Andrew Savage, one of the co-songwriters of Parquet Courts, is decidedly "not an engineer," yet he owns tape machines and once built a studio with his friends in Denton, Texas. Savage's top priority when recording is an environment free of distraction - acoustics be damned. Book his band Parquet Courts a week at Electric Lady Studios, or leave them in a musty warehouse with the lights off; whatever grows will still impress the music press and please their fans. Parquet Courts have a new album out this year, produced by Danger Mouse [Brian Burton], called Wide Awake.
You're from Denton, Texas?
I was born there. My parents worked at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My dad was a sports reporter and my mother was the art director of the paper.
How does Denton relate to Dallas?
I lived in Dallas when I was in junior high and high school, but I would always go to Denton for shows. In those times that's where all the bands would come through. I grew up going to different house shows.
Were you studying music at Denton's University of North Texas [UNT]?
Yeah. I started off studying upright bass performance, but it only took me about a semester to learn that it would make me hate music. UNT is a factory. It's a school where you go to be a gigger; where you go to be a session musician. There are, of course, some interesting composers who came out of there, like William Basinski. There's a cool avant-garde and noise scene there with people who are either in, or who have dropped out of, the composition program. But I was watching a lot of my friends really fall out of love with music, so I switched to painting after a semester.
What were your first recording experiences like?
My first recording experience would have been on a Tascam 414 MKII [cassette] 4-track, recording demos on that for bands that I didn't start, and eventually bands I did start. I wasn't on that for long until I got a Roland VS that recorded to Zip drives. They were like floppy discs, but much bigger. Much later on, all of [Parquet Courts'] American Specialties, as well as a lot of demos for [the next album] Light Up Gold,were also recorded on a Tascam 424 Mark III in our practice space.
How old were you when you were doing those early recordings?
I probably got the Tascam when I was 14, and I was maybe 16 years old when I got that Roland VS used through Guitar Center. The guy said that [David] Bowie had recorded his last album on his tour bus with one of them. So, you know, "Good enough for David Bowie..." Fast forward a few years, and I put out a 7-inch that I recorded on that Roland machine. I guess the first proper album was with my old band, Teenage Cool Kids, and we would have recorded that on a Fostex 1/4-inch machine with eight tracks. Later, we all got together and bought a tape machine, a Tascam MSR-16 1/2-inch, 16-track, which I still have and have recorded a lot of records on. I've got the board that came with it too. I used to have a band called Fergus & Geronimo with Jason Kelly, and we recorded both our LPs on that. And we recorded two Teenage Cool Kids LPs on that machine. I'm sad to say that it really has not seen much use since it's been up here [New York]. I haven't been doing a lot of recording in the way that I had been in Denton.
Can you tell us more about those recording sessions?
We had a great recording situation set up in Denton, Texas, where we lived. We had a snake going into the house; Jason [Kelly]'s bedroom was the control room, we had a tracking room in the detached garage, and we had a talkback set up. It was great. That was one of the biggest culture shocks of moving to New York - there's no practicing in your apartment here! Not that I would even want to these days, but it was cool living in a college town with a big backyard and a detached garage. You didn't have to worry about making too much noise. We were active in the music community in Denton, and we were cutting all sorts of records. I was in four or five different bands. We did a Wiccans 7-inch on that machine. Jason is still active in recording. He's a very talented engineer, and he does a lot of live sound in Brooklyn. We moved up here together when I was 23.
Did you build out the house in Texas, or had it been previously used...
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