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Dan Friel, keyboardist, electronics manipulator, sound distorter, red-headed Casio destroyer, guitarist; all 10 years
Was the band's formation a reaction, either consciously or unconsciously, to The Strokes/Interpol/other image-heavy, nonchalantly cool LES bands that the press claimed were defining the "New York sound" just a few years prior?
Not at all. I was aware of those bands, and they had nothing to do with us. We were excited about other bands at that time, like Lightning Bolt, Oneida, Coachwhips, USAISAMONSTER, etc., and we really focused our attention on that community.
The "Big Deal" New York album in 2003 was The Rapture's Echoes, which sits at pretty much the opposite end of Groundswell in terms of punk. This was around the same time LCD Soundsystem was starting to pick up steam too. Was it daunting to see so many people around you getting excited about this sect of a genre and knowing you were doing something so different from it?
I opened for both Interpol and The Rapture right before we started Parts & Labor. To be honest, I was new to New York, and I had a hard time judging what was becoming really popular. I left before Interpol played because I didn't know their music and I found the crowd at Mercury Lounge kinda douchy. I don't think that music had anything to do with punk. Before I moved here nobody could have convinced me that everyone my age would be rocking ironic moustaches and playing disco. Had I known that I might have moved elsewhere.
Do you remember the band's first show in New York?
It was in the Old Office room in the basement of Knitting Factory when it was in Tribeca. We played three songs and got one of the first noise complaints from the Knitting Factory's neighbors. I'm still not sure how the sound could have reached them, but people continued complaining about the noise from the Knitting Factory until they finally gave up and moved to Brooklyn.
How did signing to Jagjaguwar come about?
Oneida introduced us, and they liked the early recordings of songs for Stay Afraid
. We toured out to Bloomington, Indiana, where Jagjaguwar is based, and played a short, very loud set in a small, sparcely attended pizza place, and somehow got signed to Jagjaguwar.
By the time Stay Afraid was released, there was a surge of popularity among a number of Brooklyn bands previously considered abrasive or esoteric: TV on the Radio, Battles, Dirty Projectors, Liars (though no longer in Brooklyn at the time) all had big albums in '06 and '07. Did you feel kinship towards these bands, or was it pretty much every man for himself?
There was definitely a feeling of camaraderie with us and Battles, TV on the Radio and Dirty Projectors, all of whom we had already known for years. There were also lots of great bands that we didn't have any contact with, but it felt great to see people taking risks with their music, and it paying off.
Simultaneously there was a much different thing going on with Grizzly Bear, Beirut and the like. Some could argue that eventually this strain of bands won out, in time evolving into an overall softer Brooklyn music scene, at least in terms of what became regarded as popular, i.e. Vampire Weekend, the whole lo-fi revival thing and so on. Even bands who hung their hat on being "noisey"seemed to back off from being so in-your-face about it. Was there a sense that your big could've-been moment was passing by? Was this something the band ever cared about, or even casually talked about?
Well, that "moment" was definitely talked about. We wanted more people to hear our music, and we had some hope that the band could make enough money to at least pay for itself (practice space, van, etc). That was happening for our friends, so we were excited. There wasn't really a moment where we saw a wave of soft-rock crash over Brooklyn, but over time I certainly started to feel a lot less in common with mainstream indiedom.
Would you say the fact that Brooklyn started to get so much mainstream attention during the mid-aughs affect your sound at all?
Not a whole lot. We took our influences from whatever was exciting to us at the time. Besides, we thought Stay Afraid
was a pop record when we made it. I still do.
A lot of local bands that rose to the top in terms of blog attention eventually gave way to half-formed songs and detached live shows. Given how detailed and deliberate your music is, does the outcome of what has become "popular" in modern day Brooklyn ever bother you?
I like a lot of lo-fi, busted music from this era, and others. That said, the last few years have felt like someone built a machine that generates an endless supply of music to keep kids feeling detached and nostalgic. I dislike that machine.
Why does 2012 seem like a good time for the band to hang up its hat?
Ten years feels right. Fading out seems lame.
In making Constant Future, did you know it would be your last record as Parts & Labor, at least for a while?
It was discussed, but not dwelled on. We just wanted to make a record that brought together all the different things we do and that we were all really psyched about, and we did that.
In the past 10 years, has there been a defining moment/show/memory that sticks out — something you'll always hold onto?
There are too many of those to pick one.
What will you miss most about the band?
Traveling with friends.
Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.