The National Parks Are A Sight To See
The National Parks are an indie folk collective that is buzzing. Their high energy live shows and songs that have people singing along make them definitely a band go watch. Founded in Utah back in 2013, the four-piece consists of Brady Parks, Sydney Macfarlane, Cam Brannelly and Megan Taylor Parks who are a whirling dervish on stage who are having as much fun on stage as the people watching, which brings the intensity of each show to a fever pitch. Finally able to get out and tour again after being shut down by world affairs the band is making new friends and fans again and just released a new album, A Mix For The End Of The World, Pt. 1. Brady recently took a break to discuss getting back out on the road, the new album and the key to the young band’s success.
After being in hibernation in parts thanks to the pandemic, how did it feel to get out and start touring again?
Amazing. During the pandemic we actually decided to try our hand at touring. We had just released an album. We did these intimate outdoor 50 people kind of acoustic shows around a campfire all over the U.S. pretty much once it was safe for people to gather outdoors in limited groups. That was like a really neat experience. It was more intimate. We could connect more personally with our fans. One thing we really missed with that was the energy of a crowd and full sound/production and being able to play our songs the way they’re supposed to be played. Now, being able to tour an play in clubs and festivals in front of people again in a way that has energy back is so refreshing. It feels so great to have that back.
You guys are young, comparatively speaking compared to a lot of bands. What was your biggest concern before the world shut down during the pandemic and has it changed since then?
Yeah, I mean, I feel there’s a lot of challenges in a young independent band to break through. I think that has always been something we’ve been trying to follow creatively and get our music out there and everything. I think that has always been out top concern – just being able to connect with people through our music. I think the pandemic amplified that because those avenues in which you could connect with people were kind of taken away and so you had to get creative. It was actually an interesting time to deal with finding new ways to engage with our audience – livestreams and the Campfire tour and get creative in how we get our music out there. That’s still our biggest priority to keep getting our music out there.
When I saw you guys perform live it looked like a full band effort. A lot of times when you see a band usually there is one member that the band revolves around. You guys shared vocals and everyone was involved with the music the whole time.
Definitely. We are such a tight-knit group and work so hard. We have natural chemistry because we’re so close friends. I think transitioning that into live performance or musical creation is a pretty natural process with us because we push each other, we ‘re open about what we want to do. If anyone has any concerns, we talk openly about a lot of things. I feel like when we perform it’s something we worked really, really hard on, it’s also a natural progression to take that chemistry to the stage and try to be authentic about who we are on and off stage.
Is the songwriting a collective effort as well?
I do all the songwriting. Once I have a song pretty much written I’ll either send a voice memo to the band or I’ll send a demo over. And then from there it becomes pretty collaborative where everybody thinks of their parts and they can help add to the song and bring their flavor to it. From there we go to the studio and that’s where it really comes to life.
How do you decide who sings lead vocals on the different songs? As a songwriter are you more into the musical aspect of the song or the lyrical?
Both. I love writing lyrics and music. It’s an interesting process. When I’m writing I’ll have an idea in mind that fits Sydney’s vocals so perfectly and I’ll specifically write it for her to sing. Or there are parts that I’m hearing great harmonies – switching off vocal lines with Sydney and sometimes it’s such a personal song I feel it’s just me or I’ll write a song just for Syd. It’s kind of all over the place.
Do you believe all songs are meant to be recorded or are there songs meant just to be played live? A lot of times you’ll hear a song live and think “wow” and then hear it on an album and don’t like it as well.
One thing we really love to do is take songs of ours and change them for the live show. It’s a different experience. I’ve also been to shows where bands will play and there’s not a lot of energy. It kind of feels like you’re listening to the album. And so for us there’s a lot of songs, especially on our first album – our older songs on our first album were kind of more soft and intimate – like folky songs. And when we do play those live we change them to kind of fit the atmosphere and energy of a live show. That’s someth9ing we like to do; is make it a definitely different experience live and hopefully those songs still hold up on the recording.
You studied advertising and design in school. Does your background in design help you visualize what you are writing?
I love seeing it all come together. I do, when I’m writing, do things very visually when I’m writing. I love to kind of be able to tie up the whole package – the design aspect of it, the visual aspect of it to match the vibe, the energy of the song and the album. I think that plays a bit part creatively for me. I also feel like it’s an outlet for me to be able to do that, to see it all come together – if that makes sense. There’s a season for me where I’ll be writing a lot that it’s I’ll need my creative juices to keep going, but in a different way and that’s why I’m more into designing merch or album artwork, or anything for the band. I love being able to tie those two worlds together.
I understand you guys have a new album called A Mix For The Of The World, Pt. 1.
That, of course was written during the pandemic obviously. How is the songwriting between Wildfire that was release a couple of months after the pandemic started? A lot of those songs I’m guessing were written before the pandemic started. I was wondering if there was a difference in emotions during the songwriting between the two albums.
Yeah, a hundred percent. Wildfire was written pre-pandemic. We released it mid pandemic and shortly thereafter came to me. It’s like this album, A Mix For The End Of The World is all about the emotions that we’re going through and the craziness of these times and I personally listen to a lot of podcasts like that and so overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world. Man, I just want to take a step back and remember that even in all these heavy times there’s so much joy in the moments we have with the people we have with the people we love. There’s a lot of love songs on this new album. There’s a song about aliens. It’s called “UFO”, which was kind of inspired by the Pentagon releasing UFO footage. It’s like, could it get any crazier that where we are at now? (laughs) One thing after another. That’s why it changed. It’s very much inspired by what’s going on right now.
I notice it’s called Part 1. But if it’s the end of the world, how can there be a Part 2? (both laugh)
Did you guys write a lot of material that you had written that didn’t make it on Pt. 1?
There was a few, but not a ton. We kind of just felt like the group of songs we had told the story of what we wanted to tell. It’d only part pf the story and we’re still working on Pt. 2 to finish it up and tie it together. We felt like, “Yeah, this is complete, but doesn’t finish the story but let’s put this out as it is”.
Many an artist is an introvert. Graphic art that you do, many graphic designers I know are introverts, but we all seem to have an extrovert inside us. Do you consider yourself an introvert by nature and use the stage to get that inner extrovert out or are have you always been a “people person”?
That’s interesting. I feel way more of an extrovert when I’m on stage. It’s almost like a persona. It’s easier for me to come out of that shell when I’ m on stage. I’ve always kind of been the person that has a tight-knit group and maybe have some social anxiety somewhere in there, but I definitely feel more introverted than when I’m onstage.
I was really impressed with your set at Moon River Festival earlier this year. What really impressed me was after the show as I watched you guys. You were chatting with out there and you guys just blended in with everyone. Sometimes you’ll go to a concert and you can immediately spot the artist compared to someone attending the show. You guys seemed to be part of the crowd. You didn’t seem rushed or the conversation forced.
That’s something we love to do – especially a year after last year. To be able to actually personally connect with our fans was awesome. We were so hyped when coming off the stage from playing that. We weren’t sure what to expect. We had a midday set. We didn’t know if people would come out and to look out and see 20,000 people out there. It was a pretty wild experience. I think coming off stage we felt super grateful and were riding that high and just wanted to talk to everyone we could.
You guys seems to interact well with your fans. What is one of the funnier or odd conversation you have had that you’re willing to share?
That’s a good question. At a show in Utah Megan wore these pants that were cow print with sparkly fringe – like Western kind of pants. We have posted pictures of that. In November there was actually a woman in the audience who made her own. And that was pretty funny. She came to us after. “Man, I’m so mad you didn’t wear yours”, because she was wearing hers. I thought it was so cool.
You guys are obviously getting out more. Does your song list vary from show to show or from playing festivals to smaller venues? I realize playing electric to acoustic there are some obvious difference.
When we’re on tour in the normal way with full band and full production we do typically play the same set. If something is not feeling right, I try other songs from the catalog until I feel like we’ve locked down the set. But usually it’s pretty consistent throughout the tour. But that is a very different set list than what we played during the Campfire tour. We tend to pull in a lot of older songs or stripped down versions of these newer songs and play them in a different way. Live is definitely a different experience.
– Dave Weinthal