the occasional well-placed doozy of a horn or string arrangement,” also includes some e.e. cummings poems set to music, and the previews I heard last spring were exceptional; as is their new Rabbit Rabbit Radio project, a subscription series where, for a dollar a month, you get a (usually fairly elaborate) new song, plus a new video, and some blogs, but presented so nicely, the word “blog” won’t even occur to me. This stuff is definitely on the edge-y side for the land of cod, but fascinating, and YAY!
And Zoe Lewis, jesus, you gotta see Zoe, whose voice reminds me of a young Ella Fitzgerald (and higher flattery doesn’t exist.) She’ll be playing the Viking Princess Sunset Cruise out of MacMillan Wharf in P’town every Wednesday, as well as occasional appearances at the Velvet Lounge and Cabaret (in P’town), Bubala’s, Welllfleet Pres Hall and the Harvest. They’re also bringing back her musical, Snail Road, which will return to an undisclosed location in Provincetown (perhaps the Art House, which is where it was last year) for two weeks in September.
And now I’m just fucking out of room, but check out one of the Cape’s goodest r’n’r bands, the Spampinato Brothers, July 8 at the Wellfleet Beacxhcomber with the Baseball Project, July 19 for free at the Nauset Beach gazebo in Orleans, and July 20 at Passim in Boston. And Bruce Maclean AKA Link Montana, who sometimes plays with dem Spampinatos and they with him, at the Pearl in Wellfleet every Sunday afternoon, as well as Joe’s Beach Bar in Orleans, O’Shea’s (a fairly fab Irish bar), the Sandbar, and the ubiquitous Harvest in Dennis. You may sometimes spot my drummer, Rikki Bates, tapping along gently to Link’s island rhythms.
I’ve completely left out the Parkington Sisters and Polka Dan’s Beetbox Band, respectively one our loveliest and least lovely local products. You should find out where they’re playing and go. (The Parkingtons do the Facebook/ Myspace thang, and their albums and live shows are full of wondrous moments; the Polka Dan bunch also do the Facebook thang, and their drummer David knocked a bunch of stuff over last Christmas, and they’re kind of hilarious.
And the Ticks, omigod, the Ticks, how could I forget the Ticks! The Ticks are the cutest band ever, probably even cuter than the Elbows… it’s like if Jonathan Richman had three girlfriends, and then disappeared himself! They must be playing somewhere… quick, check www.theticks.com.
You may also spot some of my 12 bands, including the previously alluded to Catbirds, the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, Philharmonette, and Three-O, and even the Incredible Casuals, most of whom will be relentlessly underfoot throughout summah, 2012, at many of the afore-mentioned venues. (Sorting may be accomplished at surprise!… www.chandlertravis.com).