Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cale Parks (Aloha) Interview

I had the most interesting conversation today with my favorite band Aloha's amazing drummer Cale Parks...

I’d like to start with a personal question: Why are people too ignorant to have noticed your amazing music-god-like talent yet?

Cale: Ha Thank you! I'm not sure really. We've been around for a while, and I'm happy to have the loyal following we've developed. People will come around one day.

What do you think is the group’s most challenging obstacle in trying to achieve success in the music industry?

Cale: Well, we're not a new band. We've been around for a long time, since before indie rock was mainstream again. Immediate success now seems to be all about a fresh faced new group. I think that staying together in a band for this long, with this amount of creative output, is a greater example of success in today's music world.

What made you decide to use a vibraphone as a major instrument in the band’s sound?

Cale: Eric, our original vibraphonist, wanted to play his vibraphone more in a band setting. It worked and we all fell in love with that sound, so we kept with the mallet percussion thing over the years.

In your first albums, you managed to connect all or at least most of the songs together, even going so far as to connect your first EP and first two albums, so as to make them all sound as if they’re one long song. Why, then, did you cease to continue this pattern in your later records?

Cale: We lost Eric and TJ joined the band. It felt like a new group again, with a very different energy. Continuing like that with the album concept didn't feel natural with the new batch of songs.

Why did you decide to use the band name Aloha?

Cale: I didn't choose that name, though I love it. I think it has something to do with the multiple meanings of the word. It doesn't just mean hello and goodbye. It is a very deep thing for Hawaiians.

Which do you prefer: playing live or in the studio?

Cale: They're both completely different things, so I don't prefer one over the other. In the studio, we build songs part by part, very rarely playing together in the same room. I enjoy the creative element here. Live, you all play on stage at the same time together. I enjoy the energetic elements here.

Respectively, what are your favorite songs/albums both from your band and other bands?

Cale: I don't really have a favorite song or album. They all represent different times of my life so to speak, so when I hear a song or album, I just think of where I was personally during the era when I recorded the music. It's hard to separate experiencing the music without experiencing memories of where you were when you wrote the song. I think we did a good job on all of them though!

Listening to the band’s work, I get a sense of a nice blend of The Police and Radiohead. Who are some of the group’s major influences?

Cale: Those two are definitely in there! We all have similar record collections. For example, we definitely enjoy the classic prog rockers Yes and Genesis. We've also spent a lot of time with Can over the years. I personally enjoy a lot of 80's and 90's british electronic bands. Taste and influences change for me depending on what I'm into at the moment. It all reflects in a mush of aesthetics within your sounds.

Can we expect a new album in the not-too-distant future?

Cale: Yes. There is a full length LP being finalized very soon. Expect a release this year.

Do you plan on re-inventing your “sound” again, ala Here Comes Everyone, or is the plan to stay safe with the one you have?

Cale: I'm not really sure. We don't consciously try to re-invent while we're creating.

Altoona, Pennsylvania seems to hold a special place in Aloha’s heart, considering it was given a song and was where T.J. Lipple first played with the band. Could you share more about the significance of this location?

Cale: That's it really. TJ's family live there. They're all very nice. It's a nice quiet town in the PA hills. I've had good experiences in the Altoona thrift stores.

The group has moved all across the country for its writing and rehearsing. Do the four of you ever grow weary of this, or does the change of scenery act more as an inspiration?

Cale: I don't personally grow weary. I love traveling. It's just the way we work. It's not like we move for a year of our life or anything. All the relocating and permenant moves, so to speak, have more to do with our personal lives, not the band. Also, once you tour a bit, you understand that traveling 8 hours to practice a few days before a tour starts or going into the studio in another city for a couple of weeks, really isn't that much of a hassle.

In an earlier interview, one of you had mentioned the Mellotron you used on your later albums was homemade. What can you tell me about this instrument?

Cale: This is a controversial issue. It was not an actual mellotron, but rather the sound of a mellotron that was homemade. TJ sampled a violinist playing for him live, in order to simulate his own unique mellotron sound via midi controllers. TJ is always crafty.

I especially like how most of the lyrics to your songs are subtle and vague so as to be interpreted however the listener feels, instead of something bashing or praising one specific thing. What typically goes into writing a song for you?

Cale: Thank you. The lyrics are always the last thing to come in my writing. I always write the music first. Lyrically, I just try to speak vaguely, like you said, about my feelings, and fit it into the melody I hear, sometimes making it rhyme. It does the job for me as far as getting out what I need to with my art and emotions. If it's vague and open to the personal interpretation of the listener, than thats even better, because they can experience it however they want to, like you said.

How has your songwriting process changed over the years, if at all?

Cale: Well, originally with Aloha, we would write together in band practice. Since Here Comes Everyone, we've written long distance via personal demos. This method has remained until now. In my solo music, the songwriting can be very different from song to song. Sometimes it starts with a beat I make at my apartment. Other times with a vocal melody I hear or a chord progression I've been messing around with.

All of your album covers have been quite unique. Is there any hidden or significant meaning behind them (for example, I keep seeing a recurring wolf), or are they just eye-candy?

Cale: The wolf-dog was only on Here Comes Everyone and Some Echoes. We always go to friends who are artists for the covers, then work with them on the design and layout. We usually give them an advance copy to listen to for ideas while they create.

Are the four of you trying to make a living making music or is money not an issue?

Cale: None of us are trustfunders, so we all do what we have to for money. Speaking for myself, I'm not good at anything else, so yes, I make a living off of music here in New York. Times get tough and things change from time to time. Aloha does not make a lot of money, but like they say, it's not about the money.

Is the band trying to achieve some kind of goal? Like, artistically or commercially?

Cale: I guess like all artists we want to make the best possible music that we can. There are no commercial goals.

Have you planned out the future much, or are you just kind of going with the flow? If you have, what plans do you have?

Cale: I plan to make music and go with the flow always. If you get a big job and have a baby, that is all part of going with the flow, not to get too zen, but it's all relative to living. Aloha will never break up. If we take a break from recording or touring, it doesn't mean you have to quit being a band. Too many groups make this mistake. We all have a great personal relationships with one another. We will always make music together in some form, for whoever still listens. I will always make solo music in some form as well.

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