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An Open Book: The Novel with PARK RD

INTERVIEW

Written by Nabeelah Khan (she/her) | @nabeelahkhann | Contributing Writer


It’s a sun-drenched afternoon in Grey Lynn. I enter Loop Recording Studios and am greeted warmly by PARK RD (@parkrdmusic). Despite the taxing day of press they’ve endured, Tom Chamberlain, Leo Crawshaw-Bond, and Carlos Martin are surprisingly chipper.



Tom is the frontman, Leo strums the guitar, and Carlos plays the bass. The remaining two bandmates, Angus Hampton-Carr, the lead guitarist, and Te Kapua Pene, who is behind the drums, were unable to attend the interview.


The interview begins on the studio balcony. The insistent humming of car engines stuck in afternoon traffic means we have to relocate to the garage of the studio, where cardboard boxes and vinyl records are splayed out in the room.


PARK RD hails from the west of Tāmaki Makaurau, Titirangi. The band formed in high school to socialise and “get out and see more,” Tom says. They would meet for band practice at Tom’s home, who lived

on Park Road. This seminal location was the inspiration for the band’s name.


Carlos was the last to join the band. Originally PARK RD had a different bassist, who got too stoned and wouldn’t show up to practice. Leo jokes that they now have Carlos, who will show up to practice and get “stoned less frequently.”


Their journey as a band started with fundraising gigs to support Tom’s brother, who was heading to Thailand to work at a refugee camp. Kicking off with just one gig a year the band grew their way to performing 35 shows in a year. They wanted their music to go beyond Titirangi and its surrounding suburbs. Leo reflects on those early shows, “It’s good doing shit gigs. You have to do shit gigs. They made us who we are.”


Their recent shows have been a significant upgrade from their humble beginnings of playing at “shit gigs.” Playing at Wellington’s Homegrown festival and opening for Milky Chance at the Powerstation, PARK RD has kicked off with notable momentum ahead of their debut album release.


Tom explains the album’s anecdotal title, The Novel. He was songwriting for the album and composed the lyrics, “I feel like I’m out of a novel where I get the girl and we get to cause some trouble.” Tom then turned to the band, who entertained the album title The Novel due to its similarity to their previous project, Stupid Stories.


Induced by periods of listening sessions to Pinegrove, Alex G and The 1975, the band steered in a more melancholic direction due to their “sad boy eras.” This sonic direction is a divergence from their usual upbeat, mellow sound.


The emotive steer in their music is likely a result of some ennui the band was experiencing during the creative process of The Novel. Tom admits that he fell into an unanticipated slump. “I was walking back to the studio and I had this moment…there are parts where you’re fucking stoked for the music and then parts where you get into little ruts.”


A memorable song on the album for Tom is “Asleep:Awake”, which was written during the devastating floods in Tāmaki Makaurau. “I wrote [“Asleep:Awake”] thinking, oh, this one’s just for me. But I ended up showing it to a few people, and then we ended up putting on the album. It’s a special song for me.”


“Asleep:Awake” is a track that offers a slower tempo than the rest of the album. Its lyrics are poignant: “I romanticise until I feel nothing… maybe I should just learn how to be more awake.” The song serves as both a confession and a self-critique, delving into the lead singer’s innermost fears. Tom grapples with the desire to improve while feeling uncertain about how to achieve that.


In contrast to Tom’s favourite song from The Novel, Carlos’s preference is the more upbeat “Every Night”, “I think that was the one song where we got everything right. There’s nothing in that where I feel we could have done that better.” Leo expresses his fondness for the title track, The Novel. “It’s probably my proudest production in the album. I’m pretty proud of the soundscape that I made.”


With the varied aesthetics and influences that make up PARK RD, from the outside, they seem like an unlikely team.


Tom, who sports a dangling earring, towers in height above his band members, yet he’s the most soft-spoken. Leo has a pixie cut and fiery red hair. He’s restless, continuously bouncing his leg. Carlos has to put his hand on Leo’s knee numerous times, a gentle reminder for him to stop fidgeting. The bassist, who’s wearing a band tee and silver chain allows Tom and Leo to lead the interview, but he often finishes off their sentences.


Leo says his most listened-to genre is hip-hop, “I like hip-hop a lot. That’s probably my most listened-to genre along with alternative rock.” Tom’s musical taste leans towards pop, having recently gone through a phase of listening to Gracie Abrams, along with classics from Bruce Springsteen. Rock and metal is Carlos’s “cup of tea,” but after looking through his 2023 Spotify Wrapped, we both laugh over the embarrassment of having Drake as one of our most-streamed artists.


Editor’s note: This piece was written pre Drake and Kendrick Lamar’s diss tracks, so it makes this omission all the more embarrassing.


There were days when the band hardly stepped out of the recording studio when working on The Novel. “We kind of went crazy with it. We would stay until three in the morning,” Leo says. “And we arrived there at ten in the morning,” Carlos adds. This all-consuming creative practice meant that in the final stages of production of The Novel, exhaustion and feelings of imposter syndrome crept up on PARK RD.


Leo states that: “towards the end, we went, what does this even sound like anymore? Is this song finished? Do we even sound good? Is this even going to be in the album? Does this even need to be in the album?”


Their second single of 2023, “Secrets”, was a punchy indie-pop song that served as an exciting glimpse into the upcoming album. When discussing the track, I asked PARK RD if they had any secrets they were willing to share.


They confess that during the production of The Novel, they drew inspiration from MGMT and ABBA. The band were listening to a podcast that explained how the hit song “Time to Pretend” by MGMT used the same tempo as “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. “They both used 101 beats per minute, and then because we listen to that podcast, we use the same tempo as that song,” Leo elaborates.


When asked about places that inspired him during songwriting, Tom looks back on sharing a flat with Leo in Mount Eden. He recollects going on nighttime strolls through those suburbs, “there was a certain energy of the urban environment, with this old abandoned uni which I’d always walked through and with these cool lights.” Those starlit streets were “a little playground for lots of the ideas in the album to come to life… It was this little world that I would run away to.”


The Novel signifies the evolution of PARK RD, it’s a showcase of their maturity. They speak to their growing legion of fans by delving into themes of anxiety, ambition and of course, love.


Stay tuned for more heartfelt tales from PARK RD.


PARK RD’s highly anticipated debut album The Novel is set to drop on May 24th. You can listen to it on all major streaming platforms.

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