Brother Derek – “Parade Rest” LP
Parade Rest is sure to take you on a journey of fun vitality and dynamic repose.
You can expect something stellar when you combine the catalyst flow state of genre-melding idyllic output inspired during the pandemic, a meticulous production team consisting of Alex Kercheval and Tyler Watkins at Postal Recording, and a number of informed songs steeped in years of refinement.
Parade Rest is the second release for Brother Derek, drawn from what they deem “a deep well of genre-malleable tunes that are each more a roller coaster ride than a straight shot, at times weird but always groovy. “
The 10 song album more than lives up to the ups and downs of a roller coaster, on both a micro and macro scale through energetic swells, arcs of whimsical anecdotes, and unexpected detours. In an amalgamate maybe from the western suburbs of Naperville, Illinois, Brother Derek’s midwestern sound mixes dream-twang guitars, LA psychedelic memoirs, and hypnotic lulls in arrangement. Seamlessly incorporating a variety of distant and foreign elements into something new and up front, there’s a certain amount of clarity in the air, palatable experimentation, and decisive tone going on with this record both stylistically and musically.
Parade Rest, according to Derek, is “a chronicle of heartbreak, hate, cynicism, love, and hope, and tries to forge a kind of peace with the madness, a repose.” The record sports an amusing foot forward – incorporating a span of chamfered tape delay vocals led forward by direct piano, vibraphone arpeggios, intriguing keyboard textures, and dry pronounced drum grooves. It also kicks into high gear with fuzz, raunchy tact, and vibrant imagery.
Transitions, segues, and departures all happen through the clever use of harmonic deviations and tempo fluctuations leave the listener intrigued with the stylistically unexpected, yet brought back to familiarity. At a play time of 35 minutes and 45 seconds, Parade Rest is sure to take you on a journey of fun vitality and dynamic repose. With a number of upcoming shows for the year, future collaborations, and continual creative output, you can continue to expect exciting things from Brother Derek in 2023.
With your latest release, what was the time span for writing?
Roughly *gulp* 30 years. Arguably almost 40 years! I have a WordPress site for this act where I shared a few notes on each of the songs, and here are highlights on a few of them: For “Heavy Into You,” the bulk of the melodic components came together largely in ’85-’86 when tinkering with my fellow then-teen music collaborator Rich Frye as part of our old Naperville bedroom pop group “Food.” “Coming Home” was largely written in ’93-4 range but couldn’t find a home (hardy-har) for release until this record. Some tracks were incomplete for a long time then finished during the pandemic (e.g. “Amazingly Crazy”), one was wholly written during the pandemic (“I Consider You a Friend”), while others were written over the past 20-25 years or so but didn’t make their way into my mid 00’s Recent Photo project and/or were shelved when I was very busy in the 2009-2015 range as a new dad to some young ‘uns.
What was working at Postal Recording like and how do you think it shaped your experience of making the album? Did it differ in the end from what you had initially envisioned and set out to do? Feel free to dive into your creative process.
For starters, the facility is just beautiful. It was a former post office building (hence the name), and Alex and Tyler gutted and built it out over a number of years to get it to its current state of glory. Just a lovely setting in which to (hopefully) let lovely things happen. I did “Parade Rest” with the Postal team as a return customer, having completed and released in 2019 a 5 song EP I recorded with them called “MurderNite.” I was happy with the wonderfully spruced up yet very mildly twangy way MurderNite turned out in further production, and decided that that would be “the sound” of the Brother Derek project, so that’s how Postal & Co. became something of an additional band member. By the time sessions began for what eventually became the “Parade Rest” record, we had an MO by then of having me demo and send the songs to the Postal folks
beforehand (with simple bass and voice), then I’d drive down there (usually with an overnight stay and eventually with my buddy and Bro D compatriot Guy Corl in tow) to teach the song to the assembled musicians while capturing the best moments with tracking. The songs would not be how they sound without the creative input from the Postal guys and the musicians dedicated to it, and often times I feel the team overall lifted the songs up to what I’d call their “gold standard” versions – first to mind is “Tom Cruise Leaves Self,” which took on so much additional life in collaboration with the Postal folks that I almost feel like an outsider looking in to its creation, having merely planted the seed.
How does your formal prior training as a cellist affect your vernacular and creativity as a songwriter?
I’ve mentioned that the cello training helped me develop the dexterity, ability to productively participate in an ensemble, musicality, and sense of melody and phrasing I relied on to readily transition to my main platform for songwriting and band leadership, singing with the bass. I became interested in pop music composition primarily (though I did write and set aside an orchestral work or two), but I’m sure at least some of my pop songs are infused with what would have been orchestral-type moments were I a powder-wigged 17th century composer.
What can people expect to see from you in 2023? Do you have any planned shows/performances?
We’ll be playing Chicago’s installment of the International Pop Overthrow festival in late April at Chicago’s Montrose Saloon, perhaps do a summer mini tour, and are discussing doing a show back at the venue that so kindly hosted most of “Brother Derek”’s early (2017-19) shows, The Outtaspace in Berwyn, IL. Other Chicagoland shows hopefully too. I have a another project or two in the works too, to be revealed in the socials upon taking form.
Are you currently part of a record label or have interest in one? If not, what does being independent mean/translate to?
I have a DIY imprint I call “Space Heater,” and am figuring out what it can/will support apart from my own project(s). If the label could cater to genre-flexible acts that I think would by their nature
be extremely interesting and fun live (not to mention on record), what would that look or be like? Or do I focus on seeking out a label to support what I’m up to (as there are more songs stockpiled)? Another 2023 thing for me to figure out! I am currently finding it cool to have complete flexibility with the forward path; the challenge is to gather a full head of steam without a lot of touring.
Was Parade Rest a solo endeavor? Or did you feature any guest musicians?
Definitely not! Quite a few musicians participated! Apart from my right hand man Guy (mentioned earlier) a number of musicians participated in the endeavor beyond myself and the production/musician team of Alex and Tyler, namely: Braxton Bucy (trumpet), Johnny Concannon (drums), Lillian Marshall (backing vocals), Nick Vote (vocals and multiple instruments), Sarah Grain (backing vocals) and Wade Parish (drums).
What are your biggest sources of inspiration or influences (this could be musical or hobbies/activities/people/experiences in your life etc…)
I’m no different than other songwriters in that I glean inspiration from life itself, capturing whatever I can when the “flow state” hits, and hoping it’s something novel and worth sharing. Those flow moments are hard to come by when, as Lennon put it, “the air is cluttered.” I found more in the way of uncluttered openings during the pandemic; I’m sure I was not alone. As far as musicians/songwriters who inspire me, I usually try to avoid imitating my heroes, but am starting to notice that they seem to reveal themselves most to me as influences when they pass on (e.g. Lou Reed, David Bowie, Mark Hollis, Christie McVie etc.). The sad demise of folks you’ve come to think of as being vital creative forces has a way of motivating one.