Musician Brian E. King has had a rough few years in dealing with his mom’s death, a changing band line-up, the end of a relationship, a cancer scare and a bike accident. Through it all, however, he had his music to get him through and never stopped writing and recording. King is the singer, songwriter and guitarist for the Boston-based indie pop band Parks. King started his music career in 2009 with a solo project he dubbed Oranjuly a few years after graduating from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Having never played in bands growing up, he leaned to play the bass, guitar and piano while in high school. He studied English, film and journalism in college, with his passion for journalism fueling him until he started playing music. Although Oranjuly never really took off as a group, he released one LP and put the project to rest. With his songwriting moving in a different direction and a desire to play with different people, King formed Parks in 2012. Although the band initially consisted on Matt Girard (Bass), Stu Dietz (Guitar), Brian Fitch (Drums) and Liz McBride (Vocals/Keys), the line up has since changed. Parks currently consists of King (Guitar/Vocals), Eric Bolton (Guitar), Andrew Jones (Drums), Rob Johanson (Bass) and Robin Melendez (Vocals). The band released their long awaited debut album on November 2nd, with King saying that despite the fact that the album coincided with the worst time of his life he couldn’t be happier with the end result. All of the delays gave him the chance to experiment with more abstract and vibe-y sounds, giving the album a complexity that extended beyond catchy melodies and average lyrics. The band’s first single, “Sweater Weather”, has amassed over 100K listens on SoundCloud, won a John Lennon Songwriting Competition and allowed the band to share the stage with The Lumineers and Tennis. The band has quickly come together and are becoming more comfortable with each other and with playing together. King’s plan is for the band to play lots of shows in the Spring and release new music. Staff writer Emily May spoke recently by email with King and discussed his personal struggles, the band’s developing sound, what he learned from Oranjuly and what’s next for Parks. You can stay up to date with the band and all upcoming tour dates and new music, as well as stream and purchase their music via the following links. You can watch the videos for “Sweater Weather” and “Fools” below.
You have been through a lot over the past few years. You had a bike wreck, broke up with your girlfriend who was your fellow band mate and best friend, the band lineup was in flux, your mom died and you were diagnosed with stage zero stomach cancer (I’m glad you now have clean bill of health!). You have mentioned that your music helped you immensely, giving you something to work on and a goal to work towards. What were some of your more challenging moments during that time? Were there ever moments where you thought about giving up with the band or did you always have the will and motivation to power through and keep writing?
All the time. Every day. Giving up is always the easiest option, but I kept going. It was a struggle the entire time — but I hope listeners can hear how much work and feeling went into the music and it inspires them to keep going even when things are at their worst.
All of the delays in making the record allowed you the opportunity to “explore more abstract and vibey sounds to push the songs beyond catchy melodies and average lyrics”. Your songwriting and production has changed from more of a power pop sound to a more rhythmic and modern sound that’s been described as “a crisp and precise take on garage pop”. How has the growth and evolution of achieving different sounds been for you?
I don’t think we’re a “power pop” band. I’ve always thought of “power pop” as retro, throwback-y music that tries to sound like the ’60s or Big Star. I love those bands, but I don’t hear any classic rock influences on our record at all. But unfortunately, it’s an easy way to categorize us.
When I was writing and recording this album, I consciously avoided those cliches. And let’s face it, none of us will ever be as good as The Beatles or Beach Boys, so why not do something different?
Before Parks, you were involved in a solo musical project called Oranjuly. The first (and only) Oranjuly LP you released contained 10 songs that which you have said are the first 10 songs you ever wrote. What did you learn about being a musician and a songwriter from this project? What did it teach you about how to make a record? How do you feel that your songwriting has changed over the years?
I learned so much from that record. It was my first band, those were my first songs, and those were the first recordings I ever made. I’m embarrassed by it now, but I had to start from somewhere. I didn’t have any bands in high school. I didn’t even play music in high school. That record got a lot of amazing local and national press along with some fun opportunities, but once I noticed that people only liked the record because it sounded like some other artist — in a good way. And the critics were right, it totally did and that bummed me out.
You put Oranjuly to rest after the first LP. You decided you wanted a solid band of friends that you could collaborate with instead of continuing to operate as a one-man band. You wanted a fresh start and Parks was born! What do you feel was lacking for you with your solo project and what do you prefer about collaborating with others? Do you feel that your band mates over the years have challenged you and offered different perspectives that you may not have otherwise experienced or thought about?
I didn’t like the people I was playing with in that time, so I ended it. Also, nobody could pronounce the band name and everyone thought we were a retro power pop band, and unoriginality doesn’t sit well with me as an artist.
The band started a PledgeMusic Campaign to fund the debut LP! How does it feel to have such a supportive fan base?
Extremely lucky. I owe this entire record to our PledgeMusic community. They waited so long and most of them were very patient over the 3+ years it took to finish the record. A few people cancelled their orders because the wait was too long, but multiple fans have reached out and said that the wait was worth it. That said, I am finished with crowdfunding because it’s so time consuming — especially since I was alone in handling all of the obligations like packing and shipping 200 vinyl records and pissing off the post office when trying to ship them all at once. But it’s an awesome way to engage a fanbase and have them be a part of it if you’re prepared to do the work.
The band’s first single, “Sweater Weather”, has hit over 100K listens on SoundCloud, won a John Lennon Songwriting Competition and allowed you to share the stage with The Lumineers and Tennis. Did the instant and overwhelming response to the song surprise you at all? You wrote the song back in 2012. Did you always know you wanted that to be the band’s first single, now that things are progressing with the band?
It felt great! I hope people will continue to resonate with “Sweater Weather”. It’s a fun song and we love playing it live too.
How did you meet your current band mates (Parks 2.0) and recruit them to the band? How has it been to learn to play together. Have you had any significant challenges so far or has the transition been pretty smooth? I read that the band’s sound is evolving still and that the songs you have been working on together have more of a R&B vibe to them! How has it been to explore new sounds together?
It’s fun. We all have wildly different backgrounds when it comes to music. But it’s exciting to do something different — and our new stuff is very different.
The band just released it’s debut LP on November 2nd! Congratulations! Do you have a favorite track? You did all of the songwriting for the album, sending your band mates demos that were 75% finished. What was the recording process like for the album? What were some highlights of your record release show at The Sinclair?
The recording process seemed endless. There’s pros and cons with recording at home like I did. We tracked almost all the drums and guitar solos at my friend Ducky Carlisle’s Ice Station Zebra studio, but the rest I did at home. The cons with recording at home is that there’s an infinite amount of time to tweak stuff, which can be bad and time consuming. I’m trying to do less of that this time around and keep it simple and go with my first instincts. Our release show at The Sinclair was fantastic. Besides that there was a huge rainstorm, it was still packed and we played with 3 other super-talented Boston bands who were really impressive. It was a great time playing at our favorite room in Boston.
I have read that the band is already working on LP 2 and that the process is evolving. Will Lp 2 be more of a collaborative effort amongst all of the band members?
I hope so!
What inspired the film-projector aesthetic for your video for “Fools”? What can you tell me about the song?
The “Fools” video is 100% Boston artist Avi Weinstein (ttps://www.avipaulweinstein.com). He purchased a bunch of vintage film from eBay and created something instantly familiar yet nostalgic. I love that video and I think it fits the end-of-summer vibe of the song. Every year, the end of summer is a magical and wistful time — I can say that as a life-long New Englander.
You recently worked with RevivalHouse Records on two live, in-studio videos, one of which was “Sweater Weather”, featuring members of Lucius and Dead Messengers. How did the invitation come about and what was the experience like?
Patrick Hanlin, the mastermind behind RevivalHouse is one of the most fun, talented, optimistic guys I’ve ever met. We also share a birthday so it was an instant connection. He’s a tornado of music! I wanted to check out the studio space and was instantly blown away by the inspiring vibe I got from being there. I’ve known Pete Lalish from Lucius for a few years now through mutual friends in Boston and LA. And Parks has played with his other band Uni Ika Ai (featuring members of Dirty Projectors) here in Boston. Pete’s a great, humble guy who thinks differently than most guitar players.
You have mentioned wanting to release a couple of singles or an EP in the next few months and have an LP follow quickly. It sounds like you have a great momentum going as a band and are all ambitious for what’s next! What can fans expect with the new material?
They can expect something a little more raw and organic-sounding, but still catchy and instantly familiar. I want people to move at our shows. It’s a fun time.
Aside from new music, what’s next for the band? Any tours in the works? What are your goals going forward as a band?
Winter is very rough in New England because of the terrible weather, but we’re doing a lot of recording, writing, and playing locally. We hope to get to Brooklyn too. I’ll be playing as many solo shows as I can as well. My goal for the band is to play a lot more shows in the spring while releasing more new music. And of course, I hope as many people as possible will listen to our debut record. It’s pretty good!