Richard Dreyfest Interviews Parker Brown

by Eric Toennis

Hey there, Parker! Looks like you're a Billings guy. Are you from Billings originally?

Yeah, I am…In most ways. I think I drank ditch water enough to have it affect my DNA before my family moved out to the glacial lakes of Coeur d'Alene, ID when I was eight. I ended up coming back to Billings when I was nineteen and now I have ripened to thirty-four .  

You've got a band you call the Bleeding Hearts. Is this some LIBERAL PROPAGANDA or what? Are you going solo for Dreyfest, or will there be a Bleeding Heart or two with you?

Hahaha! It’s a total ploy.  But also, when I thought about it I really liked the idea of us all being a sensitive band, ya know, a bunch of feelers, so I just put it out there and as it turns out I think my band mates are maybe even more emotional than me. I am going to talk at least one member to join me at Montana Gallery for the show. 

On your website you've got a picture of you playing guitar, drums, AND upright bass. 1) Did you invent a cloning machine?  2) If you are not just one of a series of clones, what instrument did you start on?  3) Would you say you have a "favorite" instrument to play among these?  4) If you are one of a series of clones, is the real Parker Brown still alive?

1) I almost had a cloning machine, but the prototypes proved to be a little too dangerous, so we scrapped it. I always liked how brothers or family members intrinsically have this “thing" that happens when they play music together. I think that Parker, Parker, and Parker could probably come up with some pretty intense music together (or a super solid law firm name). I am sure that ultimately I would get sick of myself and we’d break up. 

2) My first official instrument was the upright bass in fifth grade and after two years I quit orchestra and went to electric bass. Then I went fully to guitar until I was about twenty when I picked up the upright and electric again and I started making money as a freelance musician playing bass. So, it’s always been good to me.

3) Now I am kind of finding a nice balance with all my obsessions with other instruments and each instrument that I play is may favorite in certain contexts, but upright bass and I have always had a really deep relationship together. I think that is because when I was younger the music that was the most powerful and “spiritual” to me had the upright bass in it, i.e. Mingus’ “Ecclesiastes” and Albums Oh Yeah and Ah Um; John Coletrane’s album A love Supreme and most of his later catalogue; as well as the great trio of Bill Evans, Paul Motian, and bassist Scott Lafaro.

4) I like to think of it like Rick on Rick and Morty. There are an infinite amount of Parkers out there in the multi-verse, but they all know that I am the greatest, or whatever. We all get along well when we get together though. 

My father and I used to watch you play years ago with your first big act that I remember in the Montana music scene as The Tyler Burnett Band and later just Tyler Burnett. I remember being a young lad and going to what seems like dozens of your shows, and you guys being a big influence on the younger generation of musicians. How would you say this experience has helped shape you as a musician and what kind of influence do you hope these early years had on the music scene in the Big Sky?

Wow! Thanks! I feel like we cracked something open that was already about to burst.  I would like to think that what we did just looked fun and was also a bit professional looking. That seems to have possibly been our influence on a few of the kiddos. That band helped me know who I was on stage better and learn the ropes of the business from booking gigs/tours, band dynamics, handling money for a band, writing songs, mailing posters and albums to venues and reviewers; recording, setting up sound, "turning on" in high pressure situations. It was an incredible learning experience for me. 

Describe your music using the words "pizza," "particles," and "wooden." Oh! And "firey Hollywood car crash.”

Imagine a person who has eaten far too much pizza, saddened by all the fiery Holloywood car crashes he’s seen on the television, writing songs about particles of energy connecting us together (mostly unconsciously) on a nice wooden instrument.  

The Bleeding Hearts at the Pub Station in Billings.

The Bleeding Hearts at the Pub Station in Billings.

Your website also says you're a freelance musician. What does this mean? How do you like working as a freelancer?

I love being a freelance musician*. It means that I can get hired for almost any gig and be able to perform the music as if I was a member of the band (or on a recording). I learn the parts and come in and play—it usually ends up being a permanent spot in the group, but it also moves around a lot, especially in jazz settings. I used to do a wider variety of projects as a "hired gun," but now I have a few outfits that I play with regularly and it just spreads out around on the ol' calendar. Adding my own group to the list has been interesting as well as challenging. Basically, I am a freelance musician in my own band as well. 

*I also teach as kind of a freelancer as well. I am adjunct at Sheridan College, Rocky Mountain College, and this fall I will be at MSUB as a bass instructor. I also have my own private studio where I teach private lessons.

Do you have any other talents besides being a stellar musician that the adoring public may not know?

I can do a couple of tricks on the old skateboard still…  

I noticed that some of your lyrics reference some pretty cosmic shit, like the Earth's rotational velocity. Is this the "neomystical" aspect of your music? Do you consider yourself a pretty spiritual dude?

Well yeah. I like to think about that stuff a lot, like gravity, vibrations, energy, breaking down things and getting as micro, macro and as meta as my brain will allow. Phil Griffin and I talk about it a bit and try to pin point just what neomysticism means - he's the one that used the term to describe my music - but it’s hard because I think he’s making up some new shit with that one. I am just trying to fit into it because I love the term. I spent a lot of time going through the tunnel of modern/not-so-modern Christianity and I have been trying to unravel a lot of things in that arena as well as the things that we take for granted or are unaware of because our system doesn’t allow us to look beyond the walls in which we’ve placed ourselves in—what ever that might be, whether it’s religion/thought, food, Netflix, or capitalism, etc. I believe that there are some pretty fantastical things happening around us that are generally missed by most of the population because of the distractions of everyday life. So yeah, something simple like voluntary actions in the body or the earth spinning and us not even feeling it is something that I like to find joy in. It’s pretty fucking incredible…uhhh…at least to me. 

Read any good books lately?

Yeah, I did. I just recently finished Dave Caserio’s book This Vanishing. Whew. It is some of the most beautiful poetry that I have ever read (and there is a lot that I haven’t read), but his writing really hits me right in the heart. There were many times when I would finish a poem and just set the book down to let it soak in. I highly recommend it. Before that it was a Rumi compilation of love poems and David McRaney’s book You are Now Less Dumb. They both flip you out in their own way. 

If you were on death row and were being served your last meal, what would it be? 

Most definitely a medium thin crust with pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives from Dominoes. I’d eat it in one sitting and then just be blissed out for the chair. 

Can you kindly give the dear readers some links??