Hometown favorites: This Parachute floats upward
Arguably the most successful ensemble to break out of Charlottesville since Dave Matthews Band, Parachute– aka the group formerly known as Sparky's Flaw– returns home with friends in high places, international tours under their belt, and a sophomore album released with enough buzz and fanfare to hint at a future as mainstream pop stars.
Their transformation from high school kids making music in the basement to the love-song crooning stars they are today– starring in Nivea commercials, touring in Europe with Kelly Clarkson– wasn't an easy road, but it was one they took to like pros, according to lead singer Will Anderson. Long gone are the days where the guys flew to L.A. to record their debut album, rushing back on Monday morning for classes at UVA, but the link to Charlottesville– and to each other– remains strong.
"We're just the same guys, with the same friendship," Anderson says. "Not much has changed since we were in high school in terms of our relationship with each other. It keeps you grounded, it keeps you accountable."
The work the five C'ville boys have poured into their music hasn't been easy, and while Anderson understands the opportunity that comes from befriending Taylor Swift or the guys from Plain White T's, he also says there are many miles to go before Parachute feels fulfilled.
"A lot of bands become so unaware of themselves that they think they're doing the best they can do– but we always have the sense that we have a lot more to prove," he says. "There's room to improve in our songwriting, performance, musicianship, and that fear of peaking helps us. It's a terrifying prospect that we might not get better."
Anderson began writing the band's second album– a sultry, sexy pop package– in small spurts while touring Europe with Clarkson. Most song lyrics just came to him, while the experience of playing big arena shows helped immerse him in a sound he knew Parachute wanted to capture in the studio. And while the spark might have bitten him while overseas, Anderson wrote many of the album's nine tracks at home in Charlottesville, leading him to incorporate a nostalgic, reflective tone reminiscent of Maroon 5. Many of the tracks on The Way It Was refer to just that– how things used to be for them in Charlottesville, and why those memories will never fade.
White Dress: "I was with a friend of mine and she asked, 'What's the first single going to be?' She was wearing a white dress, so I said, 'Oh, it's called White Dress'. It was like, "Dangit, now I've got to write a song about a white dress…" I started it at Dave Matthew's studio and it took awhile to figure out what I was going to do with it. It clicked in San Diego."
You and Me: "This was the first song I wrote for the record. It started out as two different songs– one was the music, one was the lyrics. The lyrics were the general Bonnie-and-Clyde, you-and-me-against-the-world theme; and it just worked out fitting with the music perfectly."
Something to Believe In: "This was one of the first songs I ever wrote, and it laid dormant until our bass player, Alex, kept calling me, saying we had to play it. I changed it around because I knew I wanted a gospel sound to it. A couple of our friends in L.A. rounded up some of their friends to help with it, and we ran with it from there."
Forever and Always: I was in Frankfurt, Germany, and, I hate when people say this, but it hit me in a flash. I was lying in bed and the whole thing just came to me. I sat up, got a guitar, and I still have the recording of it from that night."
What I Know: "I was in Russia, visiting a friend in St. Petersburg, and I had never been there, didn't speak the language, couldn't even come close to reading their writing, and felt more isolated, culturally speaking, than I had ever been in my life. I spent a lot of time in my hotel room and wrote one song in a week. I wasn't breaking up with anyone at that point, but I remembered that feeling– along with that weird cultural intersection of Russia."
American Secrets: "I needed one really, really personal song on the record. This was the last song I wrote for the album, and it was about growing up in Charlottesville. We recorded the first section of it and went on to tour, so we had the song arranged for six months, and I just couldn't finish it. I was talking to one of my best friends, a poet at Columbia University, and complaining that I couldn't finish the song and how it was so unfair that she's so good at poetry. I said one of the song's lines to her, and she said, 'That's it, go'– and I finished it in 30 minutes that night."
Kiss Me Slowly: "We wrote that originally for another artist. We were pitching it, and I realized that parachute wanted a song like that– we call them "ladykiller" songs– so I called them and said, 'Don't give it away!'"
Halfway: "We started recording it and hated it, it just wasn't clicking. It was about someone I had met recently, someone who played me, and I was angry at the time and needed a nasty song."
Philadelphia: "This wasn't anything specific I had experienced, but it turned out to be an epic song. Once we started playing it, we realized it was going to be the album closer. I wrote it in Philly and in C'ville and just put myself in someone else's shoes, to figure out what they would feel like in this situation. It turned into a seven and a half minute epic. We riffed off Bruce Springsteen a little bit, and I wrote him a letter to say, 'We're not ripping you off.' I don't even know if he got it, but it was the perfect song to end the record on."
Parachute kicks off their US tour Saturday, June 4, at the Jefferson Theater. Schuyler Fisk and Harper Blynn open. Doors open at 7pm, and tickets are $16 in advance, $18 at the door. Or, purchase The Way It Was at Charlottesville or Richmond's Plan 9 and receive one free ticket to the show!