It’s not easy to get a full handle on the tornado of tones and rhythms pouring forth from San Francisco’s hybrid musical outfit Junk Parlor (Jason Vanderford, RT Goodrich, Laela Peterson-Stolen Tim Bush) – perhaps the only band we’ve ever interviewed that can play a punk rock venue one night, and a jazz club the next. Vanderford describes the music as “a mix of eastern European rhythms/melodies with a sort of punk rock Nick Cave/Leonard Cohen-Esk approach to story telling. Acoustic/Electric guitar, violin, fretless electric bass tuned down to hell and drums and cajon.” Honestly, you need to listen for yourself to experience the full gauntlet.
Junk Parlor brought their first collection of music to us in 2013 with their debut Wild Tones, and followed up in 2015 with the predominantly instrumental Melusina – today however, we’re excited to bring word of Junk Parlor’s brand new single, “Mick Jagger’s Heart”. Jason gave us the background on the new tune – he said, “This quirky lyric popped up in front of me as I was writing one day…Mick Jagger’s Heart. I laughed out loud to myself and didn’t really understand what I was going to do with that lyric. It is inspired from the song ‘Dear Doctor’ by the Rolling Stones and as a kid I loved the idea of a person’s heart hurting so bad that one would go to a doctor and have them remove it. That idea seemed so primal to me. So I then proceeded to write a song about an intoxicating love affair that didn’t work out but continued to haunt and create heartbreak. The song is very catchy and pop sounding to me…I did this on purpose. Like a Hank Williams tune I wanted a song in a major key that sounded happy but when you listen to the lyrics…it’s quite heart wrenching.” Click to http://www.junkparlor.com
XXQs: Junk Parlor
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out from others in your genre?
Jason Vanderford (JV): Our sound is really a mix of eastern European rhythms/melodies with a sort of punk rock Nick Cave/Leonard Cohen-Esk approach to story telling. Acoustic/Electric guitar, violin, fretless electric bass tuned down to hell and drums and cajon.
PEV: What kind of music were you all into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
JV: I grew up with rock and roll – a lot of Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Tom Waits, The Police, Bob Dylan…as a teenager I got heavily into Punk and started hanging around Gilman Street and started following bands like Green Day and Operation Ivy, Primus. Skateboarding, Punk rock and guitar was life for me for a long time…out of high school I got a job as a cameraman at San Francisco’s Maritime Hall venue. For 2 1/2 years I filmed bands every weekend. I looked at it as my education…I watched very closely how people performed and I was always in the very front row…I have lots of stories from those days…Etta James, LL Cool J, James Brown, Moorhead, Toot and the Maytals…too many to list! I also discovered and started studying Django Reinhardt and the Gypsy Jazz music of Paris from the 30’s and 40’s. I got recruited to play rhythm for the Hot Club of San Francisco and toured around the US for five years with them. That’s in a nut shell is my musical education…and the vast array of styles that I dove into. My first real concert was Run DMC at the Oakland Coliseum in 1986!
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in your hometown, when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?
JV: My uncle who is our bass player asked me to play at this place he was managing…a humble little wine bar in Petaluma…after a couple months Robin Goodrich (our drummer) showed up and said he wanted to put together a group with me. Next thing you know he is booking us and we didn’t even have a name! That’s where we started so I suppose technically that was where our first gig was as Junk Parlor…to a crowd of five people. I’m not sure about breaking into a scene…we just simply started playing gigs. One one of our first tours we got booked was at a full blown punk club in Bremerton Washington; kids with mohawks, mosh pits etc…the next night we were at the Triple Door in Seattle which is a Jazz club. We got a great response in both the situations and that’s when I knew this band was like a damn chameleon.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Junk Parlor show?
JV: They can expect a lot! We play covers sometimes but mostly originals…we are all over the map. My girlfriend says it’s a little schizophrenic because we switch gears so much, but I love it. It’s a lot of fun! I do this on purpose…some songs are super high energy, the ballads that are dreamy and slow…we do dance instrumentals and songs with huge sing along choruses.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
JV: All I’m thinking about is the first note. That is the real beginning of the show…usually people aren’t paying too close attention at first but that is where it begins…the room soon realizes something is happening and turn around to check it out…that is a wonderful feeling. The first moment you captivate the audience. It is different at every gig how that goes down.
PEV: How has playing in Junk Parlor been different from working with other artists or projects in the past?
JV: In Junk Parlor I wanted to create my own rules and then break them. I use the term punk rock a lot because that was the spirit in punk. No rules. I’ve studied so many styles of music…learned the authentic nuances of many genres: Gypsy Jazz, Swing, Brazilian Chorro, 50’s Rock and Roll. There are a lot of rules when you learn music, but in order to make something magical happen you have to then break the rules. Breaking rules creates dissonance, and musical metaphors when you juxtapose different ideas together. The music of Junk Parlor is my freedom.
PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music? Where do you get your best ideas for songs?
JV: Every day our lives are spinning by…we go out into the world…we see friends…we fall in love…we endure heartbreak…I am inspired by the in-between moments. The moment when you walk away from a relationship that you previously thought was your true love. The moment you realize that everything you thought about the world was wrong…the moment you witness something unspeakable…the moment that you realize you have fallen in love. Like a good photograph captures an image that becomes timeless. Really a photo is a fraction of a second of life. Each story of every song I write is about these fractions that are more powerful than all the rest and seem to haunt us and shape who we are. Like dark matter or ether. This is where I go for all my inspirations for the songwriting. I love talking to older folks who were around years ago and hearing their stories. I wrote a song recently about the time my grandmother danced on two occasions with Bela Lugosi. She told me this story many times and apparently he was a friend of the family on my grandfather’s side. They were all Hungarian and Bela liked my grandmother. She looked like a damn pin up model and he asked her to dance at two different parties that occurred, one here in Oakland and another in LA. She told me about how nervous she was and how big he seemed to be! Amazing!
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
JV: I do…but I’m still not sure where i have “arrived”! In hindsight things become very clear…it is foresight that is tricky.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Junk Parlor?
JV: Oh I don’t know…RT, our drummer, is a Farrier, meaning he shoes horses for a living. He sometimes shows up to gigs with a broken hand or finger or a bad cut or something and still plays his ass off. That always surprises me!
PEV: What can fans expect from your latest single, “Mick Jagger’s Heart”? Tell us about the writing process behind this work.
JV: This quirky lyric popped up in front of me as I was writing one day…Mick Jagger’s Heart. I laughed out loud to myself and didn’t really understand what I was going to do with that lyric. It is inspired from the song “Dear Doctor” by the Rolling Stones and as a kid I loved the idea of a person’s heart hurting so bad that one would go to a doctor and have them remove it. That idea seemed so primal to me. So I then proceeded to write a song about an intoxicating love affair that didn’t work out but continued to haunt and create heartbreak. The song is very catchy and pop sounding to me…I did this on purpose. Like a Hank Williams tune I wanted a song in a major key that sounded happy but when you listen to the lyrics…it’s quite heart wrenching.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song or album is complete and you can sit back and listen to it in full?
JV: Sometimes its the most amazing feeling ever cause it sounds better than you imagined…other times its like an old safe has been dropped on your ego…cause what you thought was a good song sounds really bad, or trite. It is a humbling experience to record. The mirror has no mercy for the onlooker.
PEV: What would you say is the biggest challenge for musicians trying to make a name for themselves these days?
JV: Money and time. I have learned that to make good music and art requires a massive amount of time. But who has time when you need to pay the bills, and then pay for recordings, or merch, or a tour. These are by far the biggest challenges to most of us. Junk Parlor easily has two more complete albums worth of material that won’t get recorded for a long time. By the time we do record we will have even more songs that are begging to be recorded! I don’t even try to “make a name for ourselves” – that seems to me all make believe. I only want to create songs that will move people, make them feel like life is worth living…I don’t care if these people even know who I am, but if you move someone with a song…they might remember who you are in a sea of a million other bands trying to make a name for themselves.
PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
JV: I would love to play New Orleans…and tour Europe.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play in your hometown?
JV: The Bay Area is sort of my hometown but the Bay Area is a tough place to be these days. Traffic is bad…everyone works too hard and folks just don’t have energy to go out. We have quite a following in the North Bay…the music scene up there is strong. People appreciate it. I don’t have much family locally…but when we tour sometimes my aunts, uncles or cousins will come down and see the shows. The fans who come to show after show for years sort of become like family…
PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
JV: Tim still manages the Corkscew Wine Bar in Petaluma, RT is working with horses, Laela works part-time at Trader Joe’s…I do construction and surf when I can. That’s life. We all play in other musical projects as well.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
JV: Alison Mosshart from The Kills…I would love to write a song with her. Her lyrics are troubled in a way that I totally relate to…I would love to do a music video with David Lynch (laughing)! Past artist…maybe Carlos Gardel…the great Argentinian tango singer. He was so badass I can’t even tell you how much I love the way he sings.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
JV: I am a big fan of a local band out here called El Radio Fantastique. They have been around a long time and just released an EP. That’s all they could afford and it really kicks ass. There are a lot of interesting bands that we play with that are sort of up and coming…The Resonant Rogues out of North Carolina, Beso out of Fairfax, Royal Jelly out of Petaluma, Earles of Newtown out of Nevada City, The Crux and the Odd Job Ensemble.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what do you think each of you would be doing for a career?
JV: I think I would be a dancer or a painter or a writer. Basically anything that doesn’t make any money. I couldn’t say for the other band members…they are not with me right now.
PEV: So, what is next for Junk Parlor?
JV: I suppose we will be recording a few more songs and another music video before the end of this year. At this point we are hoping to try and get some representation so we can play on some festival circuits…but until then, we are just going to keep writing and playing! We have a monthly show in San Francisco that involves dancers and other performers…sort of like a freak side show! That’s every third Thursday at Club Deluxe. Good times!
For more information, click to http://www.junkparlor.com/.