Lincoln Parish was truly living the rock n roll dream. His band, Cage the Elephant, were quickly becoming one of rock’s most notable acts. They released several successful albums and hit singles and their energetic live sets made them a staple at festivals. But in 2013, he gave it all up to follow his own path. Since then he’s been in the studio working with various artists under the name Parish f/t. Parish chats with GENER IS DEAD! about life after the band, the joys of production work, and why he had to make a change.
GENRE IS DEAD!: A lot of people know you from Cage the Elephant, but now you’re putting yourself out there and giving us something different. Were you nervous at all about releasing this project?
Lincoln Parish: Oh yeah. You start feeling very vulnerable when you’re putting art out, whether it’s a painting or any media like that. I knew that certain people who were super guitar based and that Cage [the Elephant] fans would probably hate it, but that’s also what I loved about it, you know? I get bored with things easily; I like to change it up. It’s something I just needed to do for myself. If people like it great and if they don’t I’m still gonna keep making music and doing my thing.
GID: I’m a huge fan of Cage the Elephant and I’m really digging the new stuff.
LP: Thank you. It’s fun for me. It’s exciting even though I didn’t have high expectations for how it was gonna go over.
GID: You said this project is something that happened by accident. You weren’t necessarily intending on going solo. What did you see as your next move after you left Cage the Elephant?
LP: Well, even before I left the band I’d already been producing my friend’s bands – they just let me record them at the time. We had this laundry closet set up in a townhouse I was renting. So, I was recording them and I produced their album. And I started doing co-writes with other people, like writers for other genres of music. I always loved being in the studio. It seems like anything is possible in a studio, whereas [on tour] you wake up, do some press, do a sound check, do the show, get on the bus and then do it again. It’s the same every day whereas with the production stuff every day is kind of different.
I just felt like I wanted to do that more than being on the road. It wasn’t like I left the band and then had to figure out what I was doing. I was already doing it. Even before the last show I played with Cage the Elephant, I had two records I was producing. I wasn’t sitting around trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. It was a pretty smooth transition.
GID: It sounds like this is something you’ve been wanting to do for a while. How did you get into producing music?
LP: I loved being in the studio even in [Cage the Elephant]. The three records I made with them were produced by Jay Joyce. He’s an amazing producer and I learned how things can go in the studio and how songs can be transformed. To me getting to record was the most exciting time. You’re always doing something new and everything you’re doing is fresh. It can start in one place and end up somewhere totally different. I think the excitement was always there. I’m not gonna say touring with the band wasn’t fun, but after six years it lost its allure a bit because once you’ve been to the same cities all over the world you’re just away from home and not sleeping in your bed. I kind of felt drawn to do this and at the time I was turning 24, still young enough to take the time and try to grow this other career. It just felt right to me.
GID: As we mentioned earlier, the music you’re making now is very different than what you’ve done before. Were you surprised by this pop direction?
LP: Yeah! If you would’ve asked me four or five years ago if I would be making pop music I would’ve laughed. I still produce a lot of rock bands. I’m working with this seven-piece band called Waker. I’m finishing up an album with them right now. When I listen to rock records I can dissect everything. Whereas I would listen to some pop music and be super fascinated by the sound. What is that? How did they do that? As much as I love the energy and spirit of rock and roll, I was ready to dive into something different. I felt like I needed to change it up. It’s actually a little more challenging. I grew up around guitar-based music, so finding these sounds for pop songs I’m doing takes me a lot longer to produce. I still have the itch inside me to do a rock thing even for myself. I’m probably going to release a couple more singles under this project. After that, I need to do a rock thing again. We’ll see what happens, no promises.
GID: You mentioned being challenged in the studio. So, what has been the most challenging thing when working on material for Parish f/t?
LP: Taking the time to make sure that I’m not just getting excited about something in the moment is probably the most challenging part. When it’s one person making all the decisions you have to be very honest with yourself and say ‘maybe that’s not that good. I gotta take that out.’ When you’re in a band with five other people there’s a filter. Somebody will toss out an idea and some people will say oh that’s cool. Or some people will say eh let’s not do that. It’s very easy to know right away. It takes me a little longer with some of the pop tracks because I’m doing it all and I’ll get stuff back and question whether it’s good or not. There’s not that filter of five other people. It’s a little easier looking at songs I didn’t write on and knowing what needs to be cut or what to elaborate on. It’s easy to be assertive when you’re not so dear to it.
GID: Do you miss having those other people in the studio with you?
LP: Yes and no. Since I produce for other bands I feel like I’m still around that camaraderie. My whole thing is to keep an open mind whether I’m working on my stuff or working with a band. If it doesn’t work at least we tried it. So, I get a taste of that camaraderie working with other people and it’s enough to keep me satisfied.
GID: Can you take me through the writing and production process for Parish f/t?
LP: All the songs have been collaborations so far. It basically starts off with a guitar and then we’ll write the song and the lyrics. Then I’ll get vocals and do the track. With Daphne, I’ve written some other stuff with her a few years earlier and I just loved her voice, what she does, and what she stands for. I really wanted her to be a part of it. I reached out to her and she came in and I had a little guitar set up and she started riffing through it. After an hour and a half, we started recording an acoustic track and some drum loops in the program. When she left, I worked on the track for about six weeks on and off between other stuff.
The one with Kevin Kelly was a random co-write because he got set up through my publisher. He came in and was like “what do you want to do today?” And I said, “we can write for whatever but I’m also doing this pop project.” So we sat down at the piano and we wrote [“Control”] in about 45 minutes. We captured the vocals for a raw keyboard track. Then I worked on the track for a few weeks and got it to a point where I felt happy about it.
With Paul McDonald, we had been writing for his project. I was trying to steer him in a little more pop direction. We went for it on this one track [“What I Need”] we had just written and that’s what started the whole thing. That one was kind of an accident.
GID: Will we get to hear you sing on future tracks or are you just a behind the scenes guy?
LP: No, no! You don’t want to hear me sing! You know that whole thing I said earlier about being honest with yourself? That’s one part of it. I’m not a singer. I was not blessed in that category, unfortunately. Mark Ronson and Danger Mouse are my favorite modern day producers. They don’t really sing either. That’s kind of the model for the project since it isn’t such a farfetched idea anymore. It might’ve been ten years ago. Now, I think people just want a good song. They don’t care who did the track or whose singing on it. As much as “Uptown Funk” is Mark Ronson’s song, half the population probably thinks it’s a Bruno Mars song, which it is. They were co-writers on it, so it’s equally both of theirs. I just think people care less about what you’re doing nowadays and it’s more about having a good song they can jam to and feel good about. I think everybody wants to tune out the craziness of the world.
GID: That’s for sure. A good song will do that. Throw on a song you love and block out the news and escape for a little bit.
LP: It’s like your three minutes of freedom.
GID: Exactly! You can get lost for a few minutes. Then when you need to get back to the real world, at least you got that break.
LP: Yeah, exactly! If I can write a song that gets people to forget where they’re at or it takes them out of the moment of what’s going on, that’s a win-win to me.
GID: What’s on the horizon for Parish f/t? Should we expect an album anytime soon?
LP: I might do a collection of the songs like an EP. I’m gonna put out another single in February, so that’s the next move. After that, I don’t know. I got to see where things are at from there. This whole thing is kind of on a whim. I just want to toss it out into the universe and see what comes back. I want to keep evolving, so some of the tracks might get more organic. I’m gonna keep putting stuff out, producing records for other people, and writing with other artists. Honestly, I’m just blessed I can wake up every day and make music. It’s my job. As long as I get to keep doing that, I’ll be happy.
Last month, Parish f/t shared his cover of the John Lennon holiday classic “Happy Xmas (The War Is Over)” featuring Paul McDonald. Listen to that here. For more on Parish f/t be sure to visit his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.