Flying Solo with Cale Parks

2009_1024CMJ0111 by you.

Google Cale Parks and you’ll wonder if he’s human or cyborg. The confusion will hit you when you read the extensive—and impressive—list of bands he’s been a part of in recent years (drumming for Aloha, White Williams, Owen, and Cex, among others), and you’ll question how he has the time/energy/ability to do it all. But multi-instrumentalist Parks doesn’t want to be just another drummer in the experimental synth-pop crowd. Instead, the Ohio native is working hard from his Greenpoint pad to establish himself in the music melting pot of Brooklyn. His advantage: wit. Parks is a funny guy with bulging eyes, pleasant disposition, and, you know, talent. The past three years have seen the 30 year old go from MySpace stalker to tirelessly touring solo act. One night we sat in the backseat of a Zipcar—innocently (Parks is a real gentleman)—outside The Bell House in Park Slope and discussed where he’s at and where he’s going.

You’ve played in so many bands, primarily as the drummer for Aloha. How did the solo venture come about?

How it happened is I made a MySpace page in 2006 with all my solo songs on it and started adding Aloha’s friends, not looking at who they were. I just started click add add friend add friend backspace add backspace and so I asked record label [Stiff Slack] in Japan to be my friend and they were like, “We love Aloha! Send us your stuff.” And I was like, “I don’t have a solo record. Why don’t you put it out? Ha-Ha.” And they were like, “OK.” And that’s how it happened. That’s how I did Illuminated Manuscript. Then I started writing more songy songs and trying to sing.

 What are songy songs?

 Songs with singing, songy songs!

Do you consider yourself a good singer?

No. It’s hard, I have a baritone voice, so it’s hard to project and then when you strain too hard…I don’t know, this is technical talk.

What are you saying? It’s too technical, I can’t understand it?!

No, no, no! Sometimes you strain your voice and it’s hard to project and blah blah blah. But I just started singing live, it’ll be a year in November, so it’s still a new thing. Singing in your apartment is different. But I like singing. I like to think I’m getting better.

Are you trying to get better?

My mom and sister teach, so I called my mom after the Grizzly Bear show [at McCarren Park Pool] and I was like, “Oh my God, they sing so good. Can you send me some voice training books?” And I did a couple of tours with Passion Pit and Michael [Angelakos] has the most incredible voice ever. Listening to him sing and do his warm ups backstage, it’s not even singing, it’s just weird sound effects and sounds that babies make. Just crazy.

Do you prefer being part of a band or performing solo?

I’ve always been in other bands playing drums. It’s not like they don’t take you seriously because you’re a drummer, but you want to make yourself known. I had other ideas for songs that weren’t appropriate for bands like Aloha.

Are you looking to form a permanent band with Eric Lyle Lodwick and Drew Montag Robinson or just have them as part of your solo act? 

I’m not sure, we’ll see what happens. I don’t want to speak before anything happens, but we’re having a lot of fun playing together. So far, so good. I’m happy with it.

What shows have you done outside of New York?

I did a full US tour with Passion Pit this summer. It was me, them, and Harlem Shakes. I was the first of 3 in an 800-capacity theatre. I played all over solo, but it’s hard to connect with an audience because I’m doing so much stuff on stage. I sing and I play a sampler pad and I play keyboards and I drum and I play cymbals.  

Do you work on the side to support your music?

At APC in SoHo, it’s a French clothing store. I’m not touring till after the winter so I’m just working and only doing local shows for a while.

What’s your favorite local venue to play?

I played at Le Poisson Rouge once and it was amazing. I like Santos Party House.

How early did music factor into your life?

I’ve been playing music all my life, since I was 13 playing in bad bands and garage and all that fun stuff.  My friend David was like, “I have a guitar,” and I’d be like, “Well let’s see what you learned at your guitar lesson this week, David.” “I learned the intro to ‘Dream On’ by Aerosmith.” “Cool, let’s play that.” “And I learned ‘Basketcase’ by Green Day.” “OK, let’s play it.”

Wow, hard stuff.

Yeah, almost as hard as a Weezer song.

So your albums,  Illuminated Manuscript and Sparklace came out in the past three years, are you planning on any new recordings?

I had [To Swift Mars] EP come out in August. I did a remix for [Bear Hands], “What a Drag.” It’s Three 6 Mafia meets Pet Shop Boys with Dylan [Rau]’s voice. Yeah, it’s that good. I have a couple of remixes lined up that I’m working on and I’ve got a bunch of new demos, so we’ll see in what format they’ll come out, if it’s me, my name, or another project, or if I make them into a car commercial.

 Cale Parks and his band are slated to perform at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, on November 14th.

 For more touring and general information, visit his MYSPACE or Cale’s WEBSITE . Also check out Cale’s photos from the Polyvinyl CMJ Showcase AFTER THE JUMP!

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