At Work: Charm Parade

Jake May on February 17, 2021
At Work: Charm Parade

Andrew Southern had already been playing with Ryan Thornton for much of his life when he first suggested that his old friend should focus his creative energies elsewhere. “Andrew has always really liked my singing voice,” explains Thornton, who has played drums in bands with Southern since they were high-school students in Princeton, N.J. in the ‘90s. “He’s always been like, ‘Dude, you’re a great drummer, but I also think you’d be a great frontman. One day, we’ll make a band, and we’re going to be called Charm Parade.’”

It took almost 15 years and a global pandemic, but the longtime collaborators finally released their eponymous EP in July.

Earlier this year, RANA—the duo’s longtime, mostly inactive project with Matt Durant and Scott Metzger—scheduled a May gig to celebrate Durant’s 40th birthday. When the show was canceled due to the novel coronavirus, Southern began passing Thornton tracks, encouraging him to write lyrics and add vocals to them.

“He would send me these instrumental grooves, but they had a verse-chorus structure,” Thornton recalls. “He would make almost one a week. Every once in a while, one would really strike me. I’ve also really been digging lyric writing; it is fun to use a new part of my brain.”

The writing and recording process for Charm Parade started to shape up slowly while Thornton—who also clocked in time with the post-jam acts Sam Champion, Sean Bones and American Babies—was “figuring out [his] life” during the quarantine. (The New Jersey musician, who currently works in the education field, says that his touring days are now behind him.)

But throughout the isolation period, Southern and Thornton continued to exchange new musical seeds. “He constructed the songs around where I put my lyrics and vocals,” Thornton says. While Southern crafted the music for three of the four tracks that ended up on Charm Parade, one cut, “The Almost,” was composed entirely by Thornton and features some guitar work by another longtime pal.

“I always had that space in there with Scott [Metzger] in mind,” Thornton says of the song, which also happens to be the only selection on the EP to feature him on drums. “His solo far exceeded my expectations. It just blew me away.”

As expected, their chemistry was natural—Thornton actually first decided to learn the drums when he got tired of watching Southern and Durant jam without him. “One day, I was like, ‘F this! There’s a drum kit set up in the corner; I don’t want to just watch them,’” he recalls. “There were no lessons. It’s pretty ingrained in there.”