Drew Parsons of American Hi-Fi
Stacy Jones formed American Hi-Fi after playing drums with the likes of Letters to Cleo and Veruca Salt. He made the jump from behind the kit to singer/guitarist/front man and recruited his friends from Boston to round out the band; Drew Parsons on Bass, Brian Nolan on drums, and Jamie Arentzen on guitar. Nolan would later be replaced by Jason Sutter on the skins.
The band recorded their self-titled cd in Maui with Bob Rock and had a hit single with “Flavor of the Weak”. They followed up their debut release with their album “The Art of Losing” and massive amounts of touring around the world. Their third and latest release “Hearts on Parade”, was written and recorded by the band alone and then some production help from the one and only Butch Walker.
It’s been some time since their last release so bassist Drew Parsons took some time to fill us in on where American Hi-Fi has been, and where they are going.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | April 2006
The band has sort of been MIA lately. Your fans want to know where you’ve been! There was some mention of maybe some side projects. Can you fill us in on where and what everyone has been up to?
Well, after all the touring we have done over the past 5 years or so, we decided it was time to take a break. Stacy has been busy producing a few different projects, Jason has been playing shows with the Rembrandts and Smash Mouth, Jamie has been involved with a few recording projects in LA, as well as playing guitar with a few of our friends for a new musical, and I have been sitting on my ass, hanging out with my wife and our two dogs!
The last time some of us saw AHF was when you were supporting Butch on his solo tour. Not only opening the show but literally supporting him by playing in his band! When I interviewed Butch, I asked him how this came about he said that he was sitting around with Stacy throwing back a few and mentioned needing a band for the tour and Stacy just casually said yes, and the rest was history. Was it tough playing two back to back sets every night and what were the major differences?
It wasn’t tough, it was really a lot of fun! The idea for the tour came about while working together in the studio. I’m glad that we were able to keep it on the road for as long as we did, and that we were able to bring Butch over to Japan with us. I guess the only major difference for me was that they weren’t our songs. It’s been a while since I’ve played someone else’s songs, and that can feel a little bit different. Really the major change was for Stacy, who had to switch from front man/guitar to drums. He got the biggest workout of the night for sure!
There’s mention of a new album this summer. Have you started writing it yet? Can you tell us what we can expect sound/style wise?
I hope that we can start working on the new record this June, although it’s really going to depend on the other guy’s schedules. I have no idea what it’s going to sound like, although I’m leaning towards a darker and more rock sound like our first record. We really won’t know until the four of us get together and start playing some music.
I always get stoked when I have my TV on and I happen to catch an AHF song either in a commercial or in the background of a show or in a movie. It’s almost like a secret handshake or something for AHF fans everywhere. I was wondering how you feel when you’re flipping through channels and hear yourself and also wondering how these things come about? Do you have much say in it or is it mainly driven by management?
I’m always stoked to hear us played on anything: TV, movies, radio, baseball stadiums (thank you Red Sox!) It’s amazing how many movie
trailers and TV clips we were able to get over the years, we really have BMG and our management to thank for that. Sometimes, there are so many projects in the mix, that I forget that we were involved with them until I hear it for myself. Soundtracks and TV shows have really helped us keep our business afloat. They’re great exposure too; I’m always amazed at how many people ask us to play “Vertigo”, which was an old demo that we had on the American Pie 2 soundtrack. As far as how much say we have, it’s 100% our call, but we’re not too picky…we’re basically soundtrack whores.
Following the lead of the last question, you just posted a new song on your MySpace page called The Rescue that is going to be on The Sound of Superman Soundtrack. The album is described as original songs and covers of various Superman-inspired tracks performed by a variety of artists and is going to be released on May 9th. Can you tell us what exactly that is and how you became involved? Is anyone in the band a big Superman fan? Will this song also be on your new album?
It’s something that we have been involved with for a while now, even before we were let go from Maverick. Honestly, it’s been so long that I forgot all about it until a few weeks ago when we found out it was going to be on the record and be the first single. We had some longtime friends and fans of the band push really hard to make this happen for us, it was pretty amazing. All the legal issues for the song are being worked out right now, so I’m not sure if it’s going to be on our next record. If it’s a hit a sure as hell hope so!
With every AHF album, Ive always been able to pick out what I would call the anthem song-the super catchy, stadium ready, cant get it out of your head, have to dance and sing song. Is this intentional? I know that’s a weird question but what I mean is – do you guys brainstorm and say, okay, let’s write the anthem song or is it just a natural product of the writing?
I guess it’s a little of both. I think we are all huge fans of anthemic rock and pop tunes, so it is a bit of a goal of ours. We’ve always wanted Hi-Fi to have simple pop rock songs that are catchy and easy to sing a long to. But mostly it just sort of happens; you’ll be recording something new and building it and building it until suddenly everyone in the studio is swaying with a lighter in their hands.
What is the general process for writing a new album? Do you all get together and lock yourselves in a room for a month? Do you write stuff individually and then swap ideas? It seems that there are so many different approaches, what works for AHF?
It’s been a little different for each record. The last record, a lot of it was written with Stacy, Jamie, and myself just going down to the studio and screwing around. Before we started officially recording the record, we spent a few weeks in LA trying a bunch of different ideas out in the studio. After I left for Boston, Jamie and Stacy continued on in the studio for a few more weeks. By the time we officially started the record, we had a ton of demos worked up, many of which ended up being the foundation for songs on the record. I hope that we can do that even more on this record. I’ll fly to LA, and the four of us we’ll go into the studio for a few weeks and just play and see what happens. It may not be the easiest way to do things (you know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen), but it’s the most rewarding because everyone is more involved.
AHF has toured with a very diverse collection of bands and musicians over the years. I s always fun to find out who you ll be touring with next. Who has been your favorite band or musician to share the stage with so far..and any particular reason why? If you could handpick your next tour absolutely anybody who would it be?
We have been fortunate to play with a pretty diverse group of musicians: One year we went from the Warped tour to the Elvis Costello tour-a bit of a different crowd. Which, by the way, was my favorite tour ever. I have been a fan of Elvis since I was a kid; his music has had such an impact on me over the years. It was really quite a thrill to open up for him and get to watch him perform every night. If I could tour with anybody thats out right now, I would go with Green Day. I saw their show in Jacksonville, FL last year and was blown away. They have really taken it to another level, and I would love to spend some time with them and see if any of it could rub off on us!
Having been involved in the industry for quite some time now and having had the usual mix of positive and negative experiences, how has your perception of the industry changed overall? If you had to give a fresh, untapped talent of a band some advice for their future, what would it be?
You hear the story of the older, jaded musician so much, but there is good reason why- The industry is really, really, hard on musicians.
Putting fierce, competitive, business people together with fragile artists almost always ends in the artist getting hurt. The structure of the music industry is set in a way that makes it so difficult for the artist to come out on top. And unfortunately, it’s never about the music. Having a successful album has such little to do with how good the music is-just listen to the radio for five minutes. So my advice to a young band would be that there is only one thing that you can count on in the music industry-each other. Enjoy all the time that you get to spend with your bandmates, the music you get to make with each other, and the deep relationships that grow over the course of your career. In the end, it’s the only thing that can make you happy, and can make or break a band.
Most of the press I’ve read over the years, the band always makes a point to state that they aren’t looking to release the same album twice, that there will always be a new feel and a new sound, sometimes a progression, sometimes just new influences. With that in mind, which AHF release is your personal favorite and why?
Thats a tough call. I’ll always love our first record, because it was our first, and I will never forget the months we spent with each other in Maui making it. The last record was great too, because I (and especially Jamie) were so much more involved in the writing process of the songs, that I feel a lot more a part that record. I think I’ll have to go with our first album, I love the rock side of that record, and you really can’t argue with seven months in Maui with Bob Rock.
What new bands would you recommend/should we check out (unsigned and/or signed)?
I don’t really know that many new bands, seeing that I’ve been hiding under a rock in my house for the last few months. My votes for records lately are Nada Surf and the new Flaming Lips record.
Flavor of the Weak
And just for some fun…
MySpace- blessing or a curse?
A little of both I think. You gotta love the exposure it gets you, but keeping up with all of the emails can get a little tough.
Stacy Jones – better drummer or front man?
Drummer, hands down. He has always been one of my favorite drummers, so it’s really going to take some years as a frontman to top that.
Before I go, I HAVE to ask..since I know some of you are Red Sox fans, how are you feeling about our team this year? Are you as bummed as I am about the Arroyo trade? Do you want to punch Johnny Damon in the gut?
I am a bit bummed about the Red Sox this year; it’s really hard to get back in the spirit of things now that Johnny and Bronson are gone. Both of them are friends of mine, so I was pretty sad to see them go. As far as punching Johnny in the gut, you really got that one all wrong. He gave the Sox every opportunity to resign him, in the end they just didn’t want to. And you got to remember that to the players, it’s not just a game, it’s their livelihood. Johnny has to do what he has to do to make sure he and his family are taken care of. He also needed to be is on a team that wanted him, and that unfortunately wasn’t the Sox. I’ll sure miss the late night poker games, though!
Who would be your dream concert at Fenway Park?
I would much rather have a chance to take some batting practice than play a rock show in Fenway any day!
Jamie showing off his Red Sox pride
American Hi-Fi Links: