Anyone who has caught a Parenthetical Girls concert knows that the band’s frontman Zac Pennington handles the stage like some magical combination of Oscar Wilde and Cillian Murphy, all sharp cheekbones and an even sharper wit. But in person he has a warm, comfortable personality, making him incredibly easy to talk to, whether the subject is the benefits of Portland living or Morrissey’s odd choice in opening acts. We spoke with Pennington about Parenthetical Girls’ ongoing Privileges project, which has the band recording and releasing a group of EPs intended to be played together as an album, with some occasional detours to discuss the band’s love affair with Los Campesinos! and their desire to get a 0.0 review at Pitchfork, amongst other, loftier subjects.

Zac Pennington: I have to warn you, I tend to ramble in these interview sessions…so, you’re certainly more than welcome to pare down. I used to do interviews with people all the time and I feel like I overcompensate because I’d always be very bummed out when people gave me very short answers and left me nothing to work with.

Nick Hanover: I actually prefer when people go off on discussions. Most of the time when I interview people it’s like that, I prefer to have a conversation rather than a straightforward interview. So rambling sounds perfect to me. I actually interviewed Ian Svenonious a while back…

That guy can talk!

Yeah (laughs). I kind of just said one or two sentences and then he gave me a whole manifesto, it was great.

He’s good at that.

So, are you in Portland right now? Or are you on the road?

I’m in Portland. We just got done with a big tour…a couple big tours, actually. So we’re kind of on a break for now.

I actually caught you down here in Austin, with Los Campesinos! at the Parish, it was fantastic.

Oh! Do you remember which show you went to, which of the two?

I went to the first night. I spoke to you briefly at the merchandise booth, it was one of the best shows I’ve caught in a long time. I remember even Gareth from Los Campesinos! was commenting on how you guys were showing them up during the tour.

He was being very kind, that was a super fun trip. I love those guys, it was really nice to be able to spend a lot of time with them. We went on tour with them before, years ago, so it was nice to have another shot at hanging out with them.

Yeah, I remember when I interviewed him during that tour and he was going on about it, “Oh, have you guys heard this band Parenthetical Girls?” It was great talking to him and hearing him geek out so much on another band.

He’s been very generous with us, for sure. He’s a great guy, we’re pretty good friends.

It was interesting too because during the show you were talking about how you weren’t going to be coming down for SXSW because you feel Parenthetical Girls isn’t really a “SXSW showcase kind of band.” You said you’re better suited for venues like the Parish. I’d be curious to hear you elaborate on that, because I understood what you were saying– with the theatricality of what you do I can see how it’d be hard to make that translate for SXSW– but I wanted to hear more about your experiences with that festival.

Well, it’s less about really translating…certainly the Parish is a beautiful venue, and an ideal place for any band to play, but I feel like part of the thing with SXSW, in our limited experience– we only went there one year and especially with the time we went there since our band was slightly different– we walked more of a tightrope, and occasionally things would go awry. It was a precarious band, so it kind of took an audience that was more invested in the project to be able to fully appreciate what we were doing. We’ve never really been a band that…we’re not really salesmen, ultimately.

I feel like we’ve been getting to a place where we’re depending on the bands that we’re touring with, and Los Campesinos! is a good example of that; if an audience is sympathetic to the kind of thing that we do– and I think Los Campesinos! fans definitely are– it’s easier for them to engage with it than an audience that has no preconceived notion of what it is that we do. But I feel like at SXSW, the bands that do really well are bands that play live in such a way that’s kind of undeniable, whereas with us it’s a crapshoot sometimes, whether the audience is going to respond to what we do, because it’s a very specific thing and it appeals to a very specific audience.

So the generalized audience at SXSW is not ideal for it. And also, there are bands who do really well at SXSW and I think the experience that I had there, they’re bands that are a little more versatile than we are. We don’t bring our guitar and plug into the amp that’s sitting there at the venue, we sort of have to have more control of the environment than most people get at SXSW.

Right, and there’s probably plenty of places at SXSW where you have to completely change your aesthetic for the room you’re currently playing for.

Yeah, I mean, we try not to, but it’s kind of hard to overcome. I’d love to go to SXSW as a spectator, but I don’t know that there will come a time where it will make a lot of sense for us to play SXSW again. I’m sure I will be eating those words before long.

Your sets are also structured almost like a story; with the way you structure the songs, it’s not necessarily a straightforward narrative but it seems like there’s a narrative to what you’re getting across. Is that something you purposefully do when you’re putting together your set list?

I don’t feel like it’s that way so much, or it’s not intentionally that way…what we do, ultimately, there’s a diversity to what we do, and what we end up doing is try to showcase all the different avenues of what we think Parenthetical Girls means, I guess. So because of that, I think there’s a very natural ebb and flow to the songs when we play live because there’s not a lot of sameness to the songs that we play.

Your music has also made this shift over the last couple releases, to where it seems like you’re moving to a more literary and experimental form of New Romanticism, in comparison to the more baroque traits of the first two releases. Did that come out of doing more shows and the changes happening in the lineup? Or was that something you had been planning for a while?

Yeah, I mean, I think that’s not so much about the shows, though it has been challenging to translate a lot of the things we’ve done in the past to a live band and feel satisfied with it. Certainly all of Entanglements is a cumbersome thing to try to play through with a live band. I think more than anything, I’m a pretty impatient person and so I think it’s hard for me to settle for playing music that’s one kind of thing and one particular way. I feel like I’m foremost a fan of music, which is a cheesy thing to say, probably.

So I think that trying to make music that has some sort of linear component between the albums we make, there’s a thread that goes throughout all that we do, but we try to make the albums as different as possible every time we do them. It’s kind of a goal. Because like I said, the reason the set list we play has an ebb and flow is because the songs are…there’s a really common word I’m trying to use here… There’s a lot of different stuff going on (laughs). There are a lot of different aesthetics in the songs that we play.

Right, it’s very eclectic…

Eclectic! Thank you! See, that’s a really embarrassing one not to come to. They’re very eclectic, our sets. That’s mainly because there aren’t bookends on what we think Parenthetical Girls sounds like, I guess. We try to not limit what Parenthetical Girls is as long as it feels like it’s not not Parenthetical Girls when we’re recording it and it’s a good fit. I think it fits largely because I sing on all of the songs and for better or worse I think my voice, and my lyrical voice, are consistent on all of the songs we’re recording.

My first exposure to you was as a writer for The Stranger and while there are a lot of people who are former writers or critics who have turned and focused on music, I’m amazed by how you’ve managed to almost completely transplant your writing voice to the music you make. Even in terms of the aesthetic, it’s interesting to me how it matches up. Because when you think back to, say, Bob Geldof, what he was writing for the NME was totally different from the music he was making. I’ve always been curious about whether you made a conscious decision to bring that writing style to life through music or if it’s something where your writing voice and your musical voice come from the same exact place.

I guess it’s fair to say that they come from similar places. I think that I had a very hard time when I was working at The Stranger, and when I moved down here and was working at the Mercury, the sister paper, I found it really challenging to have energy to do both things. I found that after working at the paper, the creative energy part of my brain was sort of expended. I never really cared about what I was writing when I was working at the paper, which I always felt bad about because there were a lot of people who would have loved to have had those jobs at the time I had those jobs, getting out of journalism school and wanting to write for a living and all. I know I never really wanted to be a writer in terms of a paper; it was a job, it wasn’t really my vocation. It wasn’t my calling, I guess.

But it seems like that led to you doing more interesting things as a result. One of the pieces that always stood out to me was when you had yourself buried alive in order to help you overcome the fear of being buried alive. That stood out to me as trying to do something different with the writing.

I don’t believe I was ever a very good journalist, maybe because I didn’t feel as invested as I should have been. But I did feel like when I was writing, there were things I wanted to say and things I wanted to do and it allowed me to do that. But the throughline for me, I guess, of having worked at both those places and having had The Stranger be a real anchor in terms of understanding what writing was supposed to be when I was a teenager growing up in the Seattle area is that there’s a cynicism inherent in both those papers and I’m a pretty cynical writer in both music and in print.

There’s also a bleak, morbid humor to both those papers and I feel like that’s a throughline in your work as well…

Yeah, for sure.

And both those papers have a history of filmmakers and musicians working at them, like Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger and didn’t a couple of the guys from Dead Science contribute at one point?

Yeah, Sam wrote for The Stranger pretty regularly. He still does some writing, not for The Stranger, but in New York and stuff. When I worked at The Stranger, Dan Savage was the editor-in-chief there and one of the charges that was often brought against The Stranger at that time was that it was a lot of gladhanding. A lot of the content and the people who were featured in it were just friends of the people working at the paper and there was a tremendous conflict of interest all the time. I’d say those charges were fair in some way but I also feel like Savage’s primary intention was to surround and fill the paper with people who were deeply invested and plugged into the city. So the notion of conflict of interest was if you’re not friends with the people you’re writing about, you should be. There was a lot of crossover.

It seems like in a way once you left the city of Seattle, that led to an epiphany of sorts for you too. You grew up around Seattle, right? The Everett area?

Yeah, I grew up in Everett.

I remember that was kind of the genesis of the funeral piece, since the first time you attended your own funeral, you were leaving Seattle for Portland and said you felt like you were burying a part of yourself. Have you found that moving to Portland has helped inspire you musically?

I don’t know. That’s a good question. I kind of knew what I wanted to do when I came here. I started doing things in Seattle when I still lived there but I feel like when I moved to Portland I had a much more adversarial relationship with Seattle than I do with Portland. And I felt like I was much more invested in what was going on in Seattle musically and kind of thought I had a stake in it, considerably more than I did when I moved to Portland. Mainly because when I was in Seattle, there was nothing going on that I cared about and I felt the need to be invested in it. I set up a lot of shows for people that I wanted to see play in Seattle but who couldn’t find shows in Seattle.

And when I moved to Portland, I guess the things that I cared about were kind of already acknowledged and celebrated here and so I became less invested in the music culture than I had been in Seattle. There was nothing to fight against, I guess. But in terms of being inspired, I mean, there was always a lot more going on in Portland that I cared about musically, and ideologically I feel like the way people make music and the reasons they make music in Portland are just more in line with what I am invested in.

Yeah, that makes sense. I spent a lot of time in Seattle and kind of went through the same thing, you just get tired of seeing the bands that you don’t really feel are the best music get the exposure and you want to do something about it…

Yeah. Did you grow up in Seattle? Or did you just move there?

I actually moved there my last year of high school, my parents moved us out there, so it was especially fun (laughs). I just recently moved down to Austin but I had been trying to decide between here and Portland. So it’s interesting to me to hear other people’s experiences trying to find that city that, even if it doesn’t inspire you, motivates you to create more.

Yeah, for me, Portland is less about being motivated, because I think it’s similar to Austin in that it’s a very unmotivated city. I’d say Portland is affordable and open enough and supportive enough that you can kind do whatever you want, that’s a thing that’s inspiring about it.

I’ve never been that interested in the notion of “scenes,” or “communities,” or creative communities or anything. I mostly always work by myself when I’m actually working on projects. I’ve never been a team player, which isn’t something I’m particularly proud of, but I have a hard time getting invested in communities. And so I don’t think I’m inspired on an immediate visceral level but I am inspired by the fact that people do what they want here…

Yeah, that makes sense.

And can afford to.

And with your music, as you were saying before, part of the throughline with Parenthetical Girls is your vocal voice and your lyrical voice, which guides the direction so much. It’s interesting to me to because it seems like you guys get a lot of comparisons to the Smiths, and it’s not even necessarily like you’re doing the same thing musically, but you have something in common in terms of philosophy and from the direction the band takes. Is that something you work towards? Has that been a major influence on the development? I mean, I know you’ve covered the Smiths, too…

Yeah, the Smiths are my favorite band. We don’t really try to sound like them, and if we did, we’d be failing pretty miserably. I feel more for Morrissey than I do for anyone. Early on we talked about this a lot but I’m kind of embarrassed to talk about it in recent years, but I think Parenthetical Girls in my mind sort of comes from a more punk rock lineage than indie rock lineage and I think there’s a certain urgency in what the Smiths did that has that punk rock ideology but it’s translated to a very specific kind of energy, a different kind of energy from what people would consider punk rock energy.

They also came from a punk rock background themselves…

What I’m really excited about in music are a lot of the same things Morrissey was excited about in music in the early ’80s.

One thing that always surprises me is when I bring people to your shows, they’re kind of amazed by how humorous the stage banter is. You have this attitude that is very clever and charming, but also very biting. People are always blown away by that but when I point out specific lyrics, it’s clear it’s always been there in your music. Do you feel that that’s been an especially big influence of Morrissey on you? Because it seems like people always forget how funny he is…

A big part of the way that I feel we present ourselves as a live band is about trying to communicate this to an audience. And as I continue to do this, I feel like I spent a lot of time being alienating. At this point I feel like I want to have a conversation with the people who listen to this music and I want to be able to…like in the case you’re describing, with somebody who hasn’t seen us and who doesn’t necessarily have the same kind of investment in the music as, say, Los Campesinos! audiences. Depending on who’s watching, it’s difficult for them maybe to get past certain aspects of the music that we make.

This might also sound sort of cynical but I feel like there’s a lot more to us as people than the sort of heart-on-sleeve…we have these deeply emotional, dark songs. And I feel like, like the Smiths, people get a weird impression about what our band is about based on our associations and based on our presentation. It’s important, I think, for me to make the music as available to people as I can. I think that kind of communication is important and it’s pointless to continue to work in a vacuum if no one engages with it.

I find that the thing that I always attribute to Morrissey was the gallows’ humor of all of it and those people who are really, really deeply affected by the Smiths, I would hope that for most of them, that’s a part of it, too. There’s an absurdity to everything that guy did when he was young and there’s an absurdity to what he does now but I think it was really crucial to what was important about those guys. That’s the thing, I think our show is campy in the same way that the Smiths were campy, and emotional in the same way. I would hesitate to say that without “I guess,” because that would be blasphemy…I guess. But we strive to do things in a certain way that’s cut from a certain cloth and that would be the cloth.

You spoke about the presentation and I think it’s necessary to bring up the videos you’ve done now, especially “The Privilege.” It’s a very simple video but there’s just something captivating and different about it. “The Pornographer” is a similar thing, where you have this stark, minimalist presentation. But then when you perform that stuff live, it has a completely different feeling. When you were making the videos, what were you going for in particular?

Well, those two in particular, I directed those. And I don’t know, I guess that’s part of the problem with our presentation, because I have a very particular aesthetic and that aesthetic lends, or tends to make us seem so serious. People call the work that we make “pretentious,” a lot, and I think most things that I care about probably had to face that title as well. I think anything that’s worth engaging in is a little pretentious. But I also think that both of those videos– in our minds, or at least in mine– are really funny. I think that all of the videos that we’ve made more or less, with one or two exceptions, they’re not really meant to be taken very seriously, or maybe we’re holding our cards too close or something.

There were a lot of people when we made that “Common Touch” video that was like a dance piece…we took ourselves seriously when we were doing it, it wasn’t all for a laugh. But the notion of us doing it in the first place, I think, at least, is kind of hilarious. And the same thing is true with “The Pornographer” video.

I would hesitate to say it was a joke but I feel like there are tongue in cheek aspects to all of those things that are maybe not as similar to what we were talking about as the humor that was involved in the Smiths’ records. They’re not the most forwarded aspect of the piece that they’re intended to be…they’re supposed to be multi-dimensional, maybe that’s the easiest way to put it.

Well, it definitely seems like you can kind of put it through your own experiences…I guess I wouldn’t have seen it as humor in “The Pornographers,” but more a cynicism, where it’s got this soft focus feel to it and it’s a very static image and seems to reference modern pornography and the emphasis on amateur, individual experiences. And then at the same time, it’s very beautifully shot, and lit, and there’s that element too. So it seems to me that there’s a juxtaposition between the seriousness of the presentation and the humor of the situation that it’s framed in.

Right, it’s totally absurd for me to choose to make a music video that is inherently pornographic. There’s just a base absurdity to that and also the notion with that video in particular, when I was working on it, it was meant as commentary on the phenomenon of the Not Safe for Work video. And specifically two ideas: 1) the idea that in all of these videos the NSFW aspect is typically a topless woman who has nothing to do with the band, walking around in the context of the video, which I found a little distasteful and 2) the idea of the indie rock musician moving closer and closer to being a purveyor of pornography and a pornographer…

Especially with the rise of Tumblr…

It seemed like a good jab. But I don’t know that anyone…I hope that you don’t need to feel that kind of cynicism to, I don’t know, I was going to say appreciate it, but that sounds really lame. It’s just a picture of me (laughs).

It’s interesting that you bring that up, because I’ve shown it to people and they almost always ask, “Why is this marked NSFW? There’s no nudity in it…” And my thought was that that was exactly the intent.


It’s fascinating to hear that other aspect, which I hadn’t really thought of, but now makes perfect sense now that you’ve mentioned it. Especially since a lot of artists are now using Tumblr to get themselves out there, and it’s like half music, half porn.

Yeah. The other thing is, a lot of people who posted that video were like “I don’t know why this is NSFW,” but I would not want somebody to walk behind me while I was watching that video. Maybe there aren’t tits in the video, but I think it would be equally as mortifying to be caught watching that video at work. But I don’t know, maybe it depends on where you work.

Right, right.

Yeah, I mean, the title of the song…it’s supposed to be a metaphor, but it’s also…I like the literal aspect of just making a video that is contemporary pornography.

It’s interesting too because the way you’re releasing music now is both modern and vintage, in a way. Because you’ve been putting Privilege out as limited vinyl EPs. With the new one, part of the collector-fetish aspect of it is even that it’s “hand lettered in the blood of Amber Smith,” but at the same time you’ve made these gorgeous digital videos to go alongside that release, so in a way it’s both completely of this era and completely outside of it. Was that meant as kind of a way of commenting on how music is transforming now? And how things that were old in music are new again? Like the way vinyl is making a gigantic resurgence and also people being less interested in albums and more interested in EPs or singles and bite sized portions that can be put together with other media…

It’s not so much a comment as it is a practical response, because I feel like we take a long time to make things. Even this project has taken so much longer than I hoped it would and the idea when we finished our previous full length was the time we spent making a full length before anything else came out just seemed horrible, I couldn’t imagine it. So I kind of liked the idea of having this experiment to see what it would be like to release an album as a series of EP, making these fetish items out of these records.

My additional intention was that there wasn’t going to be any digital release at all of the music, it was just going to be the EPs and the videos. And the videos were going to act like the preview MP3 that comes along with every album now. Practical purposes made that kind of impossible from a financial standpoint. But the idea of making…I mean, there are cynical aspects to this too, but the idea of just stretching out the material and giving it more breadth rather than just dropping an album full of songs that no one would ever listen to was just appealing to me, because I feel like even my relationship with music has changed, as much as anyone’s. And it feels unfair when I am a person who primarily when I listen to new music, I don’t listen to it the way that I used to.

I don’t listen to albums nearly as much and there are rare new albums that I do listen to but most of those come by way of me seeing a video, or hearing a couple MP3’s and the idea of just having to approach an album in its entirety in one sitting is just so daunting, even to me. Even though it’s incredibly narcissistic and presumptuous to assume that anybody is going to want to buy five EP’s, rather than just buy one record, I think it’s also pretty presumptuous to assume that the album is the only way that a person should create a product. The people who are, just from a business standpoint, best at communicating with an audience are people who are able to work in shorter form.

There’s also the example of Les Savy Fav, putting together Inches over a decade…

Yeah, yeah, that was an inspiration for the idea of breaking it up like that. And there were other inspirations, like Weirdo Rippers, the No Age record where it was a compilation of these series of things. It was more of a gambit, I think, for us, because we had to pull out full length records before and rather than this being a compilation record, the concept of this was as an album. It’s different at least in the way that we’ve approached it as something other than just after the fact compiling a bunch of 7″s or something. I’m not entirely sure that the experiment succeeded. I mean, I think it has so far succeeded from a creative perspective, ’cause I think we’ve done things that we wouldn’t have done if we hadn’t done it in this fashion, and so that has justified it to me. But I don’t know if the material has reached as many people as it could have otherwise, or I feel like it merits.

Do you have plans to release it all together?

That would be the ideal, though, at present we’re still working out the details of how that will happen. I don’t want to just re-release all this stuff again. I feel that we’ve kind of reached the audience we can reach by having done this alone, but we’ve yet to find a good home for it. So we’ll see.

It seems like the reception to the touring you’ve been doing alongside it has been really great, though. I mean, everywhere I’ve read has gone out of the way to speak about you guys playing alongside Los Campesinos! and how great the set was and I’m noticing a lot of people who you previously weren’t on the radar of, you now are. People are getting into it in the live setting…

Yeah, which is really, really strange to me. I mean, it’s great, I think we have started gaining some momentum after a long time of being stagnant for a number of reasons, with part of that being lineup changes and an inability to tour as a result. There have been a lot of roadblocks along the way but finally we’re kind of a functional thing again and we basically just toured for two months straight in the U.S. We took two laps of the U.S. with pretty notable bands, though I think we’ve run out of bands that it makes sense for us to tour with now. I don’t know what our next tour will be (laughs).

Well, there is that rumored Smiths reunion…

Not gonna happen, man. How fucking embarrassing would that be, to open for the Smiths?

I don’t know how anyone would be able to manage that. For one, there’d be the whole Morrissey/Marr black cloud to contend with…and then just the pressure of being the band to open for the reunited Smiths, how fucked would that be…

Well, it’s just like, conceptually, it’s like…I don’t know if you’ve seen Morrissey play in the last ten years or anything, but every time I’ve seen him play the band has been some kind of joke, some super sub-rip off Smiths band or something, or like some Morrissey solo ripoff band. It’s like, what’s the point? I felt the same way when I heard the Chromatics were opening for Pulp, which at first seems like a great combination. The notion of having the burden of opening for Pulp seems so mortifying, like a band you really care about and which has had a very palpable effect on what you do, it’d be so terrifying.

But at least in their case, it’s not like there’s a legendary break-up that’s part of the equation…

No, that’s true.

But it’s like these rumors pop up constantly. And what you brought up about Morrissey is so true, didn’t he tour with Louis XIV or something just recently?

I think he did, yeah, I think he did. [Actually, it was Girl in a Coma -ed.]

I wondered if it’s an ego trip thing, like he purposefully picks band he knows will just be mocked…to make himself look better. It makes me think of Mark E. Smith and the Fall and all these people he brings on tour with him, like he’s just torturing them…

Yeah, I feel like Morrissey, with those openings bands, he wants to be the guy to discover the band, but…and Louis XIV isn’t a good example here, but I feel like most of the bands he tours with are bands you’ve never heard of before and will never hear of again. And I don’t know what his thinking is at all. But I’ve never seen an opening band at a Morrissey show that I thought was worth watching. But that sounds really horrible (laughs).

Not when it’s true. You can’t really argue with that opinion there. How close are you to Privilege being wrapped up? Is it going to end with four parts?

It’s supposed to be five. This is getting agonizing too. We recorded the fifth installment. My primary collaborator is this guy named Jherek Bischoff and Jherek is a very, very busy man. He has a solo album coming out real soon and has been occupied. So we’re still waiting to mix the fifth EP and actually finish it. All the tracking is done and we just need to finish it. I don’t know when it will be done…it will be done this year…sometime (laughs).

Well, it’s been a really exciting project, I’ve loved listening to it and seeing all the other things going into it…

I’m glad, that’s so nice to hear. I’m going to be glad when it’s over with. It’s sad in some ways that we just finished that Perfume Genius tour, I just sold out of all the records. So I don’t have any more records to sell, which makes me more nervous about not having part five done, it’s sort of a bittersweet feeling to be sold out since it’s been such a long process. And my house has been cluttered with these records for so long, it’s kind of sad to see them go.

The most recent volume has been out for, what, five or six months? Is that right?

God, I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to count.

But that’s good! To sell out that quickly, that’s a good turnaround there!

Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing, we’ve been sitting on them forever, but unless you’ve been touring, unless you’re one of the 250 people who will buy it from me on my website without fail– “knock on wood”– people just don’t have access to it. None of these records sell without me handing it to somebody, or putting it in the mail, which, I don’t know, has its charms but it also limits accessibility to people: if they don’t see me or pay me directly they might not even know it exists.

That’s another weird thing, having these records be in this odd purgatory of being below the radar and sneaking through the cracks and still having a video come out on Pitchfork or something like that. A lot of people have talked to me about not having any idea that we are still making music. Which is weird…or it’s not weird, it’s a shame. During the Los Campesinos! and Perfume Genius tours, I had people come up to me after and be surprised that we were still functioning. The attention span for these things is fairly quick these days.

Yeah, if you’re not on Pitchfork each week, you’re kind of lost, right?

Yeah! Which is, I don’t know, a struggle. It’s not the kind of struggle I’m really interested in, or in participating in. But it’s one that’s kind of a necessity. And I’m not saying I’m not interested in participating because I’m above it, I’m just saying it seems like a lot of energy to expend on something that is, at least for me, not part of the process of making the things I want to make. It’s cool for people who I think are really, really prolific and can just churn things out but I just can’t…it’s a game that I’m bound to lose, that I’m not interested in playing…God, I sound so smug when I say “it’s not a game that I’m interested in playing.” It’s not because I feel that it’s not meritorious or something, it’s just because I know I’m going to lose.

No, I know what you mean. I interviewed Wavves a while back, for instance, and that’s a guy who just generates controversy without having to do anything.


And he’s just fit for that stuff. He’s also prolific but with what you guys do, it’s obvious that there’s a lot more craft and detail that has to go into it. His whole aesthetic is built around that antagonism and aggressively lo-fi sound anyway.

Right, and it’s a really strange thing that as much as people talk about indie rock being so narrow, the field is so wide; we’re playing totally different games on the same field. Which is another reason why SXSW– to go back full circle– felt so discouraging, because it was like we were playing on a field that we had no interest in playing on. The same way we put out records, where, while I do have a lot of nostalgic notion of DIY culture and the ideology behind that, I feel that for me all of these things are out of necessity, not by choice, necessarily.

We’re an indie rock band because I’m impatient and I have to do things all by myself all the time and if somebody was going to throw us a ton of money and said we could do what we want forever, well, obviously anybody would take that. But I mean, I have no particular romance about putting out our own records anymore. I enjoy the process of doing it because I love making physical things, but the romance of working alone and fighting against some greater whatever, I kind of lost that. I don’t know that I ever had that, it was just that we’ve always done these things because it’s the way they happened and we’re not very good about waiting for people to come to us, we try to come to them. Which is why we perform the way that we do as well, we’re not very good at waiting for people to come to us.

Well, that’s part of the appeal, isn’t it? Or at least that’s a big part of why I personally think people like your group so much. At least what I’ve noticed is that people aren’t into your band in half measures. That’s more fascinating to me specifically as a writer and a musician, reaching people and having a true impact rather than just being there.

Yeah, I’m fortunate that people aren’t ambivalent about this band. If they’re aware of it at all, they have an opinion, which is certainly better than the alternative. I would hope no one ever thinks that what we do is just fine. I’m happier with people totally hating it than being ambivalent about it.

So now you just need to hire somebody to impersonate you and start feuds on Twitter with Kanye…

I would totally do it. I don’t need to hire anybody. If they would give me the mic, I would start feuds left and right, I would happily be feud guy. Feud guy’s a great guy. I would love to be an echo chamber every week, but they’re not pouncing on my quips as quickly as they do some other people. I think they have to like your band more.

Or dislike it more…

Yeah, maybe that’s the problem with Pitchfork, they’re just ambivalent about Parenthetical Girls. Which isn’t a problem with Pitchfork, actually, that’s a problem with Parenthetical Girls.

Yeah, you need to get one of those coveted 0.0 reviews…

I know! I need to get some darkness from those guys.

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