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“It was an accident,” says Lily Cato of Parlour Tricks’ latest record. “We didn’t set out to make a pop album. We just set out to make some new music, and this is what came out.”
If you’ve listened to Parlour Tricks’ latest, Broken Hearts/Bones, you may have heard a much poppier sound — something that spontaneously happened throughout the band’s writing and recording process. After the Voice named them 2014’s Best Pop Band in New York City, the genre modifier seemed to translate to Cato and co.’s output after the fact. Along with this stylistic shift, fans will still notice the NYC six-piece’s love for classic rock and country, but Parlour Tricks seem to have found their niche in just going with the flow, when it comes to lyrics and melodies.
The emotions pouring out of Parlour Tricks’ evolved sound could also be attributed to the whole band’s interest in Francis and the Lights, whose ethereal synthpop influenced them tremendously. “[Francis Farewell Starlite] has this really gritty and funny voice,” Cato says. “He writes these heartbreaking and haunting songs, and we got really into him at the beginning of the recording process. [His music] absolutely played a huge part in all of our lives.”
The six-piece also joined forces with producer Emery Dobyns, who has worked with the likes of Patti Smith, Antony & the Johnsons, and Noah and the Whale. Dobyns helped the band explore and experiment, something that has allowed Parlour Tricks to stand on the edge of pop.
Parlour Tricks’ sonic evolution didn’t hail solely from musical influences or working with a new producer. For 28-year-old lead singer Cato, the past two years have been a whirlwind of sorts: Her father passed away, her mother battled cancer, her boyfriend (now husband) left his job of seven years, and “Lily and the Parlour Tricks” became just “Parlour Tricks.” Change has been a prolific, if painful, constant for the band on the whole.
“It’s been a shitty and weird couple of years, but in that time, there has been a tremendous amount of good and productivity,” Cato says of the events in her life. “Being able to channel really intense feelings into creative work is a very humbling and interesting process. It’s been a really crazy and creative year.”
All that said, certain tracks didn’t come about easily. For Cato, the song “Walk in the Park” was a particular challenge.
“I had read a book called The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which dealt with the sudden loss of a parent and growing up in New York City, which I did,” Cato says. “There was a lot of stuff that spoke to me very intimately. I wrote that song in one sitting based on that book and my experience with it. I still get chills when I hear it, which is a nice feeling for music that you’ve worked on.”
With all of the life experience Cato processed with this album, you might think the title would have come first for the band, but Parlour Tricks didn’t settle on one until they had written the last song and eventual title track.
“It was the most evocative of the thematic elements of the songs I wrote,” Cato says of “Broken Hearts/Broken Bones.” “[The album] is a lot of heartbreak and visceral feeling. It’s as if the song title was meant to be the album title, even though I hadn’t written it until the very end.”
While the band is just coming off the album release (it debuted on June 23), Parlour Tricks will be celebrating by giving a hometown performance at Mercury Lounge tonight, which is fitting for New York–born and –raised Cato.
“The city is in my blood,” says Cato of her upbringing. “It’s a part of the grit of the band. We spent years rehearsing in a shitty basement in Brooklyn. We moved to a less shitty space in Brooklyn. It’s in our bones. It’s the only thing I’ve ever known — this is my city.”
Parlour Tricks play at Mercury Lounge June 25. For tickets, click here.