Many bands come from New York City, but only a few have the city embedded in their sound.
In that sense, Parquet Courts is the heir to bands like the Velvet Underground, Television and the Beastie Boys. As with those groups, the rhythms of city life pulse through Parquet Courts’ street-wise, poetic songs, whether they’re narrating a late-night walk through Ridgewood or noting “the skull-shaking cadence of the J train.” The post-punk group’s latest album, “Human Performance,” is its most personal yet.
amNY talked with singer-guitarist Austin Brown.
You recorded your last album in the city but “Human Performance” upstate. How did the setting affect you?
It was a fully immersive process. We were living in the studio; we were writing in the studio. There’d be nights where we could stay up all night with all of the equipment at our disposal, never leaving our inspiration and being able to follow every little path we felt like going down. ... We were able to delve into the depth of our imagination on whatever we felt like we could and bring out the souls of the songs in a new way.
How important is a sense of place to your music?
It’s really important. In a way, we write about what we know. Lately the places we know are not always New York. There are integral life moments that happen in Berlin — or also in New York in our bedrooms. The sense of where you are geographically can affect how you’re feeling emotionally.
You’re not originally from NYC. How did moving here change you?
I think it drove me to be a bit more ambitious and see that there are a lot of things out there that I thought were otherwise unachievable, that I wasn’t exposed to being a young person in Texas. ... In general, people only believe they can achieve what they can see for themselves.
What does the title “Human Performance” mean to you?
Performance is kind of what everyone does every day when they wake up. I think there’s the way you are as a person and there’s the way you want to be perceived as a person, or what you’re striving to achieve as your ideal personality. I think all of the songs on the record relate to that subject, where it’s about understanding who you are and where you are in the world and what you’re doing.
You’ve described this album as your most vulnerable. Do you see a theme running through it?
I think so. On this record, the subject matter and songwriting was a bit more direct and honest in ways that before could have been obscured or obtuse through lyrical turns of phrase to seem less vulnerable, more tough or hardened, or more rock ’n’ roll. There was a creative decision not to avoid tough subject matter and be more direct. I think you can write better songs when you’re directly relating to the listener rather than trying to seem above it all.