Parcels have recorded the album they were destined to make: ‘Live Vol.2’, their second live record, once again captures one of the touring circuit’s tightest and most enjoyable live shows. It’s the ravey monster we’d been waiting for.
First formed in Byron Bay, Australia, in 2014 the band swapped blonde beaches for blackened rooms and big beats in Berlin, the pounding heart of Europe’s clubbing scene. Two albums followed – 2018’s vibrant self-titled debut and a sprawling double album ‘Day/Night’ in 2021 – but they remained largely above-board, with tasteful angelic melodies and ‘60s mops swishing in harmony.
On ‘Live Vol.2’, that’s all changed. First debuted in the latter-half of their most-recent tour, the band doubled down on an intense, club-influenced sound in their live sets, stretching out their material into sprawling house wig-outs: ‘Lightenup’’s chugging guitar riff is replaced by a prominent, gnarly bassline, while the once-minimal ‘Reflex’ is pushed up to 130BPM.
As they tell NME it’s all a nod to their surroundings in Berlin, and allowing themselves the opportunity to let that scene and sound permeate the music: “When we first moved here, it was the realisation of a new world that just didn’t exist in Byron Bay when we were growing up,” drummer Anatole ‘Toto’ Serret tells NME.
It’s immortalised in ‘Live Vol.2’ and in an intimate new film from the night. Where ‘Vol.1’ was recorded in an austere, audience-free Hansa Studios in Berlin, here they headed to Le Palace, once the epicentre of Paris’ party scene. NME shimmies onto the dancefloor with Serret and keys player Louie Swain to learn more.
‘Vol. 1’ was recorded at the famous Hansa Studios and released just as lockdown hit. What’s changed for ‘Live Vol.2’?
Toto: “Since we finished ‘Live Vol.1’, it was like, ‘alright, where is the next one gonna be?’ With the dancier set that we were playing at festivals and on our own tour, it was clear that it had to be in a club and capture that sound. It was so much fun to record it in a space that’s properly designed for that sound.”
Louie: “We’d been introducing these 20-minute jams full of improvisation into our live show in bits and pieces throughout the whole year. And when we started playing into crowds in that mode, we realised the atmosphere was heightened and even better when there were people present and a crowd to respond off, so it made sense to bring the crowd in for ‘Vol.2’”
Why’d you head to Paris for this one?
Toto: “We were tossing up Berlin, but it was a bit too on the nose. The place we recorded [Le Palace] has shut down as a club, but it was a classic spot in Paris during the ‘80s and ‘90s. [Le Palace is now used for stand-up comedy and television tapings.] The film shows this space really well. It has this feeling of walking in and then going down the stairs into the dark: it feels like what a night out feels like in your head.”
It’s a tight, minimal set-up compared to your big stage production…
Louie: “That was one of our requests for the bigger shows we were playing with this set. We wanted these moments where we were super tight on each other when playing. We realised there was a tightness that came from these little rehearsal rooms we were in; we were super connected and thought about how we could recreate that in these bigger shows. When it came to the club, it was just so tiny.”
You’ve allowed a different side of your musicality to shine through. How did that impact your playing?
Toto: “It’s been there the whole time but it was an opportunity to go further into it. The thing I realised was that when I’m playing, I don’t want to stop. When we got into those grooves, I could play for hours. It’s like when I’m on a dancefloor – eventually you get into this trance and it becomes addictive. Even when we were playing in the club in Paris, my arms were aching and I was drenched in sweat, but my head was like, ‘no, no don’t stop’. It’s such a beautiful feeling.”
How did it reflect your relationship with the Berlin scene?
Louis: “We all had moments where we’re into the club scene here individually or as a group. When they were shut for a lockdown and then reopened again, we all had a communal appreciation for the clubs being such an important part of the city and an important part of your routine to go out dancing”
Toto: “The beautiful thing about Berlin is that there’s a scene for every little micro-genre of dance music. What’s changed is we’ve all kind of gravitated towards different styles of music and maybe you naturally end up at different parties.”
Louis: “When we first arrived, Griessmuehle was the one we gravitated towards. [The club closed in 2020] You could always get in with a bit of a crew. We just always got told to go there for different things: We were always told ‘oh, there’s gonna be some great disco and house music here’ and we’d get there and it was just always like the darkest, most intense techno. We weren’t ready for it then!”
The show is quite a departure and would sometimes prove divisive. Were you expecting that?
Louis: “It was definitely a statement. We’ve been doing that at festivals a bit and had really mixed responses. Some crowds were fully up for it and got it and it had an amazing vibe, but then other days they just weren’t expecting it or it didn’t match the mood. With our headline tour, we had the confidence of being able to kind of control the mood a little bit more so we could lean into it. We try to make something work before ditching it completely if the crowd doesn’t like it. But I think it was a good test of like, ‘no, we really think this is a good idea and maybe it’s not gonna work every time or in every situation, but there’s something special here'”.
Toto: “Contrary to what you think, somehow going on the riser at the back and turning away from the audience a little bit allowed people to experience it more. People were still watching us, but they’d understand that they’re not getting any attention, so let’s listen or let’s lose ourselves a little bit in the dance side of things.”
How does this live set link to ‘Day/Night’, a double-album recorded with an orchestra? Some of the songs are almost unrecognisable from the studio recordings…
Louis: “The concept does stem from the early talks for that album. We originally imagined ‘Night’ being this more clubby aesthetic and direction, but because we weren’t actually going out or listening to much club music during lockdown, it just didn’t happen that way. When this live show started happening, it was like, ‘OK, this is kind of the original ‘Night’ concept and the split in the record that we imagined at the start'”.
Toto: “Sometimes I thought they worked better this way. The ‘Day’ record was such a listening record and now that we’ve translated those ‘Night’ tracks to live, finally I can enjoy these song with my body and not just with my head or my ears.”
How will it inform what your next album?
Louis: “We talk a lot about ideas for the future, but I think actually at the moment, we’re trying to talk and plan less and just accept what comes and follow fresh ideas where they go. We’ll jam for a few hours and then we’ll go sit outside and just talk and talk and talk about all these places we could take it and then we go jam again.”
Toto: “[‘Live Vol.2’] is where we’ll pick up from there and we’ll probably naturally want to start walking somewhere different. There’s been a couple of times in the last few months where I’m like ‘I’m ready, why isn’t everyone ready?’ But the band requires this break to drop every idea that you had beforehand and then come in fresh. It can be really healthy to come back together and with a really fresh palette of ideas and no preconceptions about what we can do as a band.”
Parcels’ ‘Live Vol.2’ is released October 20 on Because Music