Parsonsfield

Parsonsfield

Soda BarSan DiegoCA
$12.00 - $15.00
Ages 21+
Parsonsfield LIVE at Soda Bar

Six years after coming together as a band of high-energy musical misfits—too rock for

folk, too folk for punk, too punk for bluegrass—Parsonsfield found themselves standing

at a crossroads. The critically acclaimed five-piece was down to just four members,

and while the obvious solution may have been to simply replace their departed

comrade, the group instead made the bold choice to completely reimagine their lineup

and their catalog, carrying forward as a quartet with an ambitious new approach to

writing and recording. The result was a genuine sonic rebirth, a wild musical

awakening that brought Parsonsfield closer together than ever before and yielded

their most exhilarating and adventurous record yet: Happy Hour On The Floor.

“Recording this album marked our first time working in the studio as a four-piece, and

it was really liberating,” says lead vocalist Chris Freeman. “Once the lineup changed,

we realized that there weren’t any restrictions on what we could do. It came with this

boundless sense of musical freedom where anything felt possible.”

One listen to Happy Hour On The Floor, the band’s third full-length release, and it’s

clear just how liberated Parsonsfield has become. Produced by Benjamin Lazar Davis

(Joan As Police Woman, Okkervil River), the record fuses the group’s rustic

instrumentation and timeless sense of songcraft with dreamy synthesizers and vintage

drum machines. The arrangements here are broad and spacious, often built off spare,

hypnotizing loops that fuel the songs’ mesmerizing drive, and the band’s performances

are deliberate and economical to match, substituting lean, careful construction in

place of the strummed exuberance that defined much of their early work. The result is

a record more reminiscent of modern indie pop than old-school string bands, a

collection that pushes the group far beyond the perceived boundaries of its sound,

even as it shines a spotlight on the heart and soul of what’s always made

Parsonsfield’s music such a joyous revelation.

“When we started writing and recording with one less person, we had to become more

judicious about what was essential,” says Freeman. “The experience taught us to

really hone in on the core of what the four of us love about making music together.”

Parsonsfield’s journey first began back in 2014 with the release of Poor Old Shine, an

ecstatic acoustic collection recorded in the rural Maine town from which the band

drew its name. Hailed by Folk Alley as "the most jubilant and danceable indie roots

music this side of the Carolinas," the album (and the group’s accompanying live shows)

established them as a raucous force of nature, with The New York Times praising them

as "boisterously youthful yet deftly sentimental” and No Depression raving that they'll

"give you rich five-part harmonies one minute [and] sound like bluegrass on steroids

the next." They followed it up in 2016 with Blooming Through The Black, a slightly

more experimental outing that earned the band glowing reviews alongside dates with

everyone from Josh Ritter and The Jayhawks to Mandolin Orange and The New

Pornographers. That same year, the group saw their music featured in the hit AMC

series “The Walking Dead” and teamed up with the prestigious FreshGrass Festival to

compose a score for the 1922 silent classic Nanook of the North, which they performed

live alongside the film at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

By the time Parsonsfield began work on Happy Hour On The Floor, the lineup wasn’t

the only change at play. Freeman and drummer Erik Hischmann had each gotten

married, and while Hischmann and his wife settled down in Pennsylvania, the rest of

the band clustered back together in New England like the early days: mandolinist

Antonio Alcorn moved in with Freeman and his wife in Somerville, MA, and guitarist

Max Shakun took up residence nearby in the very same town.

“We’d been spread out for so long,” says Alcorn, who penned roughly half the LP with

Freeman. “Just being physically close again had a big impact on our writing process.”

When it came time to record, the band converted an old barn in rural Connecticut into

a makeshift studio, working with Davis to fill the space with an eclectic array of

instruments from pump organ and piano to mellotron and Moog. Due to the raw nature

of the room, the foursome built each song from the ground up, layering instruments

one-at-a-time to beautiful, tempo-setting tracks designed by Davis.

“Recording each instrument individually pushed us to strip the songs down to their

most fundamental elements,” says Freeman. “At the same time, it pushed us to play

more melodically and make sure that every part we included was indispensable. It led

us to this new sound that I think we’ve always been searching for.”

That new sound is plain to hear from the opening seconds of the album, which begins

with the rousing “Paper Floor.” Like much of the record to come, the track is driven

by an infectious groove and an intoxicating mix of organic and electronic sounds that

leaves plenty of room for Freeman’s airy voice to shine. The lilting “Til I Die” mixes

crisp finger-picking and Celtic strings with intentionally lo-fi production and dense

vocal choiring, while the spellbinding “Running River” builds from an a capella vocoder

intro into a triumphant full band climax, and the hook-filled “Now That You’re Gone”

comes from experiments with bass ukulele run through radical effects pedals.

“When we became a quartet, the four of us all decided to learn to play bass and split

the duties depending on what each song called for,” says Alcorn. “It turned out to

really shape the way we wrote and recorded this album because we were all

discovering the possibilities of this new instrument. Everything on the record feels

groovier and more danceable than ever before.”

And that’s just the way Parsonsfield wants it. There’s enough sadness and bad news in

the world as it is, so they crafted Happy Hour On The Floor as an escape. Hischmann’s

contributions, for example, meditate on the little moments that define our day-to-day

existence: the enchanting “River Town” finds joy in the simple things, while the

breezy “Reykjavik Connection” celebrates the kind of bond that transcends time and

distance, and the romantic “Sweet Dream” revels in the all-consuming power of love.

It’s perhaps the soaring “Emery,” though, that captures the spirit of the album best.

Beginning with a field recording of the birds that congregated outside the barn every

day during the recording sessions, the track reflects on gratitude and perspective, on a

definition of happiness and fulfillment that has nothing to with wealth or power or

possessions.

“It’s a song about the necessities in life, which, for the most part, aren’t physical

things at all,” says Freeman. “It’s about having nothing, but because of that, knowing

that you have endless possibilities.”

As Parsonsfield learned with Happy Hour On The Floor, sometimes less is more.

Venue Information:
Soda Bar
3615 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA, 92104