Spotlight: Parcels

Larson Sutton on June 22, 2022
Spotlight: Parcels

photo credit: Remi Ferrante Hartman


When Parcels’ Patrick Hetherington is asked why his band relocated from Byron Bay, Australia to Berlin six months after first performing together in 2014, the quintet’s keyboardist/guitarist says with a laugh, “I don’t have a good answer for that. We didn’t think about it that much. We wanted to experience something new and we thought, ‘Let’s go to Europe.’ We could’ve ended up in Bangkok for all I know.”

Then, Hetherington elaborates and Parcels’ reasons for emigrating to the German capital seem more thoughtful— even precise. There was the cheap cost of living, relative to the rest of the continent. There was the city’s vibrant arts culture and deep electronic music scene. And there were also their own feelings of youthful abandon—a fuel that perpetually powers the creative engines of these five now-twenty-something musicians, who first starting playing together when they were still teenagers.

It’s notably similar to the sound of the group’s sophomore LP, Day/Night, a conceptual album released in November 2021. Full of thoughtful precision and post-adolescent energy, the sprawling, but measured, piece of work is a progressive leap forward for the electropop, disco-soul ensemble. A double-album full of mid-‘70s mojo, it’s also somewhat of an anomaly in the modern era of streams and singles.

Flash back nearly a decade to Byron Bay, a coastal town that happens to be home to one of world’s more renowned blues festivals. Buttressed by the antidevelopment ideals of hippie holdovers from the 1960s, surfing is still a religion It’s also where Hetherington, fresh from Australia’s outer wilds, moved to as a teen and where he met his Parcels mates: guitarist Jules Crommelin, keyboardist Louis Swain, bassist Noah Hill and drummer Anatole Serret.

The schoolboys shared a common love of folk, bluegrass and country music. They busked on the streets of Byron Bay and performed at a mix of cafes and local events. They developed their voices, individually and collectively— joining together in glistening, sibling-tight harmony. Then, they packed up and headed for Deutschland.

In 2015, Parcels released their debut EP, Clockscared. That same year, they signed with the French record label Kitsune. They played their first Paris show at Les Bains in 2016, and electronic-music deities Daft Punk happened to be in the bar that night. The famed duo extended Parcels an invitation to their studio and, together, they wrote and produced a 2017 single, “Overnight.”

Parcels released their second EP, Hideout, in January 2017. “Overnight” dropped in July and spent 11 weeks on the French singles charts. That summer, Parcels delighted thousands of fans at Glastonbury and made their U.S. television debut on Conan in September. Their self-titled first LP arrived in October 2018, and its lead single, “Tieduprightnow,” quickly went Gold in Australia. (Hetherington reveals that the song’s peculiar name actually stems from a broken spacebar on his laptop.)

Early in 2020, the band retreated once again, renting a house in the Australian rain forest to work on a followup release. And, as bushfires raged across their homeland, they also heard the first warnings about a deadly new virus quickly spreading across the globe.

“It was a pretty strong moment in time,” Hetherington says. “It felt like the whole world was going to crumble outside.”

As a group, the quintet amassed upward of 150 demos. Painstakingly, they learned each one, fleshing out the keepers. They also honed in on a concerted theme for the project.

While a mix of jazz, classical and hip-hop cuts filled up Hetherington’s personal playlists, the members of Parcels ended up gravitating toward their shared soul and funk influences—especially Earth, Wind and Fire and Al Green. The ensemble always hopes to take their audience on an emotional sonic journey onstage; setlists are often divided into lighter and heavier halves. They wanted that same visceral voyage to unfold on Day/Night.

“Especially playing as a live band, we want to make people dance. When we made this record, we wanted to record it live [in the studio],” Hetherington says. “That groove in there happened supernaturally, without us thinking about it.”

The concept sharpened: one album of day songs, one album of night tunes. Yet, as Hetherington explains, there were to be no clear opposites. Instead, they wanted an experience of gradients—an internal and external trip. “It was a very open palette for us to explore— the extremes and contrasts.”

Within those extremes, they could probe deeper, weaving in personal stories and narratives. Longtime fans of Owen Pallett’s work with Arcade Fire, they enlisted him to compose the record’s lush string arrangements. Even as Hetherington and Crommelin’s lyrics veered toward darker content, musically the material remained hopeful.

“The natural flow of the world is dramatic, not melodramatic,” Hetherington says. “It’s only melodramatic when we put our own shit onto it.”

The idea of constructing a double album of such depth, he says, was the effect, not the cause. As for the inevitability that Day/Night’s 19 tracks—which are best experienced in sequence— will be divvied up into individual streams? “We don’t start from a place of thinking about how people are going to receive it, how it’s going to be put out in the world,” Hetherington says. “We really just start from what we want to do—what is interesting, what we enjoy doing.”

Parcels are always excited to perform live. They will spend the better part of June and early July hitting the European festival circuit, with stops at Pinkpop and Montreux Jazz. And, later this summer, they will return to North America for seven dates, including appearances at New York’s Central Park SummerStage and the Hollywood Bowl. “We hope people lose themselves in the experience of the music,” Hetherington says. “We don’t want them to have to think while we are playing—or even necessarily watch us. When that’s happening, it’s pretty special.”