Parson Redheads “It becomes necessary to have two definitions of pop. Can you put the Beatles in the same category as the new Shakira song?”
Interview & photo by Scotty McDonald
The good guys always wear white. In the case of the Parson Redheads, the nice guys wear white, too. Their hook-filled, squeaky-clean folk rock harkens back to the days of love-ins and mescaline, to a time when pop music didn’t suck.
Explain why pop music doesn’t suck. Brette: Pop music does suck, sometimes. A lot of the time. Evan: In the old days pop was the Beatles. Now everyone hears pop and Britney Spears is the first thing that comes to mind. But I don’t necessarily think “pop” means that. So pop doesn’t suck if you give some of it a chance, and listen to it before you decide it sucks.
Like, the new Justin Timberlake could be a super-fantastic album. Evan: It could. How would you know?
You don’t. I probably never will. Sam: At some point it becomes necessary to have two definitions of pop. Can you put the Beatles in the same category as the new Shakira song? It’s become its own historic genre in a way.
So we have a historic connotation of pop and a contemporary definition of pop. Evan: Our contemporary definition sells it short, boxes it in too much. Most of Wilco’s songs are pop, although it isn’t called pop. Brette: The word “pop” has become embarrassing, almost. But I describe us as pop. People will ask what we sound like and I’ll say happy pop music, and they don’t know what that means. But I guess it’s kind of rock and roll.
Or perhaps psychedelic folk rock, which I’ve also heard you described as. Brette: Or that.
Do we call it psychedelic folk rock to one demographic, but if we want to fill the room we call it pop? Like, “We’re going to Lodi, it’s time to put on the pop label.” Evan: Normally I’ll just say folk rock and people will shrug, and go, “Oh, okay.” Then I’ll mention that we remind some people of the Byrds, and they’ll say, “Oh, okay.” Neither gets that much of a reaction, but that’s okay.
Have you guys discussed your final arrangements? Who’s going to steal the corpse? Who drives it into the desert? Brette: Evan just decided two days ago what he wants played at his funeral. Evan: I definitely want Bagpipes. I also think it would be funny to get cremated and have your friends sneak your ashes into peppershakers around the city.
And be consumed? Evan: And be consumed by people. Sam: That’s about as much of a half-baked scheme as Gram Parson’s manager dragging him out to the desert.
You know the raddest part of that whole story was that nothing happened. They paid only a $700 fine for stealing someone’s coffin. It’s not a crime to steal a dead body, apparently. Sam: And it wasn’t burned all the way.
No, not at all; like, “We’ve been doing tequila and cocaine for three weeks and now Gram’s dead.” It was just a fiasco all the way around. Sam: Talk about a friend to the end, though.
If Evan starts hanging out with Keith Richards, be very careful. Evan: If we’re about to head off to Europe for a tour and I’m like, “Guys, I’m going to stay out here with Mick and Keith,” you guys should know trouble’s a-brewing.
How do you think musical history would have been different had Gram Parsons actually made it into the Rolling Stones? Evan: They wouldn’t have been as good. He would have dumbed them down a little bit; he would have softened them up. They would have started playing country rock.
They did start playing country rock. Exile on Main Street is country rock. Evan: Kind of, but not like Gram would have done. Gram would have made them do Sweetheart of the Rodeo II. I’m not the biggest Gram fan. He was kind of a brat. I have a problem with brats, I don’t know about you.
You don’t hang out with many people with trust funds, do you? Evan: No. He probably would have joined the Rolling Stones for an album and they would have kicked him out. Sam: He sounds awesome on record, though; I really like his voice. It’s so pretty and some of those ballads are awesome. But I heard bad things about his live shows. Brette: But they were cool suits. Evan: Those were pretty cool Nudie suits.
If you guys could get Nudie suits, would you drop the white? Where would you get that cleaned, though? Brette: Sure. At the Nudie suit store. Evan: Ask Wilco. They wear them.
Were you guys confused when you moved to Los Angeles from Oregon and had to get out of your car to get coffee? Brette: With the drive-thru you get so spoiled.
You like not getting out of your car? Brette: I love it. And you don’t have to pump your own gas.
I’m unsure that’s such a great deal, actually. Evan: That annoys me.
It isn’t like they’ve got the honor students out there pumping gas for you at the Tesoro. Brette: Usually I’ve been pretty satisfied with my service.
You’ve been pretty satisfied with your service at the Fred Meyer? It isn’t that complicated of a machine. Evan: I won’t steal your job, just let me do it. I won’t tell.
Then I’m so confused, are you supposed to tip these people? Are we not supposed to tip them? Brette: No, that’s illegal.
Really? Then they should put signs up if it’s illegal. Brette: They should refuse it and they are supposed to clean your windshield and offer to check your fluids. I know all about it.
But do they? Brette: No, not always.
My fluids have totally gone to shit now that I’ve started getting gas at Costco because none of those services are available. You zoom in, you get your gas, and you leave. It’s like the exact opposite of Oregon. Evan: And you have to buy so much more gas than fits in your car.
Do you guys have musical goals? Now that you’ve been in Thrasher I’m not sure what else you could aspire to. Evan: We’re done! We’re actually breaking up. Have fun watching the show tonight.
That will be it folks. Evan: Musical goals? To not have day jobs, to just play music.
How do you do that? Evan: How do we have day jobs?
I understand how people have day jobs; show up at 9 and leave at 6. I don’t know how people do it, frankly. I’ll go and work on an eight-hour day shoot and be like, “Jesus Christ, I need to make an appointment at the spa and take a multi-vitamin.” Evan: We were recording and we did a full day, I’d say like 10 hours of recording. And the previous day the guy who was producing the record had done another 10 hours. He was like, “I just did two 10-hour days, I am so tired.” I was like, “Yeah, you’re tired? Feeling a little tired?” Sam: It’s real tiredness; it’s real fatigue, but it’s like the best kind of work fatigue. Evan: I’m not down-playing his fatigue, but it’s two days of recording music. I’m not lucky enough to know how you realize you don’t need a day job. Eventually—and we’re slowly beginning to look down the barrel at this—whether you’re ready to or not, you have to quit your day job in order to get to the point where you can have music be your job. You’ve got to tour, you’ve got to put out records…but mainly you have to tour before anything else. Eventually jobs won’t put up with that. Brette: Eventually it may not be our decision. If there’s a good tour, we’ll take it. That’s just our philosophy and we’ll get fired. So I don’t know if it will be our decision. I think it will be whom we work for; it will be their decision. And we’ve talked about ways we could make money in between touring. Like, I work for myself and I’ve invited the guys to work with me, so we could maybe do that.
What, you raise hamsters? Brette: I raise hamsters. Evan: How did you know?
There’s a whole lot of information on the Internet. Brette: And I win prize money at the fair. I’m a housekeeper; I’m a cleaning lady. Sam has come once, and Evan could come, but he needs training. Evan: I like to pile things.
Perhaps there’s a training video out there for you. Evan: I made a training video about my own style of cleaning.
Pile, pile, burn. Pile, pile, burn. Evan: Dirty dishes look clean if they’re piled on top of each other.
If it’s clean enough to stop eating off of, it’s clean enough to start eating off of. Evan: There you go! Brette: That’s what I should tell me clients. Then we could get fired early and we could really tour.
Don’t think of it as fired, think of it as liberated. Evan: They’ve set you free.
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