by Wade Millward
This year’s South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival, which hosted acts from FIDLAR to Fiona Apple and Dan Deacon to Danny Brown, featured plenty of young bands looking to penetrate the U.S. market.
Morning Parade, a five-piece from Essex, England, was one such band trying to go the way of past SXSW breakouts from across the pond. According an article on Spinner, this includes The Darkness, Arctic Monkeys and Amy Winehouse.The band, which finished introducing Americans to its brand of Coldplay-esque anthemic pop rock on Thursday, comprises singer-guitarist Steve Sparrow, guitarist Chad Thomas, bassist Phil Titus, keyboardist Ben Giddings and drummer Andy Hayes.
Speaking just after the band’s March 7 show at New York’s Terminal 5, the premier of its first U.S. tour, Sparrow revealed his mantra for dealing with traveling the large, heterogeneous country: “trust the tour manager. Don’t worry about anything else.”
“It’s a big place,” he says of the U.S. “There’s a lot to do.”
Faced with a packed touring schedule, which included a Livestream performance later that day, the 25-year-old said he’d try to abstain from partying too much.
“I also like to do my job as well as I can and enjoy the music as much as I can,” he says.
“We’re basically saying we’ve gone a step further than the Nazis,” he joked.
He said a band talking to its fans is a nice gesture. He even recognizes repeat audience members, and Morning Parade tries to fulfill online song requests in its shows.
“We try to cater to them as much as we can,” says Sparrow.
Additionally, the band’s opened a contest allowing fans to create the music video for the single “Headlights” off its self-titled debut album. Entries are due Monday.
The band’s first American gig, touring with The Kooks, took them from the Northeast to Austin, Texas, to play four shows during SXSW’s six-day festival, and ended Thursday at Los Angeles’ Roxy Theatre. For Sparrow, SXSW was not just breaking into a new market. To him, playing in Texas and eating barbeque was experiencing America.
“It’s not just the shows,” he says. “It’s the culture there.”
He said he found out about the performance after seeing the dates go up on the website, but a coveted SXSW slot wasn’t a surprise.
“It was always in the cards,” he says. “That’s the time you find out what you’re made of.”
Sparrow said touring the states was simpler than touring across Europe. He said the common language removed one barrier of playing the Continent, where he needed the help of Google Translate to speak to the fans.
“It definitely gets quite confusing,” says Sparrow. “Europe is so varied, you never know what you’re going to get.”
Sparrow’s not kidding. He said touring Europe led to encounters with a 7-foot transvestite and a girl in Germany who came backstage to show her sound-activated vibrator.
“Germans are quite liberal in that sense,” he says. “Touring is a funny kind of blur.”
He says time was taken up by writing the songs and then testing them in front of audiences.
“We never do things the normal way,” he says.
To him, the album is about life’s ups and downs. Its emotion was inspired by the band members’ personal lives and the shakeup of getting a record deal.
The band recorded the album with producer David Kosten (Bat for Lashes, Everything Everything) at singer Damon Albarn’s 13 studio.
Sparrow says it was overwhelming working in the Blur and Gorillaz frontman’s studio. He even stood next to Albarn.
“It’s an inspiration to be around people like that,” he says.
He says even before the album’s March 5 U.K. release, the band members felt the pressure of expectations from enthusiastic critics.
Comparing the hype to an impenetrable fortress, Sparrow says they learned to perform under it, making the band and friends stronger.
He says the early welcome was the best thing to happen to Morning Parade.
“I think we found ourselves within it,” says Sparrow. “We’re just five guys from a town in England who write songs.”