Their collaboration with Daft Punk last year put the five-piece on the map, but Thomas Smith finds a band ready to take their brand of future-pop to the stars
In April 2016, Parcels played their first show in France at Paris’ trendy Les Baines bar. The Berlin-based Australian five-piece had released their debut EP ‘clockscared’ on cult French label Kitsuné the year before, and treated attendees to a smattering of disco-infused pop bangers. They may not have noticed at the time, but there at the back of the room – at the invitation of Kitsuné founder Gildas Loaec – were Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo – better known as Daft Punk.
“We heard murmurs of them coming before we played the show,” keyboardist Patrick Hetherington tells NME down the phone from Berlin. “It wasn’t a huge thing on our minds, we weren’t thinking, ‘We have to impress them’. We were just playing a gig to a room of people and having a load of fun.” After the show, Daft Punk introduced themselves, showed love for Parcels’ music, and invited them into the studio. Soon after, Parcels began work with Daft Punk on the impossibly funky single ‘Overnight’, which was released in June 2017. “It was clear from the start that they just wanted to work evenly and equally with us on a song, with no agenda and no plans for the song. It was a no ego thing,” he says.
They’re playing it cool it now, but this is a big thing. Throughout their career, Daft Punk have seldom approached artists to produce or work on their music. In the last decade they’ve produced or co-produced songs for just a handful of artists: The Weeknd, Pharrell, Kanye West and now Parcels. Good company.
But Parcels are keen to move things on, and self-produced new single ‘Tieduprightnow’ does just that. Slowing the pace from ‘Overnight’, the track straddles the line between being a classy slow-jam and a pool party soundtrack. For an entry point to the band, it doesn’t get much better than this summery sound. “We first tracked it about a year ago in the spring. I remember the sun was just starting to come out and everything was just waking up in Berlin,” Patrick says.
Louie Swain (keys), Patrick Hetherington (keys), Noah Hill (bass), Anatole “Toto” Serret (drums) and Jules Crommelin (guitar) all grew up in Byron Bay in New South Wales, Australia, and started eyeing up a new adventure when school wrapped up in 2014. “We really just were running on this high of finish schooling and leaving. A few people recommended Berlin, we heard it was central and looked fun so just hopped on a plane here.” Just a tad bold, then. “Looking back it was bold at the time – we didn’t think much of it,” says Patrick.
We’re very much, down at the core, Australian dudes from the beach.
At that time, they needed a bit of adjustment. “When we came here, we definitely spent a while just chilling,” Patrick says. “After a couple months, we realised, ‘Fuck, we just moved across the world with very little money, and all we have is our music, so we need to put everything we have into that.” The band threw themselves into recording in their apartment, firstly with ‘clockscared’ in 2015 and then again with 2016’s EP ‘Hideout’. Now aged between 20-21, they’re finding that work on their debut album is pretty time consuming. “We have moments where we go to meet someone for a beer and we’re just like aliens to the world sometimes.”
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Parcels, in all senses, feel like an old-school band. They look like your favourite group from the ‘70s – killer outfits, outrageous ‘taches and free-flowing hair – they draw influence from bands such as disco champs Chic and sundry soft rock acts and only joined Twitter earlier this year. “We were never drawn to it – I just think sometimes it feels like we’re detached from the modern age in many ways,” Patrick explains. Patrick, Louis and Noah are folk lovers; Jules brings the metal and Toto is a big punk and rock fan – all resulting in a sound that is “really liberating”.
So they’ve got some throwback tendencies, sure, but they do pair it with a modern mindset. They’re big fans of trailblazing hip-hop boy band Brockhampton, they want to work with rising star Anderson .Paak and hip-hop legend Q-Tip and they reckon pop is in a better place than ever. “No longer is there this stigma of selling-out or that doing pop is such a bad thing – which is great. There were a few years when there was awful connotations with this pop production and I’m so glad that’s fading.”
The band are still working on the self-produced record, but despite the hype, they’re playing it cool. “We’ve been very clear with everybody we can’t rush it,” Patrick says. “We definitely are relaxed people. We’re very much, down at the core, Australian dudes from the beach. But it’s become very clear that rushing is always a bad idea”. As evident by the year-long gestation of ‘Tieduprightnow’ if making pristine pop music takes a bit longer, then that’s what it takes. “Sometimes it’s perfect right away and sometimes you really need that time. It needs to age and you need space away from the songs to understand it.”
This mindset is none more evident than at Parcels’ live shows, which may well be the most fun you’ll have at a gig this year. There are synchronised dance-steps between members, hair-swishing across the stage and an intoxicating blend of funk, disco and pop. If you leave the show without a smile on your face, we’d be inclined just to check your pulse. “I don’t think we are ever really thinking of it as a chance to win people over,” Patrick says. Well, it worked because Daft Punk saw them once and wanted to work together immediately. But being able to put a smile while on a gruelling tour isn’t always easy for the group. “Sometimes when we’re on tour you’re not in the best mood and you can’t get on stage and pretend to be happy-go-lucky, so it’s not always there. But when the energy and the adrenaline is right, things can be so fun.”
Their killer live show will hit these shores at All Points East festival in London in May, and work on one of the year’s most intriguing and down-right fun albums is well underway. These “aliens” chose to bless Planet Earth first, but their powerful pop will have the whole galaxy under their spell, eventually.
Parcels will play All Points East on May 27