Noise pop fills such an important void between genres. It combines the cacophony of rock and roll sounds with the smooth sheen of pop music. It takes a talented artist to be able to wrangle both genres into coherent songs. Chicago’s Brother Derek has met the challenge head-on with his newest collection of songs Parade Rest.
A classically trained cellist, a gifted songwriter, and a veteran Chicago bassist, Brother Derek combines these disparate musical pursuits into the magical songwriting and playing heard on the band’s new album Parade Rest. Working at Postal Recording with Alex Kercheval (Coven, Jomberfox) and Tyler Watkins (Margot and the Nuclear So-and-So’s), Derek channeled all his expertise into crafting a sonically dense, delightfully scatterbrained opus.
Today Glide is excited to offer an exclusive premiere of Parade Rest in full ahead of its official release on November 29th. The songs on Parade Rest pull inspiration across genres, ranging from 60s psychedelia on “I Consider You a Friend” to post-punk on “Cell Phone Resurrection.” On opener “Bebe Don’t You Go,” Derek sings in soft tones drenched in echo. As strings and background vocals swirl around the simple-yet-emotional melody, this quiet introduction conjures up the sounds of Spiritualized or the softer side of Yo La Tengo. But, Derek manages to mix the bittersweet with the upbeat. The title track has an infectious groove and irresistible melody. Derek sings, “If you give up on love / you give up on the stars above.” While there are obviously lines inspired by personal experience, Derek points to the universal in his writing. And it’s that openness that makes these songs special.
There’s no shortage of amazing musical moments here. From the ever-changing backbeat on “Amazingly Crazy” to the lonesome pop melodies of “Sweet Little Annie,” Brother Derek proves his ability to pull gorgeous pop melodies out of the web of styles and influences. While the songs skip across musical eras and break conventions, Derek never loses sight of melody. And that’s what makes Parade Rest a true gem.
Listen to the album and read our chat with Brother Derek below…
Do you feel like mastering cello and bass helps you take a different, unique approach to songwriting?
I think so! The cello playing served me well in making the transition to bass and songwriting by building up a foundation of dexterity, an understanding of phrasing, and a player’s perspective (at least orchestral-wise) of what moves me musically. After that, taking up the bass playing felt seamless, like turning the cello sideways. Then when I got my first bass, it didn’t feel tough to start to craft melodies around root notes as the bass playing was in the hands, and I fortunately had some local jam buddies with great musical taste and the pop and rock chops to help me tease it all out. But back to cello, I’m sure playing the classics that stir audiences across the centuries, those magical combinations of melodic shifts, dynamics, harmonies, silence, and surprise, no doubt helped me calibrate my own process of constructing songs that at least I can enjoy playing repeatedly.
You jump genres from song to song. Yet, the record still feels cohesive. What’s your secret?
The process of it coming together certainly helped with the cohesion. The Postal Recording (Indianapolis) crew gave all the songs their distinctive stamp of mid south indie (?) instrumentation and production, with the lead vocalist acting as a conductor of sorts in tandem with the bass. When you hear artists out there known for genre-jumping, ranging from Beatles to Rundgren to Blondie to Prince to Blur to The 1975 to King Gizzard… etc. (I’m no doubt missing some big mentions), I really think the cohesion comes from those artists being genuine, deep fans of all the genres they master —folks who can really say with a straight face “I listen to everything.” And not just listening to it but living it, and at least aspiring to the musical version of multilingual. I am by no means super fluent in executing multiple genres, but from a fan standpoint, I am restless and attention-deficient about the vibes I like to experience, so I’d say that is reflected in what I like to play and record in album format, at least so far.
Did collaborating with Alex Kercheval and Tyler Watkins help take the songs in new directions?
Completely. I recall when my friend Matt (who has known these guys forever) told me about their Postal setup when I mentioned I was in need of some production help, and he had me at “Margot and the Nuclear..” I was familiar with Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s’ appealingly lush, broad-palette sound, and figured my songs would be in good hands with Tyler (longtime Margot member) and Alex, who seemed to me to hit pay dirt right away with their first production for me, the experimental countryish theme “DeKalb County” from our 2019 debut EP “Murdernite.” Fast forward to this year, and there’s a lot of trust now – I always know they’ll build wisely on the basic tracks without overcooking it, and add in some welcome unexpected flair in the process. postalrecording.com for more info 🙂
What do you hope listeners take away from these songs?
A friend asked me this recently, and this is how I put it to her. I named the album after one of its tracks “Parade Rest,” since I like the poeticism of the phrase “parade rest,” which is the name for a drill and ceremony stance I learned in ROTC training in college (and though I never ended up opting for the military life, the experience was impactful). The military is about imposition and support of a structural hierarchy and moral order, but in the decades since my ROTC experience, at least in my own life, I found out just how disorderly and chaotic things can get despite a lot of effort to enjoy some semblance of stability .. so in the title track the lyric “rest your parade, delete the software” is about pausing, stopping, taking a breath, ceding some control, realizing that only love matters. That track is an anchor of sorts for the rest of the collection, a partial accounting of my own youthful episodes of confusion, failure of focus, heartbreak, yearning, love, betrayal, haphazard pleasure-seeking.. So the take away for the listeners – I hope – is some resonance with these themes intertwined with some fresh, enjoyable feels.