A Chat with We Are Parkas (17.04.20)

Making some noise since their inception in 2015, Bristolian foursome We Are Parkas have released several EPs and singles to an eager audience. The indie-rock band is about to release their latest track ‘Friday Night’ on April 24th. We sat down with vocalist Matt Banks (MB) to discuss the release, being an independent band and if he’s a cats or dogs person.

OSR: How did you decide on the band name ‘We Are Parkas’?

MB: Initially, we were just called Parkas and that name came about quite innocently. One day, sat on a bus back from uni, myself and our former guitarist Owen were talking about potential band names. Out of blue, our mate Karl (who’s in a band called Beefywink that everyone should know about) commented on my choice of coat for the day by saying, “you wear that coat a lot don’t you, Matt? Why don’t you just call yourselves Parkas?”

Me and Owen pondered Karl’s suggestion once we got off the bus and decided that it actually suited the sound really well, so we chose to name the band Parkas! The ‘We Are’ came a little later once we realised there were a couple of other bands called Parkas. We’ve stuck with it since.

OSR: How did We Are Parkas form?  Have there been any changes in the line-up over the years?

MB: We formed at Bath Spa University after meeting on our music course and subsequently going out far too much in our first year. The band was very much forged in a whirlwind of alcohol and late nights, but we’ve all been best mates from the moment we met and have stayed that since. The one line-up change has been our old guitarist Owen Stephens who left back in August last year. He was replaced by Chris Nesbitt who’s been with us since September.

OSR:  How do you feel your sound has evolved from ‘Penny Drop’?

MB: I think we’ve evolved into a band with a broader sound that takes influence from garage and alternative rock, as well as indie. We’ve always prided ourselves on dirty riffs and massive choruses. I think since ‘Penny Drop’ the riffs have gotten dirtier and the choruses more massive! Tunes like ‘Catch Me Out’ and ‘Medication’ are good examples of that.

OSR:  You have performed with some of the best bands in the UK scene.  After forming in 2015, did you think you would be one of the “hottest bands in the UK underground scene”?

MB: When we formed, the only thing that mattered was writing great songs and that attitude hasn’t changed at all in the five years we’ve been together. I think it’s great to be on the same shows as bands who you love like Avalanche Party, but that shouldn’t be where your aspirations end. Our goal is to sell out O2 Academy’s, headline big festivals and tour all over the world. Being one of the hottest bands in the UK underground scene is a great starting point for that, but it’s by no means where we want to stay forever.

OSR: Can you tell us about your upcoming release ‘Friday Night’?

MB: It’s a song that we’ve had up our sleeves for many years now. We’ve been biding our time waiting for the right people to record it with and for the right time to drop it. Fortunately, Sugar House Studio’s in St Helens approached us last year to say they were interested in working on our next release. After a few phone calls, it was clear to us that these guys were the ones to do ‘Friday Night’ with. Before we knew it we were off up north from sunny Bristol to spend two days in the studio with Ady and Lee!

Whenever we play the song live, the atmosphere of the gig turns very intense very quickly. It’s a real explosion of unfiltered energy and our goal in recording was to capture as much of that energy as possible, which I think we did.

OSR:  Did you face any challenges when producing ‘Friday Night’ or was everything relatively smooth?

MB: The way in which Ady and Lee work is great for us because rather than over-complicating and overthinking the song, which we naturally as the creators instinctively want to do, they said “strip it all back and keep it as punk as possible”. What we ended up with was a recording that sounded ten times better than what we originally imagined.

Courtesy of We Are Parks

OSR: Describe We Are Parkas in two words.

MB: English Breakfast.

OSR:  You adopt a true DIY approach to music.  What would you say are the benefits of a DIY approach?

MB: I think the level of control you have is the main one. We own all the masters to our recordings, book our own tours, do our own social media and so on. I think in today’s music world, being an independent artist is easier than some might think. I always look to acts like Boy Better Know or Enter Shikari for inspiration on this. Both have had amazing careers all by marketing themselves properly and having a good knowledge of how to stay relevant, whilst not ever compromising their message. That’s where I’d like to reach with We Are Parkas.

OSR:  What about the challenges or disadvantages of this approach?

MB: The disadvantages are that for the most part, you can only go so far on your own. At some point and in some cases, outside knowledge and help is necessary to take your band to the next level. It’s all about getting the right help at the right time. You have to work hard to get yourself into a position where labels, booking agents, PR companies and so on can’t ignore you.

OSR:  Where would you like to be this time next year?

MB: Out of the house and in the beer garden!

OSR: Major question – cats or dogs?

MB: For me, it’s got to be dogs, but our drummer Joe loves cats so as a band I’d say both!

OSR: Do you have any advice for people entering the music industry, particularly during this lockdown period?

MB: Just stay active. Write songs. Record and release new material if you can. Try new things creatively. Do live streams. Entertain people as best you can.

OSR: Do you have any message for fans and potential fans?

MB: We’ve got a new single out on April 24th called ‘Friday Night’. We’re very proud of it and would love if you could give it a listen and tell your mates about it. Other than that stay safe, stay at home and listen to We Are Parkas!

Thanks to Matt for the chat! To engage with him and the rest of We Are Parkas check them out on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

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