Parquet Courts' Andrew Savage Trades His Texas Roots For the Wider World

Pooneh Ghana
Parquet Court comes to The Studio at the Factory on Nov. 15.
Repeat after me: Parquet Courts are not from Texas.

While three of the band’s four members have a history in the northern parts of the Lone Star State, the band has little in common with its musical cliches or general political leanings, despite what many descriptions of the band suggest. Instead, it’s much more apt to call the Brooklyn-formed-and-based band a band of the world, channeling the sounds and ideologies of all musical styles through the lens of American rock ’n’ roll.

Following their groove-obsessed seventh album Sympathy for Life, Parquet Courts will return to DFW area for a show at The Studio at the Factory on Nov. 15. While the band’s origins may lie within the halls currently patrolled by Megan Bitchell, co-frontman Andrew Savage has been able to successfully move on from his history in the area to great personal and musical success.

“Well, my roots are in Denton, but I’m the only one in the band that can really say that,” Savage says. “I’ve seen a few Texas journalists try to claim the band for Texas, but I think that may be a bit wishful thinking because I’ve been living in New York longer than any one place I ever lived in Texas. The band started in New York; we were all living in New York. Austin [Brown] and I met in Denton, he was living there for a bit. I was born there.

"With every artist I think there’s a relationship, to an extent, with the place they’re from, but I don’t know that many people that live in Denton anymore. My godmother lives there, but otherwise I don’t have any particularly strong connections to Denton or Texas anymore.”

If anything, Savage’s Texan upbringing influenced his notably leftist political outlook.

“I grew up between Denton and Dallas, and it wasn’t super conservative, though it is Texas so of course there was some of that,” Savage says.

But he rejected the "megachurch" crowd that drew in his peers and became more politically aware when in high school, the year the Iraq war started.

"I remember protesting that in downtown Dallas Around that same time,"Savage says. "I was really into the hardcore punk scene, going to house shows in Fort Worth at 1919 Hemphill Street. I met people from all over the country: New York, Memphis, Seattle. From an early age, there was a sort of this, ‘How do I get the hell out of here?” feeling. I got a scholarship to UNT, which was just far away [enough] from my parents and found a great sense of autonomy. I didn’t have a car, so that meant I never had to go home.

“I appreciate my time in Denton with bands like Wiccans and Teenage Cool Kids, but by the time Teenage Cool Kids went on their three-month tour of the U.S. and Europe, I got back and Denton seemed very small to me. I wanted to live in the world, and to me New York City is the world. … Every day I go on the subway, I hear different languages spoken. I’m getting fairly disillusioned with the U.S. right now, so we’ll see how long I last, but it definitely still feels like home, and it feels good to come back to after a long tour. When the band started I was fairly new here. I had lots of inspiration from all the people here, seeing all these bands playing. ... I don’t think Parquet Courts could have started anywhere else.”

Listening to one of Parquet Courts’ more politically charged records, like 2018’s Wide Awake, one gets the impression that Savage is a master debater; the kind of person who would be quite up for the challenge of a thoroughly engaging and productive argument about politics or any other subject to be avoided at Thanksgiving.

“So you’d like us to have a gentlemanly disagreement where we lock horns and really go at it?” Savage says with a chuckle when told this theory. In some ways it’s true, but the real goal of our conversation is to let Savage stretch out.

Whenever Savage articulates an answer, he speaks with the calm steadiness of a political science professor. His favorite word to lean on when searching for a thought is “honestly.” Appropriate, given that his music has never been short on honest commentary regarding any subject. This is the man who opened an album with a song that featured the following two phrases shouted at full volume: “COLLECTIVISM AND AUTONOMY ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE” and “FUCK TOM BRADY!”

"I wanted to live in the world, and to me New York City is the world." - Andrew Savage

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That song, “Total Football,” encapsulates Savage’s remarkable bluntness, a quality that is seldom embraced by musical groups looking to express fundamental human emotions. “That’s a fairly good observation. I tend to find power in simplicity. If I were to analyze this record, I would say it may be one of our more complicated ones. Comparing to a song like “Sunbathing Animal,” which is just one note pounded over and over again, this record has more going on, but ultimately it’s rock ’n’ roll. It’s not the opera or a classical music movement, but it’s also dance music too, which rock ’n’ roll can be. There’s influences of electronic dance music here too. Both of those genres by and large rely on a certain simplicity that pounds its way into your skull and forces you to submit.”

Regardless of whether one agrees with the political philosophies that Savage and company are telegraphing on any of their records, the fact that they are delivered in such an uncomplicated and consumable manner makes them far more agreeable than had they been delivered otherwise. It’s the same principle that drives John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillun” as much as Daft Punk’s “One More Time.” The simian instinct: it feels good to boogie.

“I carry around a notebook with me at all times, and I just write in it whenever I feel I have something I want to write,” Savage says. “I’ve lived like that for many years now. Sometimes, I’ll write a few lines, sometimes I’ll fill up pages, and all of that stuff ends up becoming lyrics. When a record is finished, my lyrics tend to be a document of my thoughts and feelings throughout the year. That’s what I look for in the art that I make,” Savage says, “to communicate a moment, a certain intersection of time and space as best I can and the result can be a portal. I’ve always gravitated more toward that ideology as opposed to the proggier end. I do like some of that stuff, but the ultimately the rudiments of that kind of stuff ends up being its strength. I like some prog stuff; Frank Zappa, King Crimson. If there is any music I don’t touch at all, it’s probably … nu metal.”

In many ways that’s a relief. One cannot imagine Andrew Savage walking into an FYE and asking for help finding a Disturbed CD. “I grew up listening to music that was very explicitly political, bluntly containing a political message,” Savage says. “While songs like ‘Total Football’ may stand out in the milieu of indie rock music, in the idiom of hardcore punk, it’s not that notable at all. That song is sort of an homage to that scene, which was hugely influential. When I was living in Texas, in my early college years that was almost exclusively what I listened to — punk and hardcore.” Savage brings up the fact that Kurt Cobain was a huge ABBA fan, and expresses his love for everything from “Elvis, to Roxy Music, to the Bay City Rollers.”

“I would say a lot of the music I listen to, aside from jazz, falls under the broader category of ‘pop music.’” Savage says. “In some was it goes back to my first favorite band The Beatles, but that’s no rare thing. ‘Pop music’ is how most Americans are introduced to music anyway.”

Because of the guitar-heavy nature of the band’s music, Parquet Courts is often labeled “rock revival,” a ridiculous concept seeing that not only is rock music not dead, but the band is exploring sounds and ideas far beyond the normal borders of “rock music.”

“I get a lot of interview questions like ‘Is rock music dead?’ or “Is New York dead?’ ‘Is guitar music dead?’ It’s like — I don’t think so,” Savage says. “Honestly, there’s probably more bands than ever. I think there’s kids starting bands at any point at time, but obviously rock music no longer occupies the same place culturally that it once did — and that’s fine.”

“I think one of the main things about rock ’n’ roll is that it’s sort of a referential art form that’s always kind of cannibalizing itself whereas hip hop is sort of always discarding its past,” Savage says. “Pop music sort of takes cues from both, but I view us as very much doing our own thing, making our own sound. I think something about being a rock musician is having this reference that you draw upon. I think we’re an extension of everything that came before us and honestly, I think that’s one of the coolest things about rock ’n’ roll.”