Sleep Is All That They Are Losing
by Jay S. Jacobs
Most guys in college who have a band are trying to figure out how to get a gig at the local bars or frats.
The members of Parachute were recording their major label debut.
The band’s catchy rock & soul music caused a buzz out of The University of Virginia – where the band was started by singer/songwriter Will Anderson, guitarist Nate McFarland, drummer Johnny Stubblefield, bassist Alex Hargrave and saxophonist/keyboard player Kit French formed the group.
By their sophomore year, labels were checking out their gigs. By junior year, they were signed to Mercury/Island/Def Jam. In their senior year, they had to balance their studies with the recording of their debut album.
Now the guys have graduated and that debut – called Losing Sleep – is ready to roll. Previewed by the lovely ballad “She Is Love” (which captured a buzz after its use in a commercial for Nivea) and the Maroon 5-vibed soulful rocker “Under Control” (which is currently iTune’s single of the week), the album is poised to explode.
In the weeks leading to the release of Losing Sleep, singer/songwriter Anderson and guitarist McFarland were nice enough to sit down with us to discuss the band and the debut album.
How did you first get started in music?
Will Anderson: We met when we were in high school and started a band in tenth grade. Then we went to college and met Nate, who is our guitarist. In college it was really discovering new music and really trying to refine our sound to a point that we were happy with. We got signed our third year of college and our senior year was spent juggling classes and trying to get out to LA on weekends to record. It was a long process.
Had you recorded before? On AllMusic.com when I looked you up, there was not much info but there were four other albums listed by Parachute on the Pony Canyon label all released in 2006. Was that you or another band by the same name? If so what can you tell me about the other albums?
Will Anderson: No, that’s not us.
Okay, there’s apparently another Parachute out there somewhere.
Will Anderson: Yeah, this is our first full length release.
How did you get involved with Mercury/Island?
Will Anderson: We were in college. We took a meeting with them. They were one of the first labels we met with – when we were up in New York at one point playing a show. They heard our music and liked it. We heard good things about them. Eventually after probably about six months of talking and they kept coming out to the shows and showing a lot of interest, we did a deal with them Spring semester of our junior year, so that would be 2007. It was one of those things where it worked out well. The first meeting we took was the last meeting we took, too. It was a great label and a great group of people that were really passionate about the music. As passionate as we were, so we’re excited to be working with them. It’s worked out great. We made the best decision of our lives.
You have been sort of working towards the album for a couple of years. What’s it like now that the album is coming out?
Nate McFarland: This is really exciting. I think we’re all really pumped to have this. It’s such a big step – in being in a band and having a product you’ve worked hard on. We’ve been working on it for a year and a half. So it just feels really good to on May 19 to just be able to hand that piece of work… a piece of art, if you will… to somebody and say “This is who we are. This is our best work, as of today, the latest and greatest.”
I got the album on a download, so I didn’t get liner notes. Therefore I don’t know how the writing is done in the band. Does one member of the band do the writing or all together? How does that work?
Will Anderson: Well, I usually do the writing. It’s usually me staying up late at night doing the writing and losing sleep about it – which is the title of the album. But Nate and I wrote a song together for the album. We went to a studio and worked for a couple of days on it and it ended up on the album. I wrote with a couple of our producers who we meshed well with. It just really turned into a very collaborative effort in the end. I start with the song and gotten the skeleton of it, but everybody has contributed and eventually it came out the album that it is now. So, it’s definitely a group effort. They are the first people to shoot down songs when they’re bad and the first people that really dig down deep and sit and practice for a while and really try to refine the songs. I think that, you know, even though it is my name on the songwriting credit, I think everybody definitely had a big part in it.
On thing I really like about the album is you guys aren’t afraid to experiment with styles. “The New Year” rocked, “For Liz” is sort of funky, while “Mess I Made” is a big rock ballad, “Ghost” is more poppy, “Blame It On Me” is a piano ballad that even had a bit of a bossa nova feel. Were you looking to experiment with styles on the album?
Nate McFarland: Yeah, I definitely think we… I love that we have that diversity of Will playing the piano and he’s singing electric, so it really opens up in terms of instrumentation. We’ve got Kit who can play saxophone, but also organ and keyboards. It really enables us to do songs. In live shows, we can cover Billy Joel songs with saxophone to doing a Ryan Adams rock and roll tunes. I think the instrumentation of the band is really flexible. I think that’s a really great aspect about it.
I noticed that in several of the songs when they turned to love the relationships were in trouble or dying. As a songwriter, do you find troubled relationships more interesting than happy ones?
Will Anderson: Yeah, I think that any time life has some kind of disruption, it’s easier to write songs sock up to tragedy some times. I think for me as a songwriter, it really comes down to connecting on a level that isn’t fake. That’s real and true to us. So, the time I was writing those songs, I’m sure I was in a relationship that wasn’t doing well. The time I was writing the happy songs, I was in a relationship that was doing well. So, for us it’s really important to stay true to what is going on in our lives. It’s something that we experienced. We’re not singing about stuff like big cash, big cars, big money… stuff we just don’t know. For us it’s important to connect with the listener and the half of me that’s relatable.
Was the song “For Liz” about anyone in particular? If so, did you find out what she thought of it?
Will Anderson: She does not know. She does not know it’s about her. So “For Liz” was for a specific person. I think they’re doing well. I haven’t talked with them recently. But they do not know the song is for them.
You did “She Is Love” in an acoustic version as well as the studio version. What do you think each way of playing adds to the song?
Nate McFarland: Will originally wrote it on acoustic guitar and it’s just a very intimate performance. It’s beautiful. Just one guitar and one voice… I think is really refreshing on the track listing of the album. I think the full band version has the power of that emotion – the sweeping, rolling drum fills and guitar riffs that are a little bit haunting. It’s intimate and then the full-fledged emotion, which is another very articulate answer. (laughs)
I believe “She Is Love” is the first single of the album…
Will Anderson: Yes.
Did you guys have a say on what song would become the single or was it the label?
Will Anderson: What’s great about our relationship with Mercury is that it’s never really one or the other. It’s a very collaborative thing. We haven’t really been pushed around.
Nate McFarland: “You have to put this song out.”
Will Anderson: That song, we like the song a lot. We like the acoustic version and the electric version. But it kind of took on a life of its own when we were basically… We got picked up for a Nivea commercial, which… we didn’t think was going to be anything, but it turned out to be really a lot bigger than we thought it was going to be. We got such a great reaction from that commercial and playing it live that it just started to make sense to put it out. Radio stations literally were calling being like, “We heard the song on TV. Is the song coming out?” It made sense for us to say, okay, this song kind of reared its head out of all of them to be the first single. I’m sure it would have been a single eventually, no matter what. We put that out first and the reaction we’ve been getting is absolutely incredible. We never really thought that that song would turn out the way it did and that people would like it so much. So for us to get to see the reaction of people is very humbling and very exciting for all of us.
Like you said, the song was used in the ad and you guys have been popping up on IFC, MTVu, even a commercial. It used to be you only had radio to get your music out there. How do you think that all these other venues help bands to get exposure?
Nate McFarland: Yes, a little side note, we just heard we got added to VH1 today. Yeah, it’s a new world out there. Our culture is so bombarded by images and internet – so overstimulated that you have to attack in a lot of different venues and a lot of different mediums. It’s exciting that you have all the different ones. You’ve got your MySpace, you’ve got TV. But it’s also, you feel like you have a lot of bases to cover. We’re just taking whatever exposure we can get. Our goal is to play and be heard by as many people as possible.
How did you guys hook up with [producer] John Shanks? What was he like to work with?
Will Anderson: John had called our manager and heard our stuff. We were really excited that he had showed interest in it. We went up there and hit it off. He’s an incredible producer – he’s worked with everybody from Bon Jovi to Ashlee Simpson and everyone in between. He taught us a lot about the studio and how to record an album…
Nate McFarland: … with efficiency…
Will Anderson: Yeah, efficiency… (both laugh)
Nate McFarland: Without rushing you.
Will Anderson: He’s very good at working and getting a great performance out of you. I think that’s his strong suit. He does it in a way that’s not… you don’t feel like you’re doing something and suddenly you realize that he’s getting you to do things vocally and with your instrument in the song and arrangement that you never thought possible before. He’s a great producer, a good friend and we were just so excited to work with someone of his caliber.
You played SxSW recently, what was that like?
Will Anderson: Great. It was a lot busier than last year. Last year we went and we played a showcase for a label and it was a very preliminary thing as we were recording. We got to hang out for three or four days with nothing to do. This year was incredibly busy. We were up really early and went to bed really late, just doing interviews and showcases. They showed us in the end at Stubbs, which is the big venue there. We got to open up for some great bands like PJ Harvey and Third Eye Blind. The response we got was great. There were probably 1,500 people and it was huge. It was a lot of fun. It was definitely a culmination of a great week there.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Will Anderson: Good question.
Nate McFarland: They’d be surprised to know that uh… that’s a great question. I think that the majority of us are very outdoorsy…
Will Anderson: Yeah, very outdoorsy.
Nate McFarland: Climbing, rock climbing, sponsored biking.
Will Anderson: Extreme. A lot of extreme guys in our band. We may not look like it in our pictures. But we are a little bit extreme.
How would you like for people to see your music?
Will Anderson: I want it to be something that’s accessible, I think, first and foremost. Something that everybody can find something that they like on Losing Sleep. Something that is really important to us as well is doing it in a way that is not compromising the song. We don’t want to just sell out. We’re writing pop songs here, there’s no question about it, but we want to do it in a way that’s classy and something that people can respect and say, “Okay, I get it.” Something that everybody can listen to as well. For us I think it’s important that the people can access it in a way that’s not necessarily “we’re too cool for school” or “we’re too indie.” It’s also not just like, “Give us money, give us money.” We’re in it for the long haul. We’re not here to be a little flash in the pan.
|#1 © 2009. Courtesy of Mercury/Island/Def Jam Records. All rights reserved.|
|#2 © 2009. Courtesy of Mercury/Island/Def Jam Records. All rights reserved.|
|#3 © 2009. Courtesy of Mercury/Island/Def Jam Records. All rights reserved.|
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 14, 2009.