Winners of the 2005 International Songwriting Competition, Parlour Steps strive to create something new: Thought-Rock!
Four friends left to their own devices; Equal parts melody, rhythm, and epiphany. Hailing from coastal Vancouver, Canada, they venture to lead us into a musical conversation, leaving us with more questions than answers.
Their sound lies somewhere between the emotion of Broken Social Scene and The Weakerthans, with the adventurousness of The Arcade Fire. With love and experience of art-damaged rawk, expansive space-pop, cool jazz, and sinister noir-country, Parlour Steps' pallet is large and inclusive. The bandhave local acclaim in The Georgia Straight, The Vancouver Courier, Vancouver Sun, and Terminal City. Radio play on CBC and university stations. Parlour Steps charted in the top fifty played and requested artists in their format many times over.
Parlour Steps Biography
A Band In Progress…
Parlour Steps are creating something new: Thought-Rock! This is art-damaged beauty, music that is both stormy and playful; reflective of their west coast Canadian home of Vancouver. Within the modern, popular landscape, influence is drawn from emotional rockers Arcade Fire and Pixies, combined with the lyrical elements of Sufjan Stephens and Tom Waits. Unafraid of asking big questions and taking musical risks, the world is taking notice of this exceptional band.
“Thieves of Memory” has been chosen from over 15,000 entrants as a winner in the world renowned International Songwriting Competition (http://www.songwritingcompetition.com/winners.htm), placing Parlour Steps, and in particular chief songwriter Caleb Stull, in the international spotlight.
“Thieves of Memory” can be heard on the Adidas Website: http://www.adidas.com/campaigns/verticalsfootball/content/index.asp?strCountry_adidascom=ca
“Thieves of Memory” was just released internationally on the Sonicbids Listen Vol. 2 Compilation (http://www.sonicbids.com/parloursteps), raising money for hurricane relief as well as showcasing some of North America’s best independent talent.
Parlour Steps latest full-length record “The Great Perhaps” was released in late 2005 to wide critical acclaim (see attached press excerpts), picking up national distribution with Scratch Records (http://www.scratchrecords.com). Radio play, podcasts, and web-streaming have launched the band’s music to listeners across the continent. CBC, college, and university radio play, in Canada and the U.S., has seen Parlour Steps charted in the top fifty played and requested artists in their format many times over.
You can hear “ The Modern Today”, a definite highlight of their new record, on the third episode of the new television show Whistler, set to air in the coming months.
The band is comprised of Caleb Stull singing and playing his guitars, Julie Bavalis singing and playing her bass guitar, Rees Haynes playing guitars, and Robert Linton banging his drums.
Early 2006 is seeing Parlour Steps touring down the coast of the U.S. From there they go eastward and play central and eastern Canada and the U.S.
A complete electronic press kit, including MP3’s, full biographies, press clippings, and the band’s latest news can be found on their website:
Parlour Steps compact discs are distributed through Scratch Records (http://www.scratchrecords.com), or can be purchased at www.cdbaby.com
Contact tel. 604. 339. 3683, email: email@example.com
Press: The Nerve Magazine
Ferdy Belland, Nerve Magazine Feb/06
Online original with photo can be found at:
There are some bands where one wonders why the Christ they aren’t all over the map by now, and how there’s no art-media justice when said bands keep flying under the radar. Such a band is Vancouver’s whiz kids, the Parlour Steps. Melding fine art-rock and powerpop sensibilities, the Steps have released three albums - The Myth of Summer (2000), Hours of Tremors (2002), and their latest,The Great Perhaps (2005) – which need to share shelf space alongside all of your favorite CDs.
Guitarist/songwriter/benevolent-despotfor- life Caleb Stull, electric/upright bassist Julie Bavalis, guitarist Rees Haynes, and drummer Robert Linton meld exciting honey-like harmonies and inventive, adventurous musical tricks overtop some of the smartest songsmithing this side of Alex Chilton, and the Rheostatics. You can see for yourself at the Railway Club on February 10th, when they support the mighty Hinterland.
It’s no surprise that the multitalented Stull leads a dual life not only as one of Vancouver’s best pop-rock songwriters, but is also a fine recording engineer (in the league of Jesse Gander and Howard Redekopp). He produced all three Parlour Steps albums as well as Hinterland’s soon-to-be-released disc. “I’ve been producing seriously here in Vancouver over the past six years now,” Stull explains. “My latest projects (include) finishing up a record for Windows 78. I’ll only work with artists I respect… I could make a killing recording Nickelback clones, but my heart just wouldn’t be into it.”
When asked about the musical development of his band, Stull explains: “We started off the band with far more of a performance art aspect, but even by the Blue Album (Hours of Tremors), we were crossing over into more rock’n’roll territory, adding it to the jazz-rock and psychedelic foundations of our sound.”
“The songs have a lot of edges and corners,” adds Linton “Even within the three-and-ahalf- minute pop song, we find challenge and movement, for ourselves as well as the listener.”
“I’ll bring in songs as a basic sketch,” Stull reveals, “and the others will fill in the colours around it. Usually I have a rough sense of the melody and a rough sense of the lyrics… I’d like to get back to more organic songwriting with the Steps, but since we’re all so busy outside the band, it’s rare when we can spend five hours on a song.”
Stull formed the Parlour Steps in 2000 and is the only original member; the current lineup – together since mid-2004 – enjoys a solid camaraderie, built on personalities and musical passion.
“Julie takes a bit of flak out there,” Stull remarks on his absent bandmate. “She’s cute, she’s blond, so she takes a lot of shit from sound techs and others who mistake her for a ditz, or an amateur. So when she tears into her bass and sings like an operatic banshee and blows everyone away, everyone’s stunned and mystified – ‘wow, you can actually play!’ I’ve done the ‘sausage party’ thing in other bands, but I like the band dynamic now.” “Julie keeps us from getting too cock rock,” Linton quips.
Press: The Georgia Straight
Original with photo to be found at: http://www.straight.com/content.cfm?id=12426
When Caleb Stull describes the music he makes with his band Parlour Steps as “thought-rock”, he’s not kidding. As heard on the quartet’s new CD, The Great Perhaps, the singer-guitarist and songwriter’s lyrics seem designed to provoke discussions about life’s weightier issues. Throughout the disc’s 12 tracks, Stull sprinkles his musings about humankind’s widening footprint on the natural world, the search for meaning beyond material things, and the sometimes maddening speed of life in the modern concrete jungle.
“Through the lyrics, I have expressed my feelings about the frantic pace that’s instilled in all of us, an inner tempo that’s quicker than I was used to growing up,” Stull says, interviewed on the patio of an Oak Street restaurant, with the roar of automobiles providing an apt soundtrack. “And the sense of never being alone, always hearing other people, always hearing society in some way. Never being able to actually find quiet in the city, that sort of thing.”
The Great Perhaps is not a record with any particular political agenda; nor does it have a philosophy to push. Its intention, it seems, is to engage listeners with fodder to fuel their own journeys. “Does a tragic end befall all innocence?” Stull asks on “Hero/Villain”. “Are we special? Are we common at the same time?”
“Certainly as I grow older I try to become more aware of my own impact on things and people around me—my own energies, and how that is pushing me to do things,” he says between sips of beer. “A big thing that comes up in the songs is questions. I like to throw out a lot of questions, almost necessarily things that I don’t know the answer to. It can get pretty lofty and pretty high-minded.”
The same could be said of Parlour Steps’ music. The Great Perhaps was helmed by Stull himself, whose production, engineering, and mixing credits include records by local acts such as the Front, Magic Ass, and Paint. On its surface, this is an album of pleasingly melodic art-rock, but there’s no mistaking the jazz influence in Rees Haynes’s fluid guitar lines and Rob Linton’s tastefully insistent drumming. The twangy “Lord Do Hold Me” draws from the same dusty well as Calexico’s best work, “Subtle” lives up to its title with delicate acoustic picking and creaking-floorboards cello, and “Her as Evidence” is a layered space-rock epic complete with EBow, saxophone, and electrified slide guitar.
The ambitious disc took well over a year to complete, with the band’s newest recruit, bassist Julie Bavalis, stepping in partway through the process. “We started recording in January of 2004 with Kim Stewart, our former bass player,” Stull says. “I think the rock ’n’ roll world tuckered her out, so she moved on and we kind of wallowed in nebulous, directionless sludge for a while. We just kind of did our own things, like put out a solo record and blah blah blah, and then we found Julie and it’s gotten awesome. We’re really starting to meld now. Musically, we’re tighter than we’ve ever been before. She brings a really nice element to the band. She’s technically proficient. She’s got a great sense of humour, really sassy. And she looks great.”
The group has plans to tour the West Coast of the U.S. in the fall and then hit festivals next summer. That means a whole lot of folks will be exposed to thought-rock. This is a good thing, but Stull has no illusions that his songs will spark some sort of intellectual revolution among the unwashed masses.
“My intention is not to tell anybody their business,” he insists. “I mean, I only write what I know and what interests me and what’s going through my world. I think pretension would come from overstating yourself, trying to assume some kind of competence or understanding within an area that you can’t lay claim to. I hope I don’t do that.”
Press: Terminal City
Curtis Woloschuk, Terminal City Weekly - Aug 25, 2005
Original with photo found at: http://www.terminalcity.ca/content/view/1061/139/
“I seem to keep asking a lot of questions,” suggests Caleb Stull concerning the lyrical content of his songs. “I don’t offer a lot of answers but sometimes the questions are better.” Drummer Rob Linton has joined the singer/guitarist and the pair are eagerly discussing Parlour Steps’ upcoming album, The Great Perhaps. For a prolonged period, the largest question concerning the record was whether it would ever see the light of day.
Stull and Linton, along with guitarist Rees Haynes and bassist/singer Kim Stewart, entered Greenhouse Studios in January 2004. There, they recorded the bulk of what was to be the band’s third record. However, shortly after the sessions, Stewart bowed out of Parlour Steps and left the remaining members with a quandary. “We were wondering if we should even release [the album] if it wasn’t really us,” admits Linton in a testament to how integral Stewart was to the group’s identity. “Plus, she provided our transportation and jam space,” he laughs.
By way of background, Stull advises, “[Parlour Steps] started out as a bit of a cabaret act for a theatre series. Our original sound was all over the place.” Frequently charged with overt eclecticism, the group underwent a variety of roster shifts and an eventual cohesion in terms of their sound. In Stull’s opinion, the most important alteration came in reducing the band to a four-piece. “Melodically speaking, there’s a lot more room now,” says the sole founding member. “To use a clichéd term, we’ve found a voice. It definitely comes from all of us.” Consequently, the loss of a key contributor was difficult to overcome.
After the better part of a year and a few misadventures, an exemplary replacement was discovered in Julie Bavalis. “As the drummer, I have a vested interest in our bassist,” suggests Linton. “Rhythmically, she’s unbelievable.” Bavalis also shares a jazz background with both Linton and Haynes, something Stull sees as an asset in exploring inventive song arrangements. However, Linton believes their formal music education to be less important than the players’ similar dispositions. “We’re a great listening band,” he states. “There are a lot of opportunities to play off of ideas.”
“We’re also not afraid to talk about the music and intellectualize it,” offers Stull. His approach to lyrics is similarly cerebral. “I do aspire with my songwriting to reach for something,” he states. “It’s usually something philosophical or metaphysical. Themes that really stuck out on this record were the modern times, love and spirituality.” Such studies occur amidst a sonic tableau of interstellar expanses and dark atmospherics. Also the band’s producer, Stull’s affection for Dave Fridmann and Nigel Godrich is readily apparent. The bombastic “Perpetual Dream” capably compliments rhythmically enticing “Libertine Takes A Lover.” “Launched Into Vacancy” provides the record’s epic centrepiece before ushering in the contemplative “Her As Evidence”. After Bavalis’ arrival, the band recorded three new songs including the country inflected “Lord, Do Hold Me!” and “The Modern Today”—perhaps the embodiment of their “thought-rock” aspirations. Both Stull and Linton feel the album ultimately benefited from its dormant spell. Once revisited, songs were no longer sacred and elements could be liberally excised and amended. The final result is a record that’s incredibly unified considering the pitfalls encountered on its path to completion.
“It’s been exhilarating,” says Stull of Parlour Steps’ evolution. After crafting three albums in five years and playing an abundance of local shows, the band is eager to explore new challenges such as touring. “I definitely feel that we now have more momentum than we’ve ever had before,” he ventures enthusiastically. “All the pieces are falling into place.”
Funny how some listeners are scared off by songs that reveal a person's more intellectual side.
The Kinks and XTC had a problem with that, but, along with their strong melodies, sense of humour, unmatched imagination, and the ability to still rock when they wanted to, they remain two of my all-time favorite acts.
Parlour Steps, whether they'll admit to it or not, have the same sort of pedigree. This makes them one of my favourite local bands. This is just a 2 song EP ,but, what I hear here makes me anxious for their third full length.
The chorus on "Libertine Takes a Lover" is the result of letting one's imagination and invention run free: "As we’re traveling fast, you can see our hearts are beating slow, oh so slow. Fading in our romance,eating up the scenery, the rest of this human, show." There's also a most hypnotic guitar signature wrapped around it, and the solid backing of bass and dynamic drumming (and what drumming it is. Take a bow, Rob) just make it stand apart from the competition even more so. The second cut: "Make Way" with it's well-placed hooks, gives the impression the author is questioning what's going on around him with the people and what they do to their surroundings.
Trying to stay composed and sane, but, later, being scared by it. "Are there any wilds anymore? As the indoors are eating the outdoors. Someone is counting all of our enemies...There's no place you can dissapear into...Your public space is dying...communities need reviving..."
The cheerful "Whoo-hoo-hoo!!" near the end, with the intense guitar barrage in full attack, by Caleb (lead singer and main songwriter) gives the song some levity, even though it is quite hypnotic and lingering to start with. Lead guitarist, Rees, adds some complimentary guitar riffs and chimes that are finely suited to the muse.
Parlour Steps succeed in supplying pleasing ear and brain candy in a fierce
and daunting juggling act. Step right up, folks!