I met up with Eugénie Alquezar (the singer/keyboardist) and Peter Kryznowek (the guitarist) of the Parlor Snakes last week at a Parisian bar in the 11th quarter, and they are very much the embodiment of rock and roll music. Peter with his cool rockabilly swagger and Eugénie with her stylish and energetic demeanor, it’s difficult to find this certain purity of rock and roll today without the adulterated elements of Macbooks, alligator sweaters, or the ironic pair of glasses. No slamming the indie circuit, but it’s refreshing to see, well, rock and roll once again. After seeing the Parlor Snakes play live, I was convinced that I was back in the heyday of New York City rock music (where Peter lived and was heavily influenced by). On the other hand, labeling the Parlor Snakes retro-rock, nostalgic for the drugged-out days of Lou Reed, Jim Carroll or the Cramps would be a grave mistake. They bring their own twist of space-out and shoe-gaze as much as any young band today – mixing both high-energy with calm-down beer time. A perfect combination for cellar-dweller rockers thirsty for the times of CBGB’s but also ready for some fresh sounds as well.
The 22 Magazine: First of all I’d like to thank you for this interview with The 22 Magazine.
The Parlor Snakes: Thank you for inviting us.
22: My first question is where did you come up with the name ‘Parlor Snakes’?
PS (Peter): Well we had other names before, but we were looking for something more original. I had this dictionary of old slang words and found it there and really liked it. It has this twenties sort of…well it comes from Fitzgerald. He used it in one of his short stories, and parlor snake was like a lounge lizard – guys who just hung out in tea parlors, smooth talkers, trying to pick up girls.
22: I think that’s a great name because the sort of music you make…well, it’s not lounge music at all, but it’s the kind of music you can actually hang out and enjoy and also dance to and just have a good time. How would you describe your music?
PS (Peter): Well, to me it’s a little bit of a mix of blues, rock and roll, a little bit of punk. It comes from all that, but I like to keep the music focused. The music we’re recording now comes out psychedelic at points, but it’s more of a noise/shoe-gaze thing also.
22: When did you first form the band?
PS (Eugénie): Many years ago. The initial formation…well…We had a lot of changes. Basically we changed the drummer and the bassist…a couple of times. And our initial formation happened the night during Peter’s wedding. And we were kind of…drunk.
22: (Laughs) Always a good way to form groups.
PS (Eugénie): Yeah, and we were all into music and we decided after the drinks that we should really make a band. Peter would be the guitarist, and he was already in several bands before. Me, I would sing, because I’ve always sung. Mad [Peter’s wife who’s now not in the band] was to be the drummer, and she had a gift for that. And the other guy, Frederique, had learned bass.
22: So that day, during the wedding, you just said ‘let’s make a band!’ and…
PS (Eugénie): Well it was good for conversation that night being drunk and…but we set up that night some rehearsals, started playing and…
PS (Peter): Well it started seven years ago, so when we did rehearsals it took a little bit of time. We played together for a year and a half before playing any concerts, and then we started looking for places to play in Paris. You know, it lasted for a while and after our third demo Mad decided to leave and Frederique too, so we found a drummer and another girl playing bass, who lasted for a little while and then we found Sophie. With this formation, we toured Italy and France and made some 7” vinyl.
22: How has your sound developed over the seven years? Has there been an evolution in sound?
PS (Eugénie): Yeah, we’ve definitely have gotten better, doing better music. It also changes with the different people who have been with the band…a lot of fresh things. Now we have a new drummer. His name is Jim Yu and he’s a very good drummer and also a musician – he plays everything. So he brings something new, giving us the desire to write more songs and to go on tour. That’s why we wanted to record this album with him.
PS (Eugénie): We’ve been on compilations and we’ve produced singles, but this is the first album.
22: So how does it feel to have a full-length album staring you in the face?
PS (Eugénie): I’m very excited. I want it to be perfect – as we’ve dreamt it, you know?
PS (Peter): The thing is, it’s not just about hard work. There’s a lot of people involved also to make an album, you know? It’s not just what we have in our heads, but there are engineers, producers…to me, it’s never perfect. It will never be perfect…if you take too much time it will never feel organic. It has to be fresh. You have to enjoy the moment. So if you work too hard trying to make it perfect, it will never be like that.
PS (Eugénie): Yeah, we didn’t want something over-produced. We wanted something to sound more live.
22: What’s the label that you’re signed to?
PS (Eugénie): Well, it’s a small label called Double Legs Records.
PS (Peter): It’s a small label, a small operation, but he’s trying to develop this business with us.
22: I think it’s difficult being a producer these days because their up against the internet, trying to get music across to people who sometimes aren’t aware that there’s good music out there anymore. So I’d really like to congratulate your producer. I’m sure he’s working his ass off.
PS (Peter): Yeah, definitely…
PS (Eugénie): Well yeah he is and we’re happy to have met this guy who just found us, who said ‘okay, I want to put money on you’. I think it’s very rare. He saw us in Boule Noire, and we opened for Little Bob. And he [the producer] also had this idea of releasing them on vinyl, which was an idea we liked.
22: I think you’re music is best heard on vinyl.
PS (Eugénie): Yeah, and vinyl is coming back.
22: I dig the artwork on your 7”.
PS (Eugénie): – Pulls a vinyl from her bag – It’s a double Polaroid (of the band playing live) that’s overlapped.
22: It looks like an old photo of Peter.
PS (Peter): (Laughs)
PS (Eugénie): – Points to the vinyl – This is our former drummer.
22: And who made the logo for the cover?
PS (Eugénie): We like it…
PS (Peter): It’s big hair…
PS (Eugénie): (Laughs) No, we like it…it’s just that we want something completely different for the full-length.
22: What kind of artwork are you looking for on the full-length?
PS (Eugénie): We’ll have to talk about it some more, but we have a lot of ideas. We found the place to do it. We still have two weeks to still think about it. To me it’s the most difficult part for the album – the picture, the cover. This is what people are going to see, and it’s going to tell things about your band. With this 7”, we didn’t want a picture of us, you know, leaning against the brick wall. We wanted a picture of us live, playing…so we took a bunch of pictures of us playing at my (former) apartment. And we just used Polaroids and came up with this picture.
PS (Peter): This goes back to the idea of making records, of having to work with others and share you ideas with them. It’s hard to control everything…I’d like to take my own photos, you know?
PS (Eugénie): Yeah, me too, but…
22: But, Peter, you’re a guitarist and you’re good at it.
PS (Eugénie): Yeah, but there’s also a thing about sharing…bringing new ideas, and it’s hard. It’s like giving your baby to someone. It’s horrible to feel unsatisfied about something. So for this album we’re going to release, we really have to be cool and sure about what we want.
22: Do you have a title for the album?
PS (Eugénie): Let’s Get Gone. We have nine tracks on the album.
PS (Eugénie): Yeah, we have tour dates in France and Italy in July for several festivals. Then we’re coming back to Paris in September.
22: Have you ever toured the United States?
PS (Eugénie): No, but we’d love to. But the thing is that, you know, we can’t go to New York and buy our own tickets and tour over there. First we need to release this album and…
22: Step-by-step. You’ll get there.
PS (Eugénie): Yeah, step-by-step.
22: I think it’s a dream for most musicians to tour such a big country because you can get a lot of venues and pull in a lot of money. I’m sure it’s also just a great place to tour.
PS (Eugénie): And I’m practically sure that our music would be well received.
22: I can safely say that, as an American, hearing you live is a great experience and I’m sure many Americans would love to see you live, especially in New York or any of the big cities. There’s a lot of energy.
PS (Eugénie): Yeah, and I think there’s another kind of energy in Europe than in America.
22: So where do you see yourselves going after having produced an album? Any new ideas, any new directions?
PS (Peter): We want to keep creating new songs and play a lot of live shows. It’s not about making money, but playing live you can get yourselves out there by spreading the word and having fun. Playing live music is very important. We’re also trying to get some dates in Belgium and Spain…why not England, you know?
PS (Eugénie): We’d like to release the album in other countries. If it’s possible, we’re going to try to find someone to do it.
22: So is there anything that prevents you from making music?
PS (Eugénie): Time and money, paying the rent, working…just like everyday things like that. If I could see him every day – points to Peter – we would write songs every day and go further and further and faster, but he has to work and I have to work.
PS (Peter): And so does everybody else in the band. Everybody also has their own world, their own thing going on. So we’re pretty free as a band, and when we decide to go on tour, everybody says ‘ok’, but still playing music isn’t enough to live.
PS (Eugénie): But the idea is to make music as a priority, and it’s possible. And we’re working all the time to be able to concentrate solely on the music. I’m sure we can make it. It’s just dedication, really.
22: Is there anything else that you’d like to say?
PS (Peter): Yeah, if you want to buy our record, please to go Hands and Arms Records (handsandarms.com). It will be out in about two months.
PS (Eugénie): And follow our gigs online.
22: Thank you, guys.
PS: Thank you.
ABOUT MATT MOWATT: Matthew Mowatt is currently working as a freelance editor and English teacher in Paris, France. He’s searching for publishers to accept his first finished novella and in the meantime, he seeks out musicians and writers for entertainment of the inspirational kind. He occasionally contributes to his own fanless blog (fairweather chronicles) when he’s licked by life.