Last week, Seven Days ran the first of a two-part interview we recently conducted at a Burlington coffee shop with songwriter and recent Vermont transplant Anders Parker (Varnaline, Gob Iron). This installment concludes the interview and focuses on Crow, which was written almost entirely in Burlington and represents the second piece of Parker’s new double album, Skyscraper Crow. The release show for both albums is this Saturday at the Monkey House.
SEVEN DAYS: So Crow was all written in Burlington, right?
ANDERS PARKER: Yeah. I had finished mixing Skyscraper and the electric record, basically cleaned the slate. And I had some songs I had started before, and the other I started from scratch. So, basically all of the songs were either written or finished here. And it was all recorded here in the fall or early winter, mostly in the daytime. You get that kind of light coming into the house. It was nice.
SD: And the title of the album came from…
AP: The crows. [Chuckling] They would talk to me every time I would walk into town. It doesn’t seem so much in the summer. But in the fall and the winter, it seems like they are all along South Winooski and that park … Smiley Park? [Smalley] But they were just, like, in the trees over the house and wherever. So it seemed like I would work for a few hours and then go out and walk around with the dog, and the crows were always talking to people, or harassing people. Saying, “Hi,” or, “Get away from me,” or whatever.
SD: The crow is such a powerful, iconic image. But it seems like your experience wasn’t as sinister as what crows are usually associated with.
AP: It definitely wasn’t. I kind of thought of them more as jokers, you know? But no, it wasn’t necessarily sinister at all. I just thought they were, like, guys hanging out on the stoop, talking to you as you’re walking by. And I’m just kind of fascinated by birds, and animals in general. Especially when I was living in cities. It’s always interesting to see all the animals, the critters that live around when you’re in town.
SD: Did the experience of living in Vermont while you were writing Crow enter into the equation at all?
AP: There was nothing “geographical,” I wouldn’t say. It was more like how a place affects you subconsciously. And I tend to like more impressionistic lyrics. Not that I don’t write songs that are very pointed, at least to me. But just the place and the season, latitude and longitude … all of those things affect you, whether you’re conscious of it or not.
I did a lot of writing for the previous record up in Newport [Vermont]. And I definitely see and feel that in the songs. The same with this record, too. I have roots here. It’s just something that is part of me.
We were talking earlier about setting parameters. And with Crow, I just wanted to make something that was small and intimate, just sort of in your ear. I’ve been calling [those songs] “audio dioramas.” They aren’t supposed to be big. I resisted the temptation to overdub lots of stuff, more vocals or whatever, because I wanted it to be very dry and present, almost like having a conversation like this. So in some ways I think that speaks to the “Vermont” attitude of, like, a DIY, homespun ethic, which is something I relate to.
That’s something I got from my dad. He was an electrical engineer. But he also grew up on a farm and did everything himself and had a very inquisitive mind. So that kind of sparked me in terms of writing and recording. Don’t wait for someone else to do it when you can do it yourself. And that’s a very common thread in indie rock music these days.
SD: That third album, the electric album, is a full-on rock album. Are you looking to start a band here?
AP: I think so. Eventually I’ll get around to it. I talk to people here about it. I recorded a tune for a Townes Van Zandt tribute with basically The Lonestar Chain up at Burette [Douglas, The Cush, The Lonestar Chain]’s place about a month ago. And that was really fun.
Once the dust settles with this record and I figure out what I want to do next, I’ll probably do something around here. There are a lot of really good musicians and lots of great music happening around here.