An Interview with The National Parks

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Brady Parks, the frontman of one of Siblíní's favorite bands, The National Parks. Based out of Provo, Utah, the band was founded in 2013 and released their debut album, Young, later that year. In anticipation of their second album, Until I Live, we spoke with Brady about the new album, the unexpected success of Young, and their creative process.  

How would you say this album differs from its predecessor?

I don’t think either album fits very squarely into any single genre—both have shades of folk, pop, indie/alternative rock etc. But within that combination I would say that Young (our debut album) has a little more folk and Until I Live (sophomore album) has more pop. We wanted to transition to a new sound while maintaining who we are. Overall, the new album has a bigger sound. We came into the recording process with the mindset that we weren’t going to hold anything back. We wanted to be open to exploring some new sounds and I think we were able to do that. It was fun to see the songs sort of come to life over time. 

The saying “You have your entire life to write your first album, but two years to write your second” is one of the prevailing notions about the sophomore album. How would you respond to this statement; if it is accurate, did you feel at all rushed in the writing of your second album?

Yeah, I’d agree with that saying. Writing Until I Live felt a little more urgent and at times that was challenging. I never felt rushed necessarily but I did feel aware of a timeline on this album. It was a new experience learning to work with that. 

The first track, “Helsinki,” is a standout on the record in that its lyrics are yearning for a very specific location—the remainder of the songs on Young lack this explicitness. The fact that the music video for this song was shot in Finland seems to reinforce the importance of this location. Could you tell us the relevance of Helsinki; what does it means to you and in the context of the album?

I wrote Helsinki when I was in a relationship with a girl that was moving there for a year and a half. The song is about longing and about a feeling of wanting to chase after someone. Like many songs on Young, Helsinki has a lot of location and nature imagery because of the parallels that seem to exist between love, life, and nature and places. 

Reaching No. 13 on iTunes Singer/Songwriter charts when it first arrived, Young quickly found success on a scale that surprised many. As you prepare your second album, has this success changed any perspectives or expectations of yourselves as musicians?

We were blown away with the response to Young and the success we had with it. I think that kind of opened our eyes and helped us realize what kind of goals we should have with the release of Until I Live. That set the bar high so we wanted to work as hard as we could on the new album to help be a big success. And so far the response we’ve seen has been just as exciting. Until I Live started climbing into the 50s of the pop chart on iTunes (which is a little tougher chart to climb) within a couple days of its release. We’re really excited about that.

You’re a relatively young band—have there been any specific challenges that you’ve faced in the industry?

For sure. Music is a really challenging industry. Nobody just hands you a career in music. One of the biggest challenges I think most bands face early on is dealing with financial responsibilities while also really going for it with music. I’ve heard it said that nobody succeeds in music if they have a back-up plan. I think you really do need to jump in with both feet. But that’s hard to do when you aren’t to a point yet that your music can sustain everyone in the band financially. Over the last couple years we’ve had band members finishing college, working jobs, getting married, having kids and that complicates things. But we decided that this is worth going for and worth sticking to so we’ve made it work.

As an arts magazine that publishes the work of young artists and writers, we’re always interested to know more about your artistic growth and journey. Can you talk a bit about this? Is there any advice you have received that has made an impact on your career as artists?”

Our manager is actually a writer himself so we’ve had a lot of discussions about the artistic process. I do think it’s a little different for everyone but one really helpful piece of advice he gave me while writing the second album was to ignore fan expectations and just make the music that I would personally want to listen to. He kept telling me to remember that I was music fan long before I was a musician so I should just make the music I wished I could listen to most.

There are subtle differences between the latest singles you’ve recently released and Young. If you’ve experienced such a thing, how would you describe your musical evolution over the last few years?

Sometimes I think our sound has changed completely and sometimes it doesn’t seem all that different. The folky singer/songwriter roots showed through much more predominantly early on and there still in there but moving to a new big sound has been a really fun and challenging experience. I think a lot of the evolution has come from performing live and being able to play music for large energetic crowds. 

Who—or what—have been notable sources of inspiration for you? Besides instances of general inspiration, could you also give a few examples of artists who influenced you more specifically, in terms of musical style or lyrical themes?

This album was really inspired by the feeling of being on the verge of something great and knowing that you have to make a leap of faith. Some of the musical inspirations for this album were bands like Coldplay, The Killers, Arcade Fire, Noah and the Whale, and Lord Huron. 

Are there any peer bands with whom you came into contact during the last three years that you would like to mention, that affected your artistic ambition or process at all?

We are really lucky to be involved in an amazing music community in Provo, Utah. There are so many talented bands that all push each other to bring their best every night. Bands like Neon Trees, Fictionist, The Moth and the Flame, and so many more have helped us and inspired us along the way. 

If you would, describe your recording process. From the creation of a song to its completion, who in the band is responsible, roughly, for what tasks?

I absolutely love the recording process. Being able to see a song from the very start come to life during the process is amazing. Usually I start writing a song and then I take it to the band. We jam it out, come up with ideas and turn it into something that is ours. After that, I start to demo on my computer before we take it to the studio. In the studio the song comes to life and new ideas are introduced and we are able to experiment quite a bit. The studio sessions are really collaborative; nobody seems too worried about who came up with the idea. It’s all about making the song work. Hearing the final product after the process is a feeling that never gets old.

Until I Live is now available in stores, on iTunes, Spotify, and any other places you might find awesome music. Give it a listen today. 

Interview conducted by Kat Neis & Nathan Lewis. 
Photo credit @ Justin Hackworth, The National Parks,

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