Formed back in 2017, Parker Lee are, at their core, the North-Yorkshire based duo of songwriter Jowan Mead and multi-instrumentalist Annie Prior. Joined by a rotating cast of other players, the pair have dipped their toes into a number of genres, and their successes have seen them tour across the country, as well as perform home-town shows supporting the likes of Big Thief and The Orielles. Back in September the duo self-released possibly their finest record to date, in the shape of their new EP, Scrundle.
Described by the band as, “a mellower foray out into the open”, Scrundle was written at an odd time in Jowan’s life, when he was locked into a year-long housing contract with a newly ex-girlfriend. The influences of that event are littered across Scrundle, as it tackles subjects of loneliness, seeking new connections and a loss of the foundations that make up a life. Opening track, and the lead single from the EP, Drunk, is a fine introduction, a suitably woozy affair, led by a meandering stumble of a guitar line, as Jowan seeks escape in social drinking, before stumbling home to the same mess that was there when he headed out. Elsewhere Bullpen, adds a certain Kane Strange-like swagger, before drifting away on a rush of guitars and gentle heartbreak, while closing track, Stitch In Time Saves Nine, seems to be almost begging for a simpler life, asking why we can’t turn our minds off, “I try to get along, take lessons from my dog, she doesn’t know what’s going on, seems happy laid out on the lawn”. Throughout the record, there’s a certain breeziness to proceedings, a record almost willing itself to be alright, to pull through a tough period and come out of it a happier human being, there’s the sense that the sun will shine again, even if that sometimes seems a long way away.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Parker Lee?
Jowan Mead: Parker Lee is me singing and writing songs on the guitar and seeing where my friends want to take them. It’s an ongoing exploration of platonic love and genre. I guess I like where Annie takes them the best, because she’s been the band’s Swiss Army knife since 2017 – she takes the lead with production and arrangement, and I fling ideas at her until something sticks. Our dear and talented friend Adrian played drums on our recent EP Scrundle.
Annie Prior: The name ‘Parker Lee’ is actually an anagram of our names. Jowan and I hadn’t even met when he chose the name. Some things are just like that though.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
Jowan: So many lovely people. Our first gig as a full band was a couple months before Annie first joined us. We were at The Crescent in York, opening for rock idols Big Thief and Mega Bog courtesy of the city’s finest promoter Joe Coates. We played a lot of punk songs with a haphazard kinda feel. I’d like to do it over if that’s okay.
Annie: I’m pretty sure the first show I played with Parker Lee I was filling in for Jowan’s broken arm at a uni Battle of the Bands. I couldn’t hear anything that was going on and Jowan was drunkenly trying to hide on stage. I don’t think we did very well.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Jowan: When the music hits you, you feel no pain. This stands in clear opposition to visual art and prose, which I find extremely painful.
I think Green Day’s Dookie first put the sonic ooze inside my body when I was a kid, and getting into a lot of wank emo bands at the impressionable age of 16 made me realise that I, too, can exorcise it into something terrible. That aside, learning to make the songs sweeter each time is the most fulfilling struggle I’ve ever found in life.
FTR: What can people expect from the Parker Lee live show?
Jowan: Viral lack of gigs aside, we’re taking a little studio-only sojourn right now. Hopefully we can pull a couple friends together for a dedicated run of shows when things are normal again in 10 years. When we play again, we will play so fast and so so strong. Hits only, and everyone in the crowd has to shake our hands before they leave.
FTR: What’s next for Parker Lee?
Annie: Jowan works me like a dog. I plan to kill him. I also released a single as ‘weather balloons’ on October 2nd entitled ‘altar boy’.
Jowan: You should really listen to that. Parker Lee also have a hot new single coming out in the next month. Heavily inspired by Guitar Hero III and the post-punk zeitgeist for this one. Then we’ll do another one, and another one. At some point we’ll get together in the flesh and work out some harder songs for the next LP. I’m also making some quiet tunes in my bedroom like old times. I hope you love what we’ve got to show you.
They Listen To….
Annie: Devi McCallion & Katie Dey – Circumstances
I like it when the synthesiser goes fast, like it’s running on tiny little legs. What a wonderful feeling, to be a little noise machine running through a meadow or along a beach perhaps. This song reminds me of a bizarre early 2000s 3D animated kids show I used to watch after school. They were blue aliens, traveling through their world on a spring-loaded couch. This song reminds me of browsing the encyclopaedia CD-ROM on my grandparents’ PC before we had internet and trying to imagine what the big real world would be like.
Annie: Kraftwerk – Pocket Calculator
Few things in the world instil joy in me quite as purely as “I’m the operator of my pocket calculator beep boop brrrrrr“. It’s easy to forget sometimes that a song can just be sounds that you like to listen to. I try and keep that attitude on me at all times. Jowan sends me demos often and every time I’m thinking “What fun little sounds can I do with this?”. Sometimes Jowan doesn’t like the sound I have in mind so we have to wait until one of us changes our minds.
Jowan: Bull – Disco Living
This is a great feelgood pop tune from York’s greatest band. A song for any occasion: your first kiss, a wake within your extended family, listening to music, or just taking a little “me time”. That’s my time, not yours.
Jowan: Elkyn – Avenue
Joey played bass for us for a little while last year, but his main jam is making the saddest folk songs you’ve ever heard. The phrase “Joey Donnelly is a genius” has been tossed around a lot, but ‘Avenue’ really exemplifies it – he’s got the voice of angel, and also the guitar of an angel. Please pay keen attention to his next moves.
Jowan: Rachel Sweet – It’s So Different Here
My lover Johannes showed me this gem. This is real beach music, something that’s letting me cling to the absent sunshine. Advanced new wave techniques from your dad’s youth.
Scrundle is out now. Click HERE for more information on Parker Lee.