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Parsnip: "Despite Whatever the World Throws at Us, We Are Still At It." It is a Testament to Our Enduring Friendship"

Recorded across multiple sessions over the last three years, Parsnip have granted listeners their long-awaited return with their sophomore album, Behold, out April 26th through Anti Fade and Upset The Rhythm. The new album showcases the multi-talents of all four members, with their scrappy charm of absurdly catchy hooks, heavenly stacked gang vocals, and eccentric, wide-eyed innocence that echoes Dolly Mixture, The Particles, Mo-dettes, and Marine Girls. While these Melbourne garage pop icons are not much in need of an introduction, we did have the pleasure to catch up with them to explore the creation and experimentation behind their new album, their journey together as friends and bandmates, and what they're looking forward to see at Jerkfest 9 next weekend.

Photo by Jamie Wdziekonski

First tell me what you've been up to lately? What have you been listening to, reading, or spending a lot of time doing?

Bec: Knitting. Parsnip Instagramming. Listening to Spotify playlists by Jun Takahashi, particularly Kosmik Musik #29, he is the designer for the brand Undercover and curates playlists for his 1.5 hour commute to his studio.

Carolyn: I've been thrashing the new Reality Guest record, Whoopee, listening non-stop to The Uline Catalog on NTS, heaps of Arthur Russell, heaps of Dorothy Ashby, Romantico by 800 Cherries, Surround by Hiroshi Yoshimura, and my Talking Heads obsession is fully revived since seeing Stop Making Sense for the first time a few months ago. Books… I have loved Doppelganger by Naomi Klein, Bluets by Maggie Nelson, and a cool book on Banners by Norman LaLiberte that Bec got me onto.

Paris: I have been reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, Mejda: The Family and the Early Life of Paramahansa Yogananda by Sananda Lal Gosh, and just started An Autobiography: Or The Story of My Experiments With Truth by M.K Gandhi. I've been listening to Tchotchke, The Left Banke, Robert Lester Folsom, Monks of Self-Realization and looking forward to new Jessica Pratt! Otherwise, I have been writing, meditating, chanting, working, birdwatching, and crafting for the upcoming Parsnip video.

Stella: Hmmm I've mostly been working at the pub, playing music and going to band practice. I usually just listen to my Indian classical records at home. I found an awesome one at Revolve in Erskineville about ten years ago, Hari Yash Geetika - Gujarati, that has been on heavy rotation since.

Photo by Kelli Blackmore

For our readers who aren't familiar, take us through the origins of Parsnip. How did you four all meet and decide to make music together?

Bec: Stella and I played in a band together before Parsnip back in Sydney, so it was excellent timing that the band needed to find a new keyboardist the same time I moved down to Melbourne in 2017!

Carolyn: Paris (who I knew through her band Hierophants) and Stella (who I was living with at the time) came up to me at Jerkfest in 2016 and were talking about how we should make a band. I think we told everyone that night. The next day we all messaged each other saying, "can we actually make that happen for real?? I wasn't joking!" We originally had Sequoia (from Melbourne band The Clits) playing keys, and then Bec joined a few months later.

Paris: Yeah, I was in a rut! I watched The Punk Singer and wanted so badly to be in a band with like-minded people on the same level as me, not just the inexperienced-girl-in-a-band. It was also the first time that I felt like I belonged somewhere playing in my first band Hierophants. I wanted that on another level. The thing was I knew I wanted to play with both Stella and Carolyn but I didn't say anything 'cause I was too shy, but word got to Stella and then Stella approached Caz, then after our friend Sequoia left, Bec arrived at just the right time, who was poached by Stella. 

Stella: Yes, what they said :^). 

What are your thoughts looking back on the band's journey and how you've grown together?

Bec: It has been incredibly affirming and encouraging playing in a band where we share similar experiences within the music scene, it has been easier to shake off disappointing or disrespectful comments as a unit together. Our lives look so different from eight years ago, I am always so grateful for Parsnip remaining such a positive constant in my life. 

Carolyn: I think we are friends first, bandmates second, and in the time we've known each other, we've all individually gone through lots of life changes… eight years is a lifetime ago. In terms of band stuff, I feel like our songwriting has really morphed it feels more natural to collaborate and throw ideas out there, which I guess is just about becoming more comfortable with each other in a creative sense.

Paris: I'm very glad to have found that sense of belonging I was seeking through Parsnip, and that despite whatever the world throws at us, we are still at it. It is a testament to our enduring friendship. I am glad we are working more collaboratively, and there is still a lot of freedom and acceptance regarding expression. I'm certainly grateful the others have been keen to work on ideas I have brought to the group all this time, and it is fascinating to hear ideas emerging from all members. Also, as musicians, everyone has come a long way in terms of each member's skills.  

Stella: Spanning almost the entirety of my 20s, at this point Parsnip is the longest relationship I've been in, and I wouldn't have it any other way. We have grown up together and surfed life's ups and downs beside each other. I love being a prong on this fork and I feel lucky to have these great people by my side, in music and life. 

Photo by Kelli Blackmore

What is it like returning with new music this year after not putting out a release since 2020? 

Bec: Exciting! It's been so long it all feels new again!

Carolyn: Yeah, definitely exciting. It's been a long time coming, so it's cool to finally be able to show people what we've been busy working on.

Paris: It is exciting and kind of nerve wracking at the same time. It can be weird when you have an idea sitting in your brain so long and then it's out and exposed to the world. But super glad we are back! 

Stella: Yes, I agree. It's exciting and a long time coming. I'm really happy with how the album turned out, I think it's our best collection of songs so far. I look forward to hearing how others interpret and do, or don't (haha), enjoy the songs. Even if everyone else hates the songs I'll still back them and love them as our collaborative creations, maybe we are just (five years) ahead of our time. 

What can you say about the making of your upcoming sophomore album Behold. How exactly did it all come together in three sessions over the last three years?

Carolyn: So hard to remember now! Two of the songs were recorded at the same time as the Adding Up 7" way back in early 2020. We generally all need to be in the same room to get stuff done, so lockdown really threw a spanner in the works for making new songs. After two years of lockdowns and a year of playing shows, we had some new material ready to record, and we booked in a day with Billy with the idea of recording another 7". We were chatting in the carpark afterwards and Billy suggested we try for an album instead, so we continued to write songs and did another recording session a few months later with both Billy and Jack.

Paris: I liked this more relaxed approach of recording in multiple sessions with Billy, rather than rushing through twelve or more songs in one session as we had in the past. I also really appreciated having my partner Jack help with overdubs at home. 

Stella: It was a rather organic process, we weren't overly rushed and many of the songs were developed collaboratively over a number of years. Other songs came together pretty naturally during the recording process. We are lucky to have Billy and Jack on our side, they are so wonderful to work with; encouraging, enlightening and know how to press the right buttons [laughs].

How did these batch of songs progress from their initial demos? Were there any that turned out entirely different than you had expected while experimenting with ideas? 

Carolyn: I can only speak for my own songs but my demos are always super basic, I just record them on my phone. They take on a life of their own once we start collaborating and workshopping them as a group, which is an exciting thing to see and hear.

Paris: I had some really old Garageband demos, but I also felt I wanted the rest of the members to have more freedom to bring their ideas and skills. So it was fun to see what emerged. 

Stella: A few of these song ideas, I guess I'm mostly referring to "The Babble" as that came from an old demo of mine, have been sitting undeveloped for many years. It was a fun process to bring them into the Parsnip cauldron and watch them grow from a sketch of a song idea into a fully developed song. 

Photo by Izzie Austin

Let's dive into some of the songs here. Let's start with the new single "The Light." How did this one come together?

Carolyn: Again, just a super basic phone demo of a song that came to me basically in one go. It fused together pretty quickly as a band too. Stella's fuzzed out solo, Paris' bassline in the chorus, and Bec's organ tone all make this song way tougher and groovier than anything I could have come up with alone.

I think the opener "Monument" is my favorite song on the album. How did that one come out?

Paris: Oh yes, it is a wacky one. I have a rough demo of this on my Soundcloud from about four years ago and the band recorded it around the same time as the Adding Up 7" session but wasn't released. During COVID I really doubted my ability as a naïve songwriter and thought this should be scrapped altogether but with the new recordings I came back around. To me it makes sense, because it is the first song I wrote about meditating (against a very chaotic, restless backdrop!) and goes with all the other ideas I contributed around the same themes for Behold. My partner jokingly recorded me doing embarrassing vocal warmups and put it at the start of the track which caught me off guard when attempting to record the vocal overdubs. So I hope the silliness and laughter might also make others smile.

What can you say about the track "The Babble"? Its description of "Ray Davies playing Wordle for enlightenment" is perfect.

Carolyn: This was a demo of Stella's that me and her worked on together before taking it to the others. I added some lyrics and melody, and yes it's about Wordle, which we all love, but maybe more accurately about deception and twisting words.

Stella: I think the demo this song grew from was potentially the first sketch of a song I ever made. It sat gathering dust in my Garageband files for about seven years, but I always intended to pursue its development into a complete song. I'll always love the Kinksy style, à la "Dead End Street," so I just tried to take it in that direction. Caz was able to see through the demo scaffold and we chiseled out the final arrangement together and then she made the lyrics and sang it because she's got a real knack for that.  

The closing track "Kutashta" is a really fun one too! What do you remember about putting this one together? 

Carolyn: This felt like one of the most collaborative songs I think we all added bits and came up with the riffs together at rehearsal. Reflecting on it now, it felt a bit awkward to think of ideas "on the spot," but perhaps working in that way taught us how to be more open and experiment with things even if they don't work perfectly the first time around. Maybe we were going for something a bit Beefhearty, but the first time we played it a couple of people said it sounded Stooges-y… I feel like now it sounds like neither, maybe just sounds like us.

Paris: I had a bassline with the intention of sounding like The Troggs, but then it went in another direction and took a life of its own. It was a fun experience to have everyone bring their magic and revive some enthusiasm again. I decided to put a chant at the end because it seemed more aligned with what the song is about. It is kind of funny to sing about meditation with loud rock 'n' roll, because of its restless nature, when the goal is the complete opposite! My boyfriend has an electronic shruti box, so we recorded the harmonium at home with the drone and warped it with heaps of delay. I do really enjoy the result of this collaboration, and look forward to more in the future! 

Stella: Probably our most collaborative song to date! And very fun to play live. 

Photo by Kelli Blackmore

Which song from the record means the most to you (and why)?

Bec: A parent doesn't choose favorites! But "Pockets" was written back in 2019 and has been part of our live set since then, so I am looking forward to it  finally being out in the world. 

Carolyn: I agree with Bec, I love them all, but I did cry the first time I heard Paris’ ending to Kutastha (on the harmonium), so maybe that.

Paris: "Unearthing," which is a devotional song, not necessarily a love song written for an individual, but feels very meaningful in terms of my spiritual journey and the love and gratitude I feel being on the path. 

Stella: Hmm I don't necessarily have a favorite…I'm rather fond of "Clear Blue Sky" as the style is very up my alley, our homage to The Dovers. 

Can we expect any nifty music videos around the new album? 

Bec: Sure can! 

Carolyn: In the works!

How excited are you for the release of this album and to get back playing more Parsnip shows? 

Carolyn: We have been playing a little bit! And it's been nice. Trying to figure out how to play some of the new songs live has been a challenge, but it's been fun to share them.

Paris: It feels great to have new material and showcase how the band has evolved. Looking forward to what lies ahead!

Stella: It is rather exciting and I sure do look forward to April 26th Behold's Birthday. 

I see Parsnip is playing Jerkfest in March! How excited are you to be part of that lineup and what bands are you most excited to see?

Carolyn: I reckon this is one of the best Jerkfest lineups, Billy has done a crazy good job. I want to see every band, but especially Uranium Club, Ajak Kwai, Howard Eynon, and Silicone Prairie. Also The Stinks (Kinks cover band) will absolutely go off.

Paris: Looking forward to hanging out with friends and really appreciate Billy's huge effort with Jerkfest. Similarly, excited for Silicone Prairie, Howard Eynon, J. Macfarlane's Reality Guest, The Living Eyes, Primo!, Ajak Kwai, Alex Macfarlane, Kong, and The Stinks. 

Photo by Kelli Blackmore

Aside from the new album, what else is on the horizon for Parsnip and Parsnip-related projects? Can we see another trip to the states sometime soon?

Bec: Parsnip is preparing for world domination. 

Carolyn: [evil laugh].

Paris: Yes please. 

Stella: Sure, why not? 

Behold is out April 26th on Anti Fade Records and Upset The Rhythm.


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