The band's third album
It might seem as if Parachute were an overnight success— but that would be selling their story short. The hometown heroes have gradually risen through the ranks, from a rascally high school band initially named Sparky's Flaw in the early 2000s to a pop rock outfit re-branded as Parachute, to, today, a slick, confident, and mature ensemble that's heard their songs in Nivea advertisements, shared the stage with artists including the Jonas Brothers, Kelly Clarkson, and Taylor Swift, and performed on Good Morning America and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Arguably, the only way they could really be considered an overnight success is with the release of their third album— and only because Overnight is the title. In this iteration of Parachute's music-making, the band showcases heartfelt and emotionally-charged lyricism, more sophisticated production, and a touch of experimentation with hip-hop beats and spoken word lyrics. The album hints at a Justin Timberlake level of suave, indicating that the Parachute sound could one day move into the world of soulful R&B.
Yet these hometown boys have— and will continue— to stay true to their roots. With a Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop to their upbringing and the support of a community who "knew them when," Parachute's drummer Johnny Stubblefield assures us that these guys, now men in their late 20s, won't forget where they came from, and they won't let fame go to their heads.
The Hook: Tell us the story of Overnight.
Johnny Stubblefield: Overnight is our third major label album, and it's the best yet, in my opinion. We worked with a different producer [Oren Yoel] and definitely embraced more of the electronic side of our sound. It's good pop songs, and we still have a fair share of ballad-y songs, but we also have some really fun, hip-hop influenced tunes and a few rockers. The songs are a little more mature. The influences are all over the place, but it's still a cohesive sound.
The Hook: Were there any specific influences you turned to for this album?
JS: It was kind of whatever came out of Will's head. Our current single "Can't Help" was originally intended to be a Cee Lo Green song! Will wrote it with Ryan Tedder, and our producer had a hand in it… it's funny how a song intended for Cee Lo could be used for Parachute, but it just fit while he was writing it.
The Hook: How has the Parachute sound evolved over three albums?
JS: Hopefully we're better! Over the years, Will's songwriting gets better and better. Obviously our musicianship has gotten better, and the way we approach recording is different now— we know what to expect and what we want to argue for or against as far as production goes.
The Hook: It's been roughly 13 years since you all met. How have you evolved as friends, as partners, as individuals?
JS: Being friends has helped with our career. You don't realize you're a fully functional family until you meet other bands that don't get along or aren't friends. We're the same goofy a** dudes that we were in high school. Not much has changed there! As far as running the band and stuff, we're getting wiser as the years go on and we figure out what we want and don't want.
The Hook: And your goals? How have they transformed from your high school days?
JS: We want to take it all the way. Right now, we really want a hit song on the radio, and we really want to do this for a living. Back in the day, we just wanted to take the baby steps— how do we get a van, how do we get a gig outside of Charlottesville, how do we go on tour? Now, we're asking, how can we make this into a career? Our goals are more long-term; we're invested in this.
The Hook: When you began, many of your fans were also your age or younger— how have they grown along with your work? Have they all responded well to Overnight?
JS: Before the record came out, when we were just putting some singles out, there was a little backlash, but now that the album's out and our fans have had a chance to listen to it, they realize what we're going for. We're still the same, the sound hasn't changed drastically, although we're working with some new influences. On this tour, most of our older fans are on board and really like what we're doing. We still have people who will tweet at us— for example, we do a VIP meet and greet, where fans buy a ticket and can hang out with us before a show— and people will tweet something like, "Sparky's Flaw would never charge their fans to meet them!" There are always a few people like that.
The Hook: How does it feel coming home? What can we expect from this two-night hometown show?
JS: Having all your friends come out adds a little bit more pressure, but once it comes down to it, it's really fun— there are only a few towns where we can go and have a nice sold-out crowd, and we love playing the Jefferson Theater. We're going to crank out as many new tunes as possible and bring out some old ones. It'll be fun to switch up the set list— it's not the same show two days in a row.
The Hook: What other Charlottesville staples will you hit up while you're back in town?
JS: We'll go up to the Swannanoa Golf Course with the crew and play a round. We gotta go to all the essentials, make a Bodo's run, Blue Moon Diner, late-night Littlejohns.
The Hook: What's been the most surprising thing about fame? Have you had any crazy Twitter followers or Facebook fans?
JS: Twitter can get out of hand, but that stuff's only silly. Yes, we do read the comments on Instagram. But nothing too crazy has happened yet, no stowaways on the tour bus, just good ole harmless kids showing up early and staying late after shows. Being the drummer of the band, I don't get creepers too often.
The Hook: What advice do you have for any other local bands hoping to follow in your footsteps?
JS: Keep it fun, don't put too much pressure on yourselves, play out as much as possible, practice your instrument— we played way too much Guitar Hero and should have been better at our instruments. Have fun with it. It's not do or die, and it's easy to add a lot of pressure where there shouldn't be.
The Hook: What's next for Parachute?
JS: We're planning on hopping on tour with Jay Z and Justin Timberlake, but I don't know if they know about it yet.
Parachute plays Friday, August 30 and Saturday, August 31 at The Jefferson Theater to celebrate the release of Overnight. The shows start at 7:30pm and tickets are $20-35.