For more than thirty years, the CMJ Music Marathon has been the world’s most important platform for learning about new bands and discovering new, untapped wells of glorious music. This year, October 15-19, at more than 80 different music venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn more than 100,000 fans came out to see more than 1300 artist performances. At the festival’s Hotel on Rivington press lounge on one of those days I was lucky enough to get to sit down and chat with seven new bands and talk to them about their music and their future.
Before my interview with Lily & the Parlour Tricks I was worried that I would be overwhelmed by the six piece ensemble. Fortunately or not the only one to join me for the actual interview was Lily herself but still I was able to glean a lot about who Lily & the Parlour Tricks were and what they were all about.
A New York City based ensemble, Lily & the Parlour Tricks can actually he heard right now in a BMW commercial and they have developed quite a devoted cult following since coming together. Their press materials describes this band somewhere in the “range from The Andrews Sisters to Nine Inch Nails to Johnny Cash, with roots planted firmly in the smoky back room of early rock n’ roll.” If that’s not a broad enough range I don’t know what is.
To hear Lily tell it, it was her persuasive charms which whisked away her fellow band members.
“Yes I convinced them to join the crazy train. We met in college.”
Where was college?
“Here in New York. The New School. We didn’t form the band in college; it was after we got out.”
How do you divvy up the tasks in the band?
“I write all the music.”
The music and lyrics?
“Yeah. We are a band. A six piece band.”
So why are you the front?
“I just liked the thought of fronting a band. You know? Like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. There’s meat there.”
And you’re the one who takes the fall if the band sucks…
So what would you say is your musical style?
“Everything’s built on these three part harmonies. Like the Andrews Sisters. So that’s how I started writing. Our guitarist Angelo started bringing a tool kit when we first got started. He brought a paint brush, quarters, and some wire and he got the most amazing distortion back against these angelic harmonies.”
Sounds very 70’s throwback…
“It’s very ‘T-Rexy'”
So you must be an amazing musician if you write all of the music; how do you play?
“Terribly. I write everything on a bassline of a piano and a metronome. I’ve never been comfortable playing an instrument. I make these embarrassing home recordings on a piano and then send them to the musicians and we make music from that.”
Do you guys play locally?
“We play all over. We’ve been playing in Philly a lot. Boston, D.C…We play whenever we can; there’s nothing else like being in front of a live audience.”
What does it mean for you to be here playing at the CMJ Festival?
“It’s great. It’s great to be able to play at a festival of this magnitude and then go home to your own bed at the end of the day. One of the most amazing things about New York City especially is that on any given night you can go out and see any band you want to, of any type. I feel like that’s really specific to New York. So I think it’s great that fans can come here and experience that with their bands but I feel like that’s something that’s available here in New York all the time, so it’s nice.”
What does Indie mean to you?
It’s a bad word now and it shouldn’t be. It means independent and that’s what we all are. But there’s a smarminess to it. I don’t know when it got so tainted but I know that it did.
How about Auto-Tune?
“I don’t like it.”
If you could score any film or director who would it be?
“I wanna say Tim Burton but that would mean Danny Elfman’s not scoring it. I’d love to score a Tarantino movie.”
What do you think of Lady Gaga?
“I met her when I was 13. She came over to my house. She sang all the time and she took off her shirt. So I was totally un-surprised when she came out and started doing her thing.”
What’s the one question you always want interviewers to ask but they don’t?
“If you could have someone narrate your life who would it be?”
So who would it be for you?
It may be Closing Time on our interview but Lily & the Parlour Tricks are still going strong. Check out their website or their Facebook page for all the latest info!