Interview: LA Rockers Strange Parade Talk New Single ‘The Watchers’, Upcoming Album, & More

Marching forward with an eclectic mixture of rock soundscapes, Strange Parade is ready to share their music with the world.

Formed by Brian Cleary (formerly of The Movies and Radar Brothers), the band has brought together musicians with extensive experiences in an array of genres to be able to create the ‘strange’ sound of Strange Parade. 

Cleary is joined by Dan Allaire (who has worked with Cass McCoombs, Darker My Love and BJM) on drums, Paul Lacques (I See Hawks, Double Naught Spycar, The Bonedaddys) with his guitar mastery, and bassist Ashley Berry, who Cleary picked up after seeing her fill in for a friend during a show. 

This unique group of musicians hit the scene with their debut full length record released in 2019, and come May 6th of this year, they are set to drop their next album, The Watchers. The title track from the album, set to be released tomorrow March 18th, will be the first of two singles to drop before the full record. “The Watchers, has been described by Cleary as “Americana-psyche-esque rocker that builds off an early country-blues-style riff.”

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We got the chance to chat with Cleary about the new single, their upcoming album, and much more.

Can you talk about how Strange Parade got together and the vision for the project? 

Strange Parade started as a project, not a live band. The idea of forming a band was a twinkle in my eye since was 6-7 years old. I’ve played in bands since I was 14, but if I wrote, it was always just coming up with the music. Around 2011 or so, when I was in Radar Brothers, I started writing full songs and recording them, mostly with Be Hussey and Jim Putnam (both of Radar Brothers). I started recording at Be’s studio, Comp.ny. He and Jim are both incredible engineers and collaborators. They were instrumental in encouraging what I was doing. I also recorded a few songs with Phil Manly (Trans Am, Terri Gross), who was also amazing to work with and has a beautiful studio. These recordings became the first Strange Parade album, “Between Us All.”  

So, it started as a project and became a band. The line up came together late 2018 and it just really gelled on all the levels. Paul lived 2 doors down so we used to overhear each other practicing. We auditioned each other through our windows. Paul has an incredibly rich musical background, complete with Grammys and everything. We communicate well together musically and realized that from the start. I met Ashley when she was filling in on bass for a friend’s band, Wet & Reckless, and was just impressed as hell with her playing. Dan Allaire and I met at a wedding in NY for another former Radar Brother/friend. He’d just left Brian Jonestown Massacre and was ready for something new. As it turned out, they were all a perfect fit for the songs. Especially the ones I couldn’t even imagine with drums or bass.  

As for the vision, I like to let that iterate itself. The four of us all do it for the love of making music, really. On that, I think we’re all breathing the same air.

I see you have your new single, “The Watchers,” dropping soon. What’s the backstory and influence behind this track?

The bones of it spilled out of the first chords and it all happened pretty fast; chords, words, everything. This was the first song we learned and developed as a band. The inspiration for the lyric came from way back. I was a pretty strange kid. I had this sort of fantasy in my head that there were people who could see and hear what I’d see and hear — as if they were watching it all on a TV through my eyes, POV style. It started around age 5 or 6 when I spent a lot of time alone in the basement playing the piano. I basically invented an audience. For reasons I’ll probably never understand, my ‘watchers’ were this Inuit family who somehow had a working TV in their igloo. 

The song is basically about that part of your brain where you see yourself from the outside and how that evolves as you grow up. We are releasing two singles from The Watchers LP, starting with the title track – an acoustic guitar-driven, swirling Americana-psyche-esque rocker that builds off an early country-blues-style riff.

How do you know when a song like this is finished? Do you find yourself forever wanting to tweak and re-record etc.?

It’s never really finished. I think you just decide you like where you brought it and shut the rest of your brain up. Otherwise, you’re doomed. For this song, the band hit a good frenzy. The trick for the ending was in tapping into that energy in the overdubs and forgetting the record button was on. I think we got there. 

I see this is the titular track of an upcoming EP as well. What can you tell us about the new album?

The LP is called ‘The Watchers’ and it’s nine songs we all developed together. I couldn’t tell you what the musical influences were. They were pretty unconscious and I’m guessing different for every song. In terms of writing and developing the songs, we were guided by a decision to leave most of the strangeness and psychedelia in the music and lyrics as opposed to the production.   

As far as the production and sound of the album, I was listening to a lot of late 60s/early 70s albums at the time. Paul and I were listening to a lot of early Fairport Convention. Then I’d acquired these two pretty obscure records and really liked their sound in particular. One was a solo album from this guy Tommy Flanders who was in that mid/late 60s band, Blues Project. The other was a one-off project called Tax Free. It’s Wally Tax from the Dutch 60s psyche band, The Outsiders trying something pretty different. I’d say these albums and maybe The Feelies, “The Good Earth” inspired decisions around the sound. 

Where was it recorded and who helped produce it?
We practiced in a house I lived in, up high against this beautiful, undeveloped hill in Highland Park called Poppy Peak (which they’re now threatening to develop, of course). Paul mobilized his recording studio so we tracked some at my place and some at Paul’s. Paul’s produced a lot of impressive albums and while I helped in the shaping of things, he did the real work, engineering and bringing it all together. Then we had the legendary Dave Trumfio mix it. He was amazing to work with. Paul Dugre did the mastering on both SP albums. I’m pretty sure the guy has a bionic ear. 

Do you find determining the order of songs on an album to be a challenge, and how important is that to you?

That’s always a challenge if you do it right. I did college radio shows for about 16 years and my shows were about the segues. Song order is a big deal to me. I think the album is pretty well strung together sonically, so that made it a lot easier. 

it’s really too bad a lot of streaming sites default to play albums on shuffle. I like when albums are designed more like a symphony — they just cling to you more. Maybe there’s a short-term gain to shuffling people through algorithms, but I think it’s a short-sighted strategy. Listeners bond with a few songs but not the album. I love that younger people are getting now into vinyl and cassettes. They’re like “screw you and your algorithms.”  

Did you feel the past few years helped or hindered your creative process and artistic drive? Neither?

I did start the pandemic on a creative spree. It was weirdly cool to have such a great excuse to stay home. I kind of embraced it, but the output was more improvised piano music than songs. I was trying to get my Keith Jarrett on. I did finish up some songs I had lying around and wrote a handful of new ones, two that we’re learning now. I was in Salt Lake City for the first year and a half of the pandemic so I also didn’t have the band around for inspiration. I wouldn’t call that period a floodgate of inspiration for me. It was more of a slow, steady drizzle. 

Paul got very inspired. He and some friends formed a project and recorded some really cool instrumental rock under the name Ape Pop. The mixer, Dave Trumfio was in the middle of making this amazing album he did remotely with The Mekons. I was a little envious of all this remote recording but didn’t have the gear to pull it off, so I just played the piano mostly. 

What messages or feelings do you typically try to convey in your music?

I’m not sure if there’s a ‘typically’ in there. I’m sure a shrink could probably find one. Feeling-wise, It’s different for each song. I tend to write about immediate experience or observations I get, then I might layer in bigger meanings or ideas. Sometimes it’s vice versa where I’ll have an idea and bring it out in a more immediate story. There are a few songs on the album, like the first song, where I’ll just say very directly what comes to mind and I’ll leave it at that. As for messages, it varies. I avoid being too specific. I try to let the listener discern the meaning for themselves. If I have a point, I don’t really spell it out usually. I also avoid being dogmatic in lyrics. I avoid preachiness like the plague.

What does success as a musician and songwriter mean to you?

I think for me it’s all in the output. At base, if I can make music I really like, that’s the primary success. If I can make the music with people I love, all the better. If other people like the music, all the better. With music, I think too much focus on the goal takes the fun and the and really, the purity out of the process. We never sought to sound like one band or another or to reach any particular level of success. As a band, if playing and recording frees us somehow, whether it’s just from the daily grind or from our day jobs, we’ve succeeded either way. 

What else might 2022 have in store for Strange Parade? Tour plans or anything?

The Watchers comes out on May 6, so we’re playing a release show at Silverlake Lounge in LA May 7. We’re hoping to play live a lot more because we love it. The Eastside LA landscape changed a lot in the last 5-10 years, but that was hyper-spaced by Covid. Old venues in new hands, new venues and bookers. It’s like starting from scratch again. We’d love to land a good direct support tour that makes sense for us, but right now, we’re just itching to play these new songs and play for new people. Ultimately, we just wanna play.

Photo by Jean-Paul Bondy

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