Teenage Cool Kids/Fergus & Geronimo Frontman Andrew Savage Talks His New Parquet Courts Venture.
To former Teenage Cool Kids frontman Andrew Savage, the place a song was written doesn't necessarily give any one city any more ownership of his work than any other.
This is a concept that has plagued his band Fergus & Geronimo — especially since they decided to move from Denton to New York a couple years ago.
Savage even said as much in a July interview on the subject with Impose Magazine: “Honestly, I don't really credit moving with a significant artistic shift, musically anyway,” Savage said in that piece. “People always want to identify Fergus & Geronimo as being from or of somewhere, but we are a planet earth band. We could do this anywhere on the globe.”
But with his Parquet Courts, his latest post-punk outfit (which boasts Fergus & Geronimo touring guitarist Austin “Young Doc Gooden” Brown and Savage's own brother, Max), his concept of place is taking somewhat of a backseat.
While Savage and his fellow bandmates do hail from Denton, the band wasn't formed until the guys were all living in New York. That might explain why most of the disc's reviews make a point of describing the band's sound as “quintessentially New York.”
In advance of Parquet Courts' scheduled New Year's Eve performance back home in Denton's Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, we asked Savage what critics mean when they say his band sounds “very New York,” what the future of his Teenage Cool Kids project might be, and how he came to master the art of stoned snacking in New York.
How did this project originate? What made you say, “I've made successful records with these other bands, it's time to start a new side project?”
I don't really like to think of any band that I do as side projects, really. I guess that kind of implies that it's kind of an auxiliary type of thing. It was just the right guys at the right time. I moved to New York and met up with some buddies –one of them is my brother. It was people I've wanted to play music with for a while. We just came together, and it felt right.
As opposed to your other bands, Parquet Courts was started after you moved to New York. What makes Light Up Gold such a quote-unquote New York record? A lot of critics like to say you have a very “New York” sound.
I don't know what the hell that means because I've never said that. I don't really know what makes a New York band sound like a New York band. That's kind of something that's left up to people's imaginations and what they associate with New York. It means a lot of different things to different people. It's not like any of us have New York accents or anything. I don't really know what people mean when they say that we sound like a New York band. It's not to say that they are wrong, but I would be just as interested as you, I think. There are definitely bands that I think sound like a New York band, which we have some similar characteristics to, but I don't know if I could narrow it down to what in our sound makes us sound like a New York band. That's something that I leave up to the listener.
How have your experiences in New York differed from those in Denton? How do those music scenes differ?
Denton is a city of 150,000. New York has eight million people. That in and of itself is a pretty stark difference. They are two different worlds. In New York, you're allowed a little bit more anonymity than in Denton, with it being such a small town. I think there are some great Texas bands. I feel very fortunate to be from there and to have played with so many really creative bands from there. There are cool bands from New York, for sure, that I enjoy playing with. I would say that being in a band here is a lot different than being a band in Texas. Bands here are, I want to say competitive, but, I don't know, bands in Texas are competitive too. This is a tough one to answer.
Talk about your personal experiences, then. How have your experiences being in bands in New York differed from being in bands in Denton?
One thing is New York has a lot of really cool DIY spaces that I wish there were more of in Denton when I was there. But it is kind of a trade-off because Denton had a lot more house shows. That's something that is really rare here. It's just so many people in such close quarters here, you don't really get to do house shows. But there are a lot of really cool music and art spaces that are kind of under the radar and pretty neat. They are different scenes, for sure. For one thing, Denton is a lot smaller. There were maybe 10 to 15 bands in Denton, but it seemed like it was the same eight of us guys doing it. In New York, there are so many more musicians, so many more people to meet and not as much band inbreeding.
When you sit down to write, do you say I'm going to write a Fergus and Geronimo song or I'm going to write a Parquet Courts song? Or do you just write, more or less, and determine which project it best suits after the fact?
I usually know. I normally don't sit down to write. It kind of comes to me. I usually know right when I meet the experience, the creative whatever. When I first meet the song, I know what it's going to be for or what kind of feeling it has. That's kind of the first step, thinking, “What could I potentially use this for?” and then going from there. These days, Parquet Courts is kind of all I'm writing songs for. I have some songs that I have on my own, not fully fleshed out, but Parquet Courts is pretty much all I'm working on right now.
Would you say that, when you're writing a song for Parquet Courts, that the material is a little more focused on the lyrical content than some of your other projects?
Yes and no. It's probably a lot more personal than some of the stuff I do — save for some of the Teenage Cool Kids stuff. I would say that writing for each band serves a different function for me. Parquet Courts is a different side of me that I haven't really used before. I think that, above all the other projects that I've done, Parquet Courts is the most lyrical because it's kind of a band where the lyrics come first and the melodies kind of serve those. That really hasn't been the case with a lot of other stuff I've done, but it makes the music sound a lot different and kind of even presents a challenge at times, which I like. Parquet Courts definitely has a different feel, for sure. It feels more immediate and raw and honest.
How important is the aspect of emotional sincerity with regards to the music you release?
Pretty important. Mostly because it seems like most people in my generation kind of have an aversion to it. They're scared to present themselves honestly. I think it's really important, actually. I think that a lot of people hide that part of themselves as a sort of defense mechanism. A lot of people my age are afraid of exposing themselves and afraid of making an honest statement or standing by anything, really.
You mentioned the Teenage Cool Kids a minute ago. Do you think you'll ever release anything else under that name again?
No, probably not. It happened. We did three full-length LPs and a ton of tours, which is more than most bands can say. No, I don't really see a reason to do that again.
Everyone likes to talk about all your other projects. What bands has your collaborator Austin Brown played with prior to Parquet Courts?
He played guitar in Fergus & Geronimo for a couple tours. He's doing a band right now with Jason [Kelly] from Fergus and Geronimo called The Keepsies. Other than that, he hasn't really done too many bands. He was a hip-hop DJ for a while. The Keepsies and Parquet Courts are the first bands he's really written songs for.
You have a song called “Stoned and Starving.” What are some favorite things to eat while stoned?
In New York, they have these bodegas or corner stores or delis. It's kind of like, if you've been to one, you've been to them all. I'd say there's three different classifications of bodegas: there's the really shitty ghetto kind, the middle kind, and then the fancy kind in more gentrified neighborhoods. The snack selection varies depending on what you're looking for. I'm a big snacker, for sure. I enjoy chips and Swedish fish. Sometimes, I just want a bag of peanuts but I just want the spicy kind. I'll go to a really fancy gentrified neighborhood bodega and they won't have the spicy peanuts; you have to go to a ghetto bodega for that. Sometimes, I'll want something like a fucking granola bar and the ghetto bodegas won't have those. You gotta go to the next step up bodega. But you're in the wrong neighborhood, so you just have to forget about the granola bar and just get a bag of potato chips or something. I like seltzer water. I like tea. I'll go for a tea, but sometimes they won't have the kind of tea you want. Maybe they'll only have sweet tea or like, the Arizona tall can tea, and you want fucking black oolong ice tea with honey and ginger or something. It really just depends on what I'm in the mood for. But I definitely am one to go out and see where my belly takes me.
Parquet Courts perform Monday, December 31, at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in Denton. Cover photo by Heather Strange.