A new solo album and a high profile tour with Son Volt finds the erstwhile Space Needle/Varnaline/Anders & Kendall/Gob Iron multitasker doing what he does best—multitasking. Or maybe simply working on his tan out in the desert….
BY JOHN B. MOORE
Anders Parker has never been one to write the same album twice.
Across his eight records as a solo artist, and going back even further to his time in Space Needle and Varnaline, he’s borrowed from Americana, traditional folk, alt country and indie rock. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to many that he decided to experiment with string arrangements and pedal steel on The Man Who Fell From Earth, his latest, released via the delightfully named Recorded & Freed Records label last month. The experiment pays off nicely, with a beautiful album of achingly sincere ballads and some of his most lyrically striking music in years.
In the middle of a tour with Son Volt, which is led by his some-time duet partner Jay Farrar, Parker was kind enough to pick up the phone and talk through the new record, his decision to crowd-source the album and trying to save the planet from Trump’s scorched earth environmental policies one album sale at a time. Incidentally, Parker was a guest at BLURT’s 2013 SXSW day party in Austin, performing as one-half of the wonderful Anders & Kendall duo, featuring Kendall Meade (Sparklehorse, Lloyd Cole, Helium). So consider him part of the BLURT extended family and tell him we said howdy if you get to catch him in concert.
BLURT: How is the tour going so far?
PARKER: The shows have been great so far.
I know you had a band on this record. Did you bring the whole line up on tour?
No, I’m touring solo for most of this one. I’m just playing a couple of acoustic guitars.
You’re playing with Son Volt. Have you and Jay played any songs from Gob Iron on this tour?
No, we haven’t. There’s a certain technical aspect to those songs and some rehearsals we’d have to do before playing them and we haven’t done any of that yet.
You’ve been through a pretty long stretch of not being on the road, at home writing and recording. Is it tough to get back into the groove of loading up the van and being on the road again?
I’m just so used to it after doing it so long. You just have to remind yourself how to do things to stay sane.
And how do you do that?
I’m still figuring that out. (Laughs) Just basic shit like trying to eat well, I try to run pretty regularly and stay busy. Which isn’t that hard when you’re touring solo. I have to do a lot of set up and stuff, so there’s not a lot of time to fuck off.
Let’s talk about the new record. It obviously doesn’t sound a lot like the past few because your sound changes a lot from record to record. Did you go into this one knowing the specific vibe you wanted to create?
I had the idea of doing a record with strings and pedal steel for a long time. It’s been banging around inside my head for a while. I also tend to make records with bands, and economically it’s not easy to tour with a lot of people. So, the idea that had been around of doing something like this with the reality that I usually tend to tour solo and can’t afford to bring a ton of people and electronics and equipment kind of came together at the same time. Sonically, I just wanted to make it as lush and full and with as much high fidelity as possible. That aspect I can’t take too much credit for because I’m not much of an engineer.
I do have a couple of really nice acoustic guitars that sound great, but a lot of credit goes to Josh Druckman who engineered it and Gareth Jones, who mixed it. He lives in England and has done some really interesting stuff. He worked with Depeche Mode and he worked with Nick Cave, some really cool stuff.
Is it tough to recreate a lot of these new songs when you’re out there by yourself up on the stage?
No, not at all, because the songs are the songs. The string arrangements are really beautiful and really fill out the songs, but I wrote these songs to stand on their own. They’ve been translating really well live, so I’m glad about that.
After this tour ends, have you thought about bringing out a full band to play these songs with pedal steel and strings?
Well, I’m doing two New York shows on this tour with a full band and we’re going to be doing a few songs from this new record as well as some older songs. They sound really great with a full band.
You crowd funded this record, right?
I did. It was a combination of crowd funding and my publisher putting up some money.
Was this your first time using a crowd funding site?
I just want to make records and even if you do it super cheap and super close to the bone, which is how I usually do them, it still adds up quickly. The budget I don’t think was lavish by any means, but you want to feel comfortable with the model. I’m not sure yet if I’m 100 percent there, but people really want to help and people who are fans are eager to lend a hand. The way the record industry currently exists this seems like a real viable alternative.
You’re also still managing to give some of the proceeds of the album sales to the Environmental Defense Fund. Why that charity in particular?
My first instinct was Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, but I read that they both got such huge influxes of money…
Thank you President Trump.
Exactly! I also love being outside and I love the natural world. That’s important to me and as we’ve seen in the last few months, the Trump administration rolling back clean air and clean water and rolling back regulations on mining and all this shit. It’s crazy what’s going on. It seems like a worthwhile organization to give to, in my estimation.
You’ve recorded with a number of different folks throughout the years. Have you thought yet about your next project or who you want to record with?
Yes, always. I kind of want to make a super-heavy guitar trio rock record, And I also have the idea for another acoustic record so I’m not quite sure where that’s going to land.
Have you started writing for either one yet?
Yeah, both of them actually. I kind of wrote a whole bunch of acoustic songs after finishing this record and over the past few weeks I’ve been working on these kind of riff-heavy guitar jams, so I’m sort of sifting through all of those now.