by Candice Anne Marshall
Texas based Alternative Rock, Neo-Psychedelia band Wall Of Orange can best be described in one word and one word only: EUPHORIA. About a month ago, my dear friend (and dedicated music guru) David Somerville sent me a song by the band titled ‘Sweetest Blue’ (see video below). I have known David long enough to know that his taste in music and library is exceptional: it would be safe to say that Wall Of Orange’s self-titled debut album is also on this list which would also include the likes of Pink Floyd, Depeche Mode, Johnny Marr, New Order, Gary Numan, and more. To have Wall Of Orange included would mean only one thing: they must be exceptional! So, I followed up and had a listen. Moments later, I was on the band’s Facebook page trying to find a connection as soon as possible. They just had to be on our Starlight Music Chronicles Spotlight immediately. I connected to frontman of the band Gary Parks within 10 minutes. Bingo!
I have listened to the band’s album in it’s entirety over the course of this time, several times, at least 4-6 times per week and there’s one thing I can honestly say: this is music that will never get old as it is most definitely not a one-hit-wonder. I mean it! Look, when I say the word euphoria, I am not talking about a psychedelic experience, (although, songs like New Medicine with it’s riveting guitar riffs can evoke this vision), I am talking about the kind of elation that makes you feel calm, relaxed, meditative, and reflective, dream-like: the kinds of emotions we seek after a long harrowing day in the office.
The album begins with ‘Sweetest Blue’ and ends with ‘Hellogoodbye’ and is consistent across the board in it’s execution through brilliantly written lyrics, soothing vocals that are very easy on the ears, meticulous production, and otherworldly instrumentation. Yes, feel free to drift off while the worries of the day shed away when you play one song after the other from this album. There is no other band on earth I can even compare them to: they are distinctive and completely original in every aspect from branding to production; Their music stands alone as truly outstanding and combined with the exquisite album art (created by Bassist, Dany Rix) it is safe for me to say: if music is the addiction, Wall Of Orange is the fix. Read on for our exclusive interview with frontman Gary Parks below.
Spotlight Interview Wall Of Orange December 14th 2016
SMC – Hello Gary! Welcome to the Spotlight! Let begin by discussing your band ‘Wall Of Orange’, can you tell us a little bit of the history of the band and how you came to be?
Gary Parks – Wall of Orange began simply as a collection of songs I wrote, beginning about two years ago. I write music for a living as an indie film and commercial music composer, but to satisfy my deeper artistic urges I decided I needed to make an album. I had always been in bands, but never as the lyricist/frontman. The idea was intimidating, but I was determined to create something from nothing and see my vision through. I really needed the outlet both creatively and emotionally. Danny Rix, Matt Hunt and I had played in other bands and grown up together, so they were my first go-to guys and played on the record. When the record was finished, we found ourselves needing to assemble the live band, so I called Jay Spence. He’s the best guitar player I know, so I was really excited when he signed on to cover lead guitar so I could focus on singing. Aaron Long was recommended by Jay for keys. He’s a musical monster and can play anything. A lot of people ask me about the origins of the name and it’s simply a reference to how I “hear colors”. The name came about right at the tail end of album production… just in time, actually.
SMC – Where did each of the band members grow up?
Gary Parks – We all grew up in Texas.
SMC – You recently launched your album – can you tell us about the first single launched from it ‘Sweetest Blue’ and what kind of reception you have gotten from your fans?
Gary Parks – The response to ‘Sweetest Blue’ has been amazing. It was the last song written for the album and took the longest to get right as far as production. I’ve gotten tons of messages via Facebook about it. To date it’s been the only single released, so I’ve gotten more feedback on it than any of the others and some of the comments have blown me away. I think one of the biggest compliments you can get is a Facebook share, not to mention when people actually post the lyrics to the entire song on their page. One listener told me it was their favorite song of all time… I mean that just blows me away. I’ve had people ask if they could cover it and an offer for a remix. I’m deeply attached to that song, not only for the lyrical content but also because sonically it came out exactly like had it in my head, which feels like a personal triumph. I wanted it to sound as huge as possible without being aggressive, the perfect balance of beauty and power. That song has a sound I’ve been pursuing for a long time. Oddly enough, the song was inspired by a section of Queen’s soundtrack to the 1980 movie Flash Gordon. Lyrically it’s simply a reflection on escape.
SMC – What was the Media response like for the album in it’s entirety?
Gary Parks – The reviews have been wonderful so far. One thing that seems to be common in the reviews is the acknowledgement of the cohesion of the overall sound, which I worked very hard on to achieve. Nobody in the press has called out any one song on the album as not being up to par, and that makes me feel great because I have a real problem with ‘filler’ songs. I made sure I was 100% in love with every song before I decided it was finished. “View from a Broken Couch” has probably the least similar vibe. One reviewer said it sounded like a lost REO Speedwagon track… a big compliment as far as I’m concerned, I always liked those guys! I think my influences are pretty obvious, and new bands will inevitably get compared to established acts. I’d say probably two dozen comparisons have been made, and I’m cool with that because it’s always bands I respect. But with that wide a spread I think you can safely assume your sound is fairly unique. I’d hate to get “you sound exactly like this one band” over and over again.
SMC – TOURS! When and where can fans expect to see you perform live?
Gary Parks – This project was kind of done backwards because I am a music producer and run a recording studio. Usually bands write songs, get gigs, build a following and then go make a record. With us the record was released before the full band was even assembled. So, we are still rehearsing a bit. It’s a pretty thick sound and I really want us to deliver on stage. The plan for now is to play some regional shows in early 2107 then hit the road when we can. We’re talking with a national booking agent. I’d also love to play some festivals.
SMC – What do you feel is the most important message Wall Of Orange would like to convey to their fans with their music?
Gary Parks – One reviewer in the UK said the music had an “overall warming feel” and I really liked that. Another reviewer said it ‘infuses a ton of positive energy’, and that’s exactly what I wanted to happen. I like the idea of these songs being a sort of refuge. Writing them was refuge for me, and playing them still is. I’ve always been a dreamer, and I think that also comes out in my writing. These songs were written as reflections I’ve had on very personal, specific memories and experiences. It’s the only formula I can use that yields authentic results that I feel good about. I’ve learned how to know when I’m bullshitting myself, or faking it, and that is huge for a lyricist I think. All the clichés really are true – great songs come from the soul, whatever you think that is. “Sing your life”, as Morrissey said. I can go a little dark, but always like to package it with a feeling of optimism.
SMC – As for Branding, I see that you Bassist Danny Rix designed the album art. What is the premise/vision behind the album art concept?
Gary Parks – Making this record pulled me out of a dark place due to personal trauma. I was in a sort of black hole for about 7 years. Eventually what snapped me out of it was me reminding myself that making my own music is something I need to do, and is one of my biggest sources of joy. That is what the album is about: recovery. Danny is an incredible artist, so recruiting him to create the cover art was a no-brainer. Since he’s a close personal friend of mine, he knew where my head was and what the album was about conceptually. He came up with the basic idea of a figure floating in space, being secured by these ‘arms’. Eventually we decided it would be fitting if the arms represented the songs on the album. That’s why you have eight arms, eight songs. We’ve never publicly revealed which arms represent which songs, but I think that’s part of the fun. We always liked analyzing great album art and wanted to maintain that experience with this record. Please notice the roller skate.
SMC – What other instruments do the band members play?
Gary Parks – I consider myself as much a sound designer as musician, so I usually figure out how to make the sounds I have in my head by whatever means necessary. I can’t play piano worth a damn but I can plop MIDI notes down like a madman. Guitar is my primary instrument. Danny, Matt and Jay are specialists and Aaron plays pretty much everything.
SMC – Can you tell us about the creative team behind the ‘Sweetest Blue’ video? It’s magnificent!
Gary Parks – The way that video came about was interesting. I had been looking through old public domain footage and discovered a Roger Corman movie called Battle Beyond the Sun from 1962. It’s actually a Frances Ford Coppola (of all people) re-edit of a 1959 Soviet sci-fi film called Nebo Zovyot. Since the copyright doesn’t hold in the US it’s public domain. When I saw the footage, I was blown away out how funky and beautiful it looked. I just felt like it worked perfectly under “Sweetest Blue”, both visually and thematically. I’ve always been a sci-fi geek, so it just fit on so many levels. We shot some stuff of me on a stage playing along with the song at multiple speeds to get the dreamy slo-mo look. Since I’m directly involved with tv and film production, I’m surrounded by amazingly talented people all day. Everyone was into the music and eager to help with the video. The live shots were directed by Randy Peterson of The Distillery Media and post was done at Post Asylum in Dallas. Caitlin Van Dusen and Michael Fleetwood were the editors with Evan Davies as Producer. I’m thrilled with how the video turned out, and people seem to love it as it’s been featured on a dozen or so music blogs and shared on hundreds of YouTube playlists.
SMC – Do you connect personally with your fans on social media or do you have a manager to do this for the band? What do you feel is the level of importance of social media for the band?
Gary Parks – Social Media is absolutely critical. As much as I’m beaten down by Facebook on a personal level sometimes, it’s an incredibly valuable marketing tool. There’s no way we’d be any where near as far along as we are without it. I answer each and every message I get. It’s everything to me that someone would feel compelled to reach out, and I love the interaction. That’s what it’s all about. When a songwriter chooses to go public with their work they are choosing to be a communicator, and I think the communication should work both ways. Listener feedback does influence what I do to an extent, though I don’t let it allow me to stray outside my artistic comfort zone. I love reading people’s comments and talking about the songs. Currently the band is self-managed but we have had some interest. I’d love to find a good manager so I can get some sleep.
SMC – You have some amazing song titles for the album: Sweetest Blue, Small Hour Crimes, View from a Broken Couch, Monster, Lost by the Sea, Little Destroyer, New Medicine, Hellogoodbye….is there a ‘theme’ with these or are they stand alone projects?
Gary Parks – The songs tell a story together as well as individually, and I wanted to do a concept album from the beginning. I almost called it ‘Reverse Black Hole’, which I think kind of says it all, but felt like self-titling it would be better marketing for a new band.
SMC – What do you think of the Music Scene/Industry in general?
Gary Parks – Wow, that’s a tough one. I think it can be rather defeating for an artist because people nowadays will go out of their way to say something brutal on Facebook without thinking twice, especially when it comes to music. You have to have really thick skin. It can also be an incredible high when the comments are good. “Extreme” is what I would call it. You just have to be prepared to put it all out there and take some risks. I started from scratch again with this project, and that is very daunting. I’ve toured and made records before but this is the first time I’ve been the “frontman”. I have good Industry contacts and probably could have gotten label interest with the demos, but I wanted to make this album my way, on my own timeline. Luckily, I have the studio resources and know how to produce myself. I will shop demos around to labels for the next album, because that’s the logical next step. I would be interested to see what a good outside producer would do with my songs. I think it can evolve. I just try to focus on the quality of the songwriting and try to sound interesting. I will say that if a young artist/band is talented it has never been easier to achieve global exposure. You have to walk the line between annoying people and building a fan base, and that’s hard. If you’ve got talent and you work hard people will notice eventually. But you also have to realize that the competition and overall market saturation is higher than ever. It takes a lot to stand out.
SMC – What has the Radio airplay been like? What stations would you like to give a shout out to?
Gary Parks – Big thanks to our guitarist Jay, who was instrumental in helping me reach out to radio stations. KXT 91.7, a listener-supported station based here in Dallas that has the largest listening audience of its kind, has shown us a lot of love not only with airplay, but also nominated us as one of their ‘best of 2106’ (the results aren’t in yet). Big thanks to KXT! I still get texts from friends saying “you’re on the radio again”, which is cool. We’ve also gotten radio airplay in the UK.
SMC – Aside from fans, who has been your best supporter(s) to date?
Gary Parks – Without a doubt my wife, Linsey. She puts up with me being at the studio a lot. She understands why I have to be there, and why making this record was very important to me. She helped me quite a bit during the process of writing the songs for the album. She tolerates me as the ‘tortured artist’. She was my sounding board, and since she knows me better than anyone she’d be the one to tell me sometimes, “that doesn’t sound like you, just be yourself”, and an artist really needs that person. Danny was also a big help in that way from early on. I have a very small group of close musical friends that aren’t afraid to tell me when something isn’t working. I’ve learned to trust myself more but that support system is great in helping you figure out how to express yourself honestly. The ones closest to you know when you’re trying to be something you are not.
SMC – You were introduced to me by my dear friend and fellow avid music lover David Somerville. This is an individual who has a music collection in the THOUSANDS and he chose your album to present to me. For me, this means you are exceptional! How does that feel?
Gary Parks – Incredible! I’ve had a few people tell me a certain trusted musical friend or associate passed the album along to them and it’s a great feeling to know that is happening out there. I think word-of-mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool. Thank you very much, David!
SMC – What does the next 3- 6 months look like for the band as far as projects?
Gary Parks – I’d like to release a follow-up EP as soon as possible, so I’m organizing my thoughts for that. I’m thinking outtakes, a new song or two and maybe a remix and/or solo acoustic version of a song from the album. Other than that, we are wrapping up production for a video for our second single “Small Hour Crimes”. The album will be released on vinyl in February. I didn’t think people really bought CDs anymore, but there has actually been demand so that is happening too. As we are still Indie, things move just a bit slower but the momentum is strong right now. I am a relentless workaholic.
SMC – Where has the reception been most concentrated in the world? Where is your fan base the strongest (aside from the USA)?
Gary Parks – The UK. I’ve gotten tons of messages from fans over there and offers to come play shows.
SMC – You originate out of Texas, yet, your sound is so European! What has the European reception been like?
Gary Parks – I get told that a lot, actually, which make sense since some of my biggest influences are British bands like The Verve, Radiohead, Spiritualized, My Bloody Valentine and The Stone Roses. There are also a lot of great new bands and I think that overall sound is making a big comeback. I’d love to be a part of that wave. That approach is fundamental to me. Reception has been pretty amazing in Europe. I’m thinking about approaching European record labels first. I got a message from one guy who loves the album and says he knows Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine. The thought that Kevin might have heard the album is cool since he’s pretty much a god to me. The Shoegaze purists mostly think our sound is too Pop, though. I like a layered sound but wanted to write songs that were more accessible. I see a European tour in our future.
SMC – Alright, final question: What is a deal breaker for you as a band as far as your morals and ethics are concerned?
Gary Parks – Animal cruelty. I would never eat a bat on stage. Although I think Ozzy thought it was fake.
SMC – Thank you Gary! It was a pleasure talking with you!
Gary – Thanks so much, Candice! I had so much fun diving into these questions!
Wall Of Orange Social Media Links (click to view)