With 2017’s Blurred Harmony, Portland, OR-based JOVM mainstays The Parson Red Heads — currently Evan Way (guitar, vocals), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Robbie Augspurger (bass), Raymond Richards (multi-instrumentalist, production), the band’s newest member Jake Smith (guitar) and a rotating cast of friends, collaborators and associates — intended to do things much differently than anything else they did before: the band recorded and tracked themselves. They would set up drums and amps and furiously recorded their fourth album’s material after everyone put their kids to sleep, finishing that day’s session before it got too late.
As the band’s Evan Way said at the time, “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”
After the release of Blurred Harmony, the band’s founding member Sam Fowles left the band, and the band’s remaining members were frocked to ask themselves tough questions about both the future of the band and its creative direction. The band recruited their longtime touring guitarist Jake Smith to join the band full-time. They then decided that any new material they would write, would be be approached with a new lens.
The band’s fifth album Lifetime of Comedy was released last month through Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and You Are The Cosmos across Europe, and the album finds the band excavating the bedrock of their well-honed and beloved sound, and allowing it to be remolded and remolded. While remaining a quintessentially Parson Red Heads album, the material as Evan Way contends in press notes is among the most collaborative, they’ve written and recorded to date.
The Portland-based JOVM mainstays started recording Lifetime of Comedy earlier this year and much like countless acts across our globe, they quickly found themselves and their plans in limbo as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. Once studios could reopen, recording sessions continued at a snail’s pace for small, very intimate sessions. With much of the album’s material being recorded in a decollate, touch-and-go period, Lifetime of Comedy seems imbued — and perhaps also informed by — a sense of perseverance and hope.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve written about three of the album’s released singles:
“All I Wanted,” a classic Parson Red Heads song that superficially sounded as though it could have been part of the Blurred Harmony sessions but with a subtly free-flowing, jammier vibe that evoked the sensation of longtime friends creating something new with a revitalized sense of togetherness centered around incredibly earnest lyricism, born from lived-in experience.
“Turn Around” is a heartfelt deflation of devotion seemingly influenced by 80s and early 90s jangle pop that’s simple yet absolutely necessary. After all, sometimes all that ever needs to be said to our loved ones is “I’ll be always there.”
“Coming Along,” song that manages to balance lush and anthemic instrumentation with the sort of introspective lyricism that can only come from a living a full and messy life. And as a result the song is an accumulation of weariness, regret, wisdom, resiliency and hope that seems to say “yes, life will break your heart sometimes but we find a way to love, to dream, to love — and that’s what makes life endurable.
Interestingly, despite its 2:47 runtime, Lifetime of Comedy’s fourth and latest single “Fall and Be Found” is an expansive bit of cosmic featuring shimmering, reverb-drenched guitar, strummed acoustic guitar, a propulsive rhythm section and an enormous, soaring hook paired with Evan Way’s plaintive vocals. Interestingly, “Fall And Be Found” is centered around two very different yet related things: the recognition of the wonderful, deeply human and seemingly fleeting moments of our existence (i.e., birth, childhood, friendship, love and the like) and the hope that better days are just around the corner. And as a result, the song is a much-needed blast of hope when things seem at their most dire, while arguably being among the most hopeful song of their catalog.
“The song, ‘Fall & Be Found,’ is about a belief in the possibilities of beauty and transcendence in this world, both natural and supernatural,” The Parson Red Heads’ Evan Way explains. “It’s about embracing the idea that there is so much more to this life and existence than we ever really take time to acknowledge while we’re in the thick of it. More so now than ever, life often seems to be full of chaos, pain, heartache, confusion — not always, but often. And when we’re in the midst of those seasons, it often seems impossible to realize that despite that, there is beauty, there is an unexplainable magic in life and existence. This song is an attempt to communicate that, and an anthem proclaiming a belief that one day in the future, I believe we will see that reality, and know it in a more full and true way. ”
The recently released video for “Fall and Be Found” is a feverish collage of nostalgia-tinged found footage of young couples in love, kids playing each other and their parents as well as footage shot on family vacations and childlike animation. And much like the song it accompanies, the video captures life’s beauty, joy and meaning — but while hinting at the fact that there’s more to this world.
“The video captures so much of that beauty, magic, and mystery,” the band’s Evan Way says. “It’s mysterious without feeling foreboding, and it visually communicates that mysterious, unknowable beauty surrounding us all in such a profound way. “