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Stream debut LP by Boston's Parasol

“We take no time to make it / with none left to spare,” sings Parasol’s Lily Richeson on “Not to Spare,” the sixth track from her band’s excellent debut LP, Not There. “Misdirected / anxious / gasping for air / but you’re not there.” It’s a song about “feeling stretched totally thin and disconnected from everyone around you,” Richeson says. “How can so many of us feel so alone in a city of over 600,000 people? What is that feeling and why does it happen?” The ten-track album, out in January via four different labels (Nervous Nelly, Square of Opposition, Lauren, Lost Sound), follows two years of excellent tapes and singles from the Boston trio, whose energy has resonated strongly in certain corners of the radical, feminist punk world since 2011.

Parasol is a rare sort of pop band, balancing sweet-sung, relatable sentiments of longing and introspection and isolation with a staunchly radical, anti-oppressive ethos. “Maybe a song about working absurdly hard and constantly dealing with transience and precarity just to get by in a city overrun by colleges, finance, and tech and pharmaceutical firms doesn’t come off as immediately political,” says drummer Jake Bison. “But at the same time, it’s a song about fighting to stay on top and to do good shit in the midst of capitalism trying to crush all of the life out of you.” Self-defined as “anarcho pop,” their merch table often includes tapes full of songs about crushes and transient friends, alongside “Destroy Patriarchy” patches.

Today we are very excited (!!!!!) to premiere a stream of Not There. “Not There to me is just this way of explaining the absence of something,” Richeson says. “It could be a person, the sun during the winter months, energy to create, to work, to fight against...” Check it out below, as well as our conversation with Lily, Jake, and bassist Vicky Cassis about how the album came together, their experiences in Boston, how their (anti)politics inform Parasol’s songwriting, and more.

Can you start by explaining some of the context in which Parasol formed -- how did you meet, and what other previous bands/projects were you involved in before Parasol? Lily you were in some punk bands in Tampa right?

Vicky: Lily and I met at an Inertia show in Florida, actually, soon after she had moved to Boston. I had a crush on her so I told her we should play music together, haha. We started practicing with Jake in me and Jake’s basement.

Lily: Yeah back home in Tampa and was in this band The Dry County, and played in a band called Inertia! with my sister there as well. I used to volunteer/constantly hang out at this DIY music venue called Transitions Art Gallery and saw a lot of bands that way. I think we are playing there in January on tour. It’s called Epic Problem now. It’s a really cool space connected to the skate park there. Meeting Vicky and Jake in Boston felt like the best thing that could have happened to me at the time. I was really depressed and experiencing my first winter ever and they just showed me a lot of kindness and community which is what I was craving at the time. I had a few riffs and had just bought this electric guitar off my ex and we gelled. Jake had actually never played drums for a band before, which is wild to think because in 3 years he is now getting amazing! Jake and Vicky were in this band Footsie together who were awesome.

Wow you are releasing this thing on so many different labels! Nervous Nelly Records, Square of Opposition, Lauren Records, Lost Sound Tapes. How did this record come together + how did you decide to release it with so many different labels?

Lily: These labels are amazing! Honestly, releasing an LP costs so much money that Chris from SOP told us we should try and get as many people in on it as possible. What will ultimately be great about having three labels release a record is that distribution has a possibility of being more widespread. There are more ideas floating around for what the album should look like, who should press it, etc. The level of long-distance collaboration and communication can be stressful but is totally worth it to us. These labels represent a larger community to us. We have connections to so many people all around the globe that we have met all from being in a touring band. We met Aaron from Lauren Records on our West Coast tour, and have known Chris from SOP and Brian/Kale from Nervous Nelly for awhile now. I was so excited when Nervous Nelly wanted to release our 7”. They are a queer record label and are really supportive of a lot of Boston bands who are doing amazing work. We also have a tape release out on Lost Sound Tapes from Vancouver.

Nervous Nelly, Square of Op, and Lauren Recs are all doing awesome releases and supporting some killer bands. It feels really special to be a part of be excited about what they are all doing and have them also want to be supportive of us. It’s something I definitely don’t take for granted at all. Running a record label is sometimes really thankless work in the DIY punk world, but you just do it because you want people to hear stuff you are excited about. Anytime you release a band it can be a huge loss for someone financially. It is so important to work hard for the people who have put out a record for you.

Jake: I’ll just add that I was really excited that Jon from Lost Sounds wanted to put out our tape because I really love his label, and his band IMAGINARY PANTS. So that was like a…”woah cool” type of thing.

Your new song "City Limits" is a total anthem. Is it specifically a song about Boston? What brought you to Boston, and how has living there inspired y'all - in regards to songwriting or otherwise? Some of your songs that seem to be about Boston have really resonated with me over the years, the way they speak to the specific transience that can define your experience in Boston (like “City Limits” and also your song "At Bay") ... Also the song "Read Instead" has always reminded me of Boston because it reminds me of the sign in front of Lorem Ipsum Books. Not a lot of bands write about Boston-specific images.

Lily: I was dog-walking in Back Bay and hating everyone that lived in that neighborhood and the amount of disgusting consumerism I saw every day when I wrote that song. I seriously walked a dog that wore Gucci clothing.

I think many of us in the DIY punk scene here at some point look at all the buildings that are abandoned or owned by Harvard or for shopping and just despise that hardly any space is reserved for actual communities to express themselves or organize. If there is space, it is constantly being threatened to be sold or taken away. I write about Boston because it is unique to me. There are a lot of things that are very ‘Boston-specific’ here. I like that but am very critical of other aspects of that as well.

Yeah...I feel like I moved to Boston for the typical misguided reasons that everyone moves to bigger cities for. Like living in a major Northeast city seems more exciting or better. I didn’t move here for school or for any real reason other than that it seemed like I would have more opportunities and possibilities here. I wanted to feel less aimless. In a TON of ways, that has been really true for me personally. I am in bands I have always wanted to start, and doing projects with women and queer folks and can participate in communities that felt like they didn’t exist in my hometown. At the same time, there are so many major drawbacks to living one of the most expensive cities in the US. Sometimes it feels like it’s ridiculously hard to plan for any kind of future with people or in long term spaces because they are always being shut down. The landlords and universities always win here. We all work so much that we can’t take time for each other or ourselves. Saving feels impossible as our rent prices are ever exploding. It is ironic to me, that I moved to the Northeast to plug in and do more work than I was doing at home, but instead often times feel like all of us are fighting constantly against the city for space in a multitude of ways that are both real and symbolic. Everywhere you go and live there are pros and cons. Staying to me, really depends on how much you are willing to live with over time. Are the things you are missing out on real or fabricated? What do you choose to see, the positives we have here or only the negatives?

Boston is beautiful, and I have come a long way in a really short amount of time in terms of personal growth, but we can only “walk so far” before we are limited and need to take a break. That’s where I was at when I wrote that song.

I'm interested in hearing about the ways that the band's politics inform the songwriting for Parasol. On Bandcamp your music is tagged specifically as "anarchist" and "anarcho pop." And actually I think the first time I saw y'all play was at the Boston Anarchist Bookfair opening show a couple of years ago. But just listening to the new Parasol tape, the songs don't come off as explicitly political or anarchist. It's more subtle. What does being an 'anarcho pop' or specifically anarchist band mean to you? And how does that play out on Not There?

Jake: Hm yeah I guess they aren’t too “political.” I’m not sure about that though. The song “Edge” feels pretty political to me. A lot of our songs have dealt with how oppressive dynamics play out in punk. I think “Edge” reflects on that and definitely keeps up our “fuck the patriarchy” theme. But really I mean...for instance with City Limits... maybe a song about working absurdly hard and constantly dealing with transience and precarity just to get by in a city overrun by colleges, finance, and tech and pharmaceutical firms doesn’t come off as immediately political, but at the same time it’s a song about fighting to stay on top and to do good shit in the midst of capitalism trying to crush all of the life out of you. Boston is the most rapidly gentrifying city in the US, so a lot of how we live, how our personal lives play out, is either affected by or affecting that, and that’s a political reality that we’re constantly navigating. I’m not saying it’s revolutionary to just try to live right against all that’s wrong ... but it’s important. I guess that’s the subtle part!

I feel like all being an anarchist band means to me is that we are all anarchists. Me and Vicky met doing anarchist organizing when we were like ... kids! For me it has always been important to emphasize our (anti)politics and our dedication to PUNK because our music doesn’t sound like shit that is typically considered “political” or punk really for that matter. For that reason we’ve also been really intentional about what sort of media we feel comfortable contributing to etc. Sometimes that gets misconstrued, or we get painted as some sort of ultra-moralists or something, which is funny because we’re actually ultra-heathens. We got a write up recently that said we refused a photo shoot with the Phoenix because we were offended by the adult section. That was pretty funny. We just felt cheesy doing it, and the type of coverage the Phoenix typically gave just wasn’t our thing (with the notable exception of Liz’s work!) We’re not so hardline, we just make decisions on stuff like that as it comes up. Sometimes the conversations are big, that one was for sure. The anarcho-pop thing is just a play on anarcho-punk, I think it’s kind of an example of how we try to get the point across without taking ourselves too seriously.

Where does the album's name come from -- Not There?

Lily: “Not There” is from the song “None to Spare” on the album, which is about feeling stretched totally thin and disconnected from everyone around you...which feels so ridiculous to me sometimes. How can so many of us feel so alone in a city of over 600,000 people? What is that feeling and why does it happen? Not There is the idea of spending so much time trying to find time with each other but it still not being enough to really sustain us. I always say things like “I Miss You!” to Vicky or Jake if we don’t hang out that week. Using bands or organizing or productive time as a social crutch, instead of just being able to make space for each other as something that is in itself productive or important, is something I have been discussing and thinking about more. Why is it so scary and hard to commit to a friendship but not a band, a lover, or political organization?

“Not There” to me is just this way of explaining the absence of something. It could be a person, the sun during the winter months, energy to create, to work, to fight against...

The lyric in context is: “We take no time to make it / with none left to spare / misdirected / anxious / gasping for air / but you’re not there.”

Jake: It also comes from extreme indecision and deadlines! Haha. But really I think it somehow just feels like it fits the content of the album. Thematically I think there’s a pretty strong theme on Not There, kinda what Lily describes above. It really resonates with me for sure, so I’m psyched about it.

Parasol has always been really committed to playing all ages shows only, which is rad and admirable. You recently played (what I think was) one of your first non-all-ages show, opening up for Built to Spill. How was that show? Why was that particular show was important to you and how did you decide to play it?

Jake: Yeah that was our first non-all-ages show, at least in Boston. It was 18+. Let’s see, it all began when we played a show in Boise and Built to Spill was playing across the street. Vicky went over and asked if we could get in cuz we were on tour and the guy at the door was cool. After the show Vicky and Lily talked to Doug and gave him a record. Fast forward a little bit and we get an email asking if we wanted to play this show.

It was a tough decision, and we went through all our options on how to make it as good as possible if we did decide to play. We knew Built to Spill themselves always try to play as many all ages gigs as possible so we asked if we could book them a matinee, but Paradise Rock Club made them sign a thing saying they wouldn’t play any other shows in the area, even though it was obviously going to sell out (ugh).

So ultimately we just decided to give the money we made to a group promoting all-ages punk shit. It was a pretty bullshit cop-out type of move, but ultimately Built to Spill has been a huge band in all of our lives and I personally believe that every case is a rule unto itself. I hope to never play a non-all-ages show again. No apologies, but next time we’ll try to do better. I think I tend to be the most hardline on stuff like this, and I wasn’t about to take a stand at the expense of something that could be super important for other folks in the band. Anyway, in the end we exchanged contacts with Doug and are most likely gonna book them an all ages show next time they come through, so I don’t know if that redeems us at all.

The show was cool, playing it didn’t feel as stupid as I thought it would. Lots of free beer and hummus. It definitely wasn’t my thing, but it was super fun for the novelty and a bunch of people saw us who might otherwise not, and lots of them seemed really cool. We got to let as many friends in free as we wanted and not feel bad about it! We also had Support Boston tabling with us and they got rid of a lot of zines to people who maybe don’t have as much access to radical resources, so yeah! P. cool.

What other bands and projects are you all involved in right now? What other bands and projects are inspiring you right now?

Jake: I play in some other bands (Peeple Watchin, Nervous Condition, Rash Tongue). I was pretty involved with organizing the Anarchist Bookfair this year, and Vicky and I often do childcare for radical groups and events. I’m excited about the band LEATHER DADDY and also DIS-IPLIN as well as so many others. Lily’s other band SHREW is ridiculously awesome. Outside of Boston...I’m really excited about the new WATERCOLOR PAINTINGS tape that Lost Sounds released alongside our record.

Lily: I am in a few other bands, (Shrew, Nervous Condition) and do some soloy-stuff when I have time. I am also helping organize Smash-It-Dead Fest for my third year in a row which is super exciting. Vicky is in SO MANY COOL BANDS but I feel like Fleabite and Peeple Watchin are doing the most right now. She is also in Support Boston. I am also excited for the same bands Jake is excited for. I have been on a stupid sludge/heavy band kick right now that is like filled with some stupid bands and not relevant for this interview hah.

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