Most guys in college who have a band are trying to figure out how to get
a gig at the local bars or frats.
The members of Parachute were recording their major label debut.
The band’s catchy rock & soul music caused a buzz out of The University
of Virginia – where the band was started by singer/songwriter Will
Anderson, guitarist Nate McFarland, drummer Johnny Stubblefield, bassist
Alex Hargrave and saxophonist/keyboard player Kit French formed the
By their sophomore year, labels were checking out their gigs. By junior
year, they were signed to Mercury/Island/Def Jam. In their senior year,
they had to balance their studies with the
recording of their debut album.
Now the guys have graduated and that debut – called Losing Sleep
– is ready to roll. Previewed by the lovely ballad “She Is Love” (which
captured a buzz after its use in a commercial for Nivea) and the Maroon
5-vibed soulful rocker “Under Control” (which is currently iTune’s
single of the week), the album is poised to explode.
In the weeks leading to the release of Losing Sleep,
singer/songwriter Anderson and guitarist McFarland were nice enough to
sit down with us to discuss the band and the debut album.
How did you first get
started in music?
Will Anderson: We met when we were in high school and started
a band in tenth grade. Then we went to college and met Nate, who is our
guitarist. In college it was really discovering new music and really
trying to refine our sound to a point that we were happy with. We got
signed our third year of college and our senior year was spent juggling
classes and trying to get out to LA on weekends to record. It was a
Had you recorded
before? On AllMusic.com when I looked you up,
there was not much info but there were four other albums listed by
Parachute on the Pony Canyon label all released in 2006. Was that you
or another band by the same name? If so what can you tell me about the
Will Anderson: No, that’s not us.
apparently another Parachute out there somewhere.
Will Anderson: Yeah, this is our first full length release.
How did you get
involved with Mercury/Island?
We were in college. We took a meeting with them.
They were one of the first labels we met with – when we were up in New
York at one point playing a show. They heard our music and liked it.
We heard good things about them. Eventually after probably about six
months of talking and they kept coming out to the shows and showing a
lot of interest, we did a deal with them Spring semester of our junior
year, so that would be 2007. It was one of those things where it worked
out well. The first meeting we took was the last meeting we took, too.
It was a great label and a great group of people that were really
passionate about the music. As passionate as we were, so we’re excited
to be working with them. It’s worked out great. We made the best
decision of our lives.
You have been sort of
working towards the album for a couple of years. What’s it like now
that the album is coming out?
This is really exciting. I think we’re all really pumped to have this.
It’s such a big step – in being in a band and having a product you’ve
worked hard on. We’ve been working on it for a year and a half. So it
just feels really good to on May 19 to just be able to hand that piece
of work… a piece of art, if you will… to somebody and say “This is who
we are. This is our best work, as of today, the latest and greatest.”
I got the album on a
download, so I didn’t get liner notes. Therefore I don’t know how the
writing is done in the band. Does one member of the band do the writing
or all together? How does that work?
Will Anderson: Well, I usually do the writing. It’s usually me
staying up late at night doing the writing and losing sleep about it –
which is the title of the album. But Nate and I wrote a song together
for the album. We went to a studio and worked for a couple of days on it
and it ended up on the album. I wrote with a couple of our producers
who we meshed well with. It just really turned into a very
collaborative effort in the end. I start with the song and gotten the
skeleton of it, but everybody has contributed and eventually it came out
the album that it is now. So, it’s definitely a group effort. They are
the first people to shoot down songs when they’re bad and the first
people that really dig down deep and sit and practice for a while and
really try to refine the songs. I think that, you know, even though it
is my name on the songwriting credit, I think everybody definitely had a
big part in it.
On thing I really
like about the album is you guys aren’t afraid to experiment with
styles. “The New Year” rocked, “For Liz” is sort of funky, while “Mess
I Made” is a big rock ballad, “Ghost” is more poppy, “Blame It On Me” is
a piano ballad that even had a bit of a bossa nova feel. Were you
looking to experiment with styles on the album?
Yeah, I definitely think we… I love that we have that diversity of Will
playing the piano and he’s singing electric, so it really opens up in
terms of instrumentation. We’ve got Kit who can play saxophone, but
also organ and keyboards. It really enables us to do songs. In live
shows, we can cover Billy Joel songs with saxophone to doing a Ryan
Adams rock and roll tunes. I think the instrumentation of the band is
really flexible. I think that’s a really great aspect about it.
I noticed that in
several of the songs when they turned to love the relationships were in
trouble or dying. As a songwriter, do you find troubled relationships
more interesting than happy ones?
Will Anderson: Yeah, I think that any time life has some kind of
disruption, it’s easier to write songs sock up to tragedy some times. I
think for me as a songwriter, it really comes down to connecting on a
level that isn’t fake. That’s real and true to us. So, the time I was
writing those songs, I’m sure I was in a relationship that wasn’t doing
well. The time I was writing the happy songs, I was in a relationship
that was doing well. So, for us it’s really important to stay true to
what is going on in our lives. It’s something that we experienced.
We’re not singing about stuff like big cash, big cars, big money… stuff
we just don’t know. For us it’s important to connect with the listener
and the half of me that’s relatable.
Was the song “For
Liz” about anyone in particular? If so, did you find out what she
thought of it?
Will Anderson: She does not know. She does not know it’s about
her. So “For Liz” was for a specific person. I think they’re doing
well. I haven’t talked with them recently. But they do not know the
song is for them.
You did “She Is Love”
in an acoustic version as well as the studio version. What do you think
each way of playing adds to the song?
Will originally wrote it on acoustic guitar and it’s just a very
intimate performance. It’s beautiful. Just one guitar and one voice… I
think is really refreshing on the track listing of the album. I think
the full band version has the power of that emotion – the sweeping,
rolling drum fills and guitar riffs that are a little bit haunting.
It’s intimate and then the full-fledged emotion, which is another very
articulate answer. (laughs)
I believe “She Is
Love” is the first single of the album…
Will Anderson: Yes.
Did you guys have a
say on what song would become the single or was it the label?
What’s great about our relationship with Mercury is
that it’s never really one or the other. It’s a very collaborative
thing. We haven’t really been pushed around.
to put this song out.”
That song, we like the song a lot. We like the
acoustic version and the electric version. But it kind of took on a
life of its own when we were basically… We got picked up for a Nivea
commercial, which… we didn’t think was going to be anything, but it
turned out to be really a lot bigger than we thought it was going to
be. We got such a great reaction from that commercial and playing it
live that it just started to make sense to put it out. Radio stations
literally were calling being like, “We heard the song on TV. Is the
song coming out?” It made sense for us to say, okay, this song kind of
reared its head out of all of them to be the first single. I’m sure it
would have been a single eventually, no matter what. We put that out
first and the reaction we’ve been getting is absolutely incredible. We
never really thought that that song would turn out the way it did and
that people would like it so much. So for us to get to see the reaction
of people is very humbling and very exciting for all of us.
Like you said, the
song was used in the ad and you guys have been popping up on IFC, MTVu,
even a commercial. It used to be you only had radio to get your music
out there. How do you think that all these other venues help bands to
Yes, a little side note, we just heard we got added to VH1 today. Yeah,
it’s a new world out there. Our culture is so bombarded by images and
internet – so overstimulated that you have to attack in a lot of
different venues and a lot of different mediums. It’s exciting that you
have all the different ones. You’ve got your MySpace, you’ve got TV.
But it’s also, you feel like you have a lot of bases to cover. We’re
just taking whatever exposure we can get. Our goal is to play and be
heard by as many people as possible.
How did you guys hook
up with [producer] John Shanks? What was he like to work with?
Will Anderson: John had called our manager and heard our stuff.
We were really excited that he had showed interest in it. We went up
there and hit it off. He’s an incredible producer – he’s worked with
everybody from Bon Jovi to Ashlee Simpson and everyone in between. He
taught us a lot about the studio and how to record an album…
… with efficiency…
Will Anderson: Yeah, efficiency… (both laugh)
Without rushing you.
Will Anderson: He’s very good at working and getting a great
performance out of you. I think that’s his strong suit. He does it in
a way that’s not… you don’t feel like you’re doing something and
suddenly you realize that he’s getting you to do things vocally and with
your instrument in the song and arrangement that you never thought
possible before. He’s a great producer, a good friend and we were just
so excited to work with someone of his caliber.
You played SxSW
recently, what was that like?
Will Anderson: Great. It was a lot busier than last year. Last
year we went and we played a showcase for a label and it was a very
preliminary thing as we were recording. We got to hang out for three or
four days with nothing to do. This year was incredibly busy. We were
up really early and went to bed really late, just doing interviews and
showcases. They showed us in the end at Stubbs, which is the big venue
there. We got to open up for some great bands like PJ Harvey and Third
Eye Blind. The response we got was great. There were probably 1,500
people and it was huge. It was a lot of fun. It was definitely a
culmination of a great week there.
What would people be
surprised to know about you?
Will Anderson: Good question.
They’d be surprised to know that uh… that’s a great question. I think
that the majority of us are very outdoorsy…
Will Anderson: Yeah, very outdoorsy.
Climbing, rock climbing, sponsored biking.
Will Anderson: Extreme. A lot of extreme guys in our band. We
may not look like it in our pictures. But we are a little bit extreme.
How would you like
for people to see your music?
Will Anderson: I want it to be something that’s accessible, I
think, first and foremost. Something that everybody can find something
that they like on Losing Sleep. Something that is really
important to us as well is doing it in a way that is not compromising
the song. We don’t want to just sell out. We’re writing pop songs
here, there’s no question about it, but we want to do it in a way that’s
classy and something that people can respect and say, “Okay, I get it.”
Something that everybody can listen to as well. For us I think it’s
important that the people can access it in a way that’s not necessarily
“we’re too cool for school” or “we’re too indie.” It’s also not just
like, “Give us money, give us money.” We’re in it for the long haul.
We’re not here to be a little flash in the pan.