Primarily Seated, General Admission


The Elephants

Tue · February 20, 2018

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm


Off Sale

This event is all ages

“WE is not about you and me or even ‘us,’ the band. It’s about finding our way in the world one day at a time trying to live out each moment until the sun goes down.” Parsonsfield has been through the wringer of ups and downs and decided for the first time since the band’s 2011 conception to take a two-month break from touring to focus solely on recording. The result is WE, a contemplative EP filled with real life struggle and excitement. The album takes us from the joys of childhood discovery to the depression and confusion of a quarter-life crisis, and ends with dancing your way toward the darkness at the end of days.

“Everyone finds themselves searching for this theoretical ‘thing’ that is supposed to make them happy. Whether it’s a relationship or financial comfort, there’s a goal in our minds that once achieved, we’ll be able to start enjoying life,” says singer/songwriter and banjo player Chris Freeman. “Our circumstances, whether we’re rich or poor, are only half of what determines happiness. The rest is our thoughts, habits and connections with other people,” adds songwriter and mandolin player Antonio Alcorn. “WE is an inner journey to appreciate what you have, and to find happiness no matter what your lot in life.”

In a concise five songs, WE captures the band’s maturing sound, winding its way through a full range of emotions. It has as much influence from 90’s rock and 70’s R&B as it does the folk-pop material that fans have come to expect from the western Massachusetts based outfit. The album opens with a forlorn mandolin that grows into the groovy “Light of the City,” a song about profound loneliness in the most crowded place on earth. “Go Find Yourself” captures the fading of childhood excitement as you tumble down a prescribed path toward the rest of your life, realizing it won’t bring you happiness. The song takes a cosmic step back and pleads, “when love comes to find you, don’t run and hide.” The danceable, invigorating “Kick Out The Windows,” written in reaction to Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” is a resonant anthem of defiance and redemption, showcasing Parsonsfield’s enduring vein of passion.

Leading up to the recording of WE, Parsonsfield built a home studio where they retreated to workshop song ideas and experiment with recording techniques. “There were more demos and versions of these songs than any other songs we have written. It was a much more thoughtful process with 90% of our ideas not sticking. Since recording our last album, Blooming Through The Black, we scored a film and wrote instrumental music for the first time, which opened new horizons for this record.”

When it came time to go into the studio with producer Dan Cardinal (Josh Ritter, The Low Anthem, Darlingside), Parsonsfield had more material than ever before. “Dan challenged us even further to play with sampled drums and more effected sounds giving the music more depth and mood. Although this was our first time working in a traditional recording studio, we didn’t want to lose the space that our demos had. So we made sure that songs like ‘Light of the City’ and ‘Take Me Back’ maintained that minimalism that we fell in love with on our demo.”

WE is the highly anticipated fourth release from Parsonsfield, a quintet praised for making "the most jubilant and danceable indie roots music this side of the Carolinas” (NPR). The band continues to push the boundaries of their harmony- driven grassroots origins creating their own distinctive Americana, integrating pop and bold rock flourishes along the way.

Just remember, WE is not about you and me. Freeman continues, “It’s about struggling with depression and anxiety from living in a divisive world, yet we have so much to be grateful for. It's about being at the crossroads of yesterday's dreams and tomorrow's plans.”
They've got their amps and PA plugged in now, and there's a faint layer of sawdust on top of all the gear. It's nothing compared to yesterday, when they opened the doors for the first time and discovered sawdust an inch thick coating every imaginable surface. It was so bad they had to purchase respirators and devote the entire day to sweeping and vacuuming, trying to outwit the neighbor's overzealous guard dog every time they came and went from the building. The whole process left so much dust still floating in the air that every time they take a break, another layer settles back down to earth, but at least they can comfortably breathe now.

Above them, a cyclist crosses the rickety bridge over the river, making a distinctive clatter as the wheels hit a particularly loose plank. It's time to begin 'Blooming Through The Black.'
* * *
Though they call western Massachusetts home, Parsonsfield draws their name from the rural Maine town that's home to the Great North Sound Society, the farmhouse-turned-recording-studio of Josh Ritter keyboardist/producer Sam Kassirer. It was there that they cut their outstanding debut, 'Poor Old Shine,' which established them as a roots force to be reckoned with. The New York Times hailed the band as "boisterously youthful yet deftly sentimental," while Folk Alley dubbed their songs "the most jubilant and danceable indie roots music this side of the Carolinas." Their rowdy live performances only upped the ante, with The Bluegrass Situation falling for their "fun and frenzy" and No Depression raving that they'll "give you rich five-part harmonies one minute, sound like bluegrass on steroids the next, and then rock you over the head with unbearably cool and raucous Celtic rhythms."

It was only natural, then, that they called on Kassirer once again for their follow-up, 'Blooming Through The Black,' enlisting his engineering and production ingenuity to help convert the axe factory into a temporary recording studio. In addition to placing microphones on each instrument, Kassirer set up additional mics throughout the factory just to capture the feel of the enormous space, which itself became another instrument in the band's already-impressive repertoire.

Parsonsfield spent nearly six months writing and rehearsing in the factory, discovering that song ideas that had begun life in Canada radically transformed in their new home. The space demanded understatement and subtlety to balance out the band's exuberance and energy, and by the time they were ready to hit record, they were sitting on a collection chock full of the most infectious, emotionally mature songs of their career.

'Blooming Through The Black' opens with 'Stronger,' a slow-burner that, much like Parsonsfield's career, begins as an acoustic folk number and builds to an electrified tumult. It's a showcase for their instrumental prowess, lyrical chops, and unbridled passion, and it's just the start. The title track—inspired by the sight of the first flowers growing back in the forest fire-charred landscape of Hell Canyon, South Dakota—finds Freeman blending punk energy with earnest sincerity in his delivery, while "Across Your Mind" rides a feel-good groove driven by bassist Harrison Goodale and drummer Erik Hischman, and "Water Through A Mill" ebbs and flows like a solemn hymn on top of Max Shakun's meditative pump organ.

As the band explored the quirks and eccentricities of the factory, unexpected sounds and moments sometimes became permanent fixtures of the songs, but a particularly happy accident occurred outside the studio entirely, when Shakun called mandolin player Antonio Alcorn for help setting up his new record player. Upon dropping the needle somewhere in the middle of a copy of 'Poor Old Shine,' they discovered it was spinning backwards, but the melody coming out of the speakers was perhaps even more of an infectious earworm than it was when played forward. They brought the new riff to the rest of the band, where it morphed into "The Ties That Bind Us," a stand-out foot-stomper and a highlight of their live show.

Catch Parsonsfield onstage any night and the band's joy is palpable. They trade instruments, share microphones, and shoot each other big grins. They sing in tight multi-part harmonies, their voices blending like they've been doing this together all their lives. That's because Parsonsfield is a family band, not by birth but by choice. And with an album this thrilling, it's only a matter of time before you share their same enthusiasm.

Listen closely at the top of "Don't Get Excited" and you'll hear the clatter of a cyclist crossing the rickety bridge over the river. That's the sound of Parsonsfield inviting you into the axe factory. It's time to begin 'Blooming Through The Black.' Good luck not getting excited.
The Elephants
The Elephants
Venue Information:
Beachland Ballroom
15711 Waterloo Road
Cleveland, OH, 44110