Words by Derek Evers
Photos by Nate Dorr
It would be presumptuous of me â€“ or anyone for that matter â€“ to assume that Parts & Labor founding members B.J. Warsaw and Dan Friel could have envisioned the twists and turns that have accompanied the band and its line-up over its five-plus years of existence. As things have progressed, members, and subsequently sounds, have changed, leaving B.J. and Dan as the only parts of Parts & Labor that have endured. The labor is one of love, and one that has seen Warsaw and Friel take on many personas and projects. It's these parts that have created some amazing music, while the labor has produced friendships and relationships, which reverberate throughout the independent music community.
[Parts & Labor in their practice space]
There are several quick reminders that P&L's influence reaches well beyond the confines of the stage. Take, for example, their co-run, in-house label Cardboard Records. "We really had a hard time coming up with a name," explains Friel on an 11am phone call in between tours, "we basically took a lot of the suggestions we got and sent them out to our e-mail list and asked people to vote. That's really how it went down." Or the bevy of friends who show up on one of their releases â€“ the Love And Circuits comp features 57 tracks on two CDs from the likes of (big inhale) Matt & Kim, Oneida, Fuck Buttons, High Places, Numbers, Japanther, Lucky Dragons, Aa (Big A, little a), Shy Child, Oh Sees, Double Dagger, Gowns, Wilderness, These Are Powers, Maps & Atlases, Pterodactyl, Neptune, Ecstatic Sunshine, Best Fwends and Zs to name a few â€“ it's a quick reminder that P&L's influence reaches well beyond the confines of the stage.
[cover of Love And Circuits]
Even their newest record, Receivers, which comes out Oct. 21st on Jagjaguar, is not without input from the community as a whole. The title refers to a project where the band asked people to send in sounds, be it found sounds, created sounds, or otherwise, which the band then "received" and, as Friel puts it, "worked them into our record and allowed them to define where different segues were going to go and how we were going to use things."
[cover of Receivers]
But while there is no shortage of ideas and contributions emanating both to and from Parts & Labor, ultimately it was the loss of one of their main parts that is most responsible for the sound of Receivers. "Chris is a writer," Dan explains of ex-drummer Chris Weingarten's 2007 departure. "And he was trying to do both being in a band and writing about bands at the same time, for the entire time he was in the band, which was about 3 years. It got to the point where he wanted to be doing both, but he couldn't tour anymore if he wanted to keep working as a writer and keep going up the ladder as a writer essentially, and he had to choose."
Almost by fate - or irony depending on how you look at it - the switching of drummers led to a litany of changes that helped push the band towards what Dan would describe as a more traditional rock sound. "Chris' departure just gave us an excuse to change things up a bunch. We had been talking a while about adding a fourth member, a guitar player, so when we figured out we would have to get a new drummer we decided we were going to do that too at the same time."
Enter Sarah Lipstate on guitar and Joe Wong on drums; and with them the first steps on the evolutionary chart that is Receivers. The lead single from the album, "Nowheres Nigh", is a prime example of this sonic evolution. While the fuzz and echo on Warsaw's vocals remain and the submitted sounds and noise float in the background, at the forefront is your standard three-chord pop song â€“ and there's even a guitar solo.
MP3 Download - "Nowheres Nigh"
"I feel like we're not entirely sure how far we're going to follow that progression," admits Friel. "I think that while we were working on this record we got really into Brian Eno's pop records and talking a lot about the stuff that we're influenced by that wasn't really showing up on the last two full-lengths. More psych stuff like Oneida, Pink Floyd, Sonic Youthâ€¦basically less punk shit that we listened to and I thought was only coming across on our side projects.
"That's where more of the weirder, slower stuff was happening, so we decided that if we were going to get anymore conventional as far as being a rock band, we would also slow things down and do longer songs and just change up the whole thing."
Despite the addition of two new members and one new instrument to the fold, Friel confesses the motivational factor might have had just as much an influence on the new record. "We were grateful to have something to kick our ass, because we felt like if we made another record in the vein of Mapmakers and Stay Afraid, we would've been forced to repeat ourselves in probably a bad way."
Like Friel, who also performs solo and recently released what might be one the best full lengths of 2008, Ghost Town on Important Records, and Shooting Spires, Warsaw's side project, which released their first full length on Cardboard this past spring, Lipstate and Wong are no strangers to wearing many different hats. The former is an aspiring filmmaker who has had her short films screened at SxSW for the past two years, and also has a solo project called Noveller, which will see the release of an album early next year on No Fun Productions. Wong meanwhile, scores movie soundtracks, including Chris Smith's (of "American Movie" fame) "The Yes Men" and 2007 Sundance Award winner "The Pool".
MP3 Download - "Ghost Town" by Dan Friel
MP3 Download - "Right" by Shooting Spires
MP3 Download - "Rainbows" by Noveller
Trailer for "The Pool"
And the list goes on and on. From the release of tapes ala Dan ("I hope tapes never disappear completely because I still have a tape deck radio in my kitchen and tape time is cooking time") Friel's 2005 out of print Obsoleter on Night-People Records, to artwork (Shawn Reed, the guitar player/singer for Racoo-oo-on and co-owner of Night-People did the artwork for Ghost Town), to splits like the Parts & Labor / Aa (Big A, little a) collaboration PAaRTS & LAaBOR (which also featured a silk-screened cover designed and illustrated by Aa's Aron Wahl), the six degrees of musicians you can trace back to Parts & Labor is growing exponentially and shows no signs of slowing down.
[cover of Ghost Town]
[cover of PAaRTS & LAaBOR]
Nate Dorr wrote an excellent piece on the lineage of Cardboard Records in January of this year using their discography to tell the story of its existence and role in what Dorr called a "vibrant, nationwide landscape of underground rock." Less than a year later and already dated by new band members, friends, and records, the article goes on to describe in depth what Friel summarizes in one line: "Cardboard Records is not any sort of business that exists other than for us to put out records that we like by bands we think should be out there."
Friel makes this statement without so much as a second thought. As it's obvious to him and to us from our conversation that music remains, above all else, a labor of love and each element is integral to how the whole will function. In essence, Parts & Labor is greater than both the sum of its parts and labor.