The first time I was exposed to the force that is King Parrot was at the Housecore Horror Film Festival in 2014. I stood, slack jawed and in a state somewhere between confusion and excitement, as the five Australians laid waste to Emo’s. My eyes darted between the members, each a spectacle in their own right, and while my mind and ears puzzled out what I was witnessing, I caught a spray of water to the face, followed swiftly by a half full water bottle to the side of my head, courtesy of frontman Matt Young. Moments later, “Youngy” would leap off the stage, into the crowd, and end the set by greeting a new room of fans at the band’s merch table.
I have seen King Parrot many times since that HHFF show, and each time I am just as entertained and, still, a tad perplexed. Absolutely vicious live, always with an undercurrent of humor, and even with Matt Young’s ass is quite literally in their face, I’ve witnessed grown men unable to stop smiling and screaming along. How’s that for live music entertainment?
With King Parrot scheduled for an Austin show, I was eager to sit down with Matt Young and chat about their current tour – The Broken Bones Tour – with Superjoint, Devildriver, Child Bite, and Cane Hill, the new King Parrot release, Ugly Produce, and other odds and ends.
VH: Welcome back to Austin! Your new album, Ugly Produce, just dropped in the states a few days ago, so this tour is a great opportunity to help promote your latest effort. The Broken Bones tour just started, how is it going so far?
MY: Our first show was yesterday, in New Orleans, and so far it’s great! It’s always kind of hectic getting the first couple of days of tour in. I’m still jet lagged a bit, but I think after today and then driving all night tonight to El Paso, I think we’ll be fine by then. But, it’s always great to be in Austin. We have so many friends here, and it’s been like a second home to us every time we come to the US. Lots of great people, very focused on music and culture, and we like that.
VH: How long does it typically take for you to shake off the jet lag and hit your stride when you come here on tour? That’s a long flight and big time difference!
MY: Pretty much as soon as we hit the stage that first night, really. You just have to do it, you know? Because you’re so busy, either setting up, or just getting to the show, you just have to snap straight into it. I think it’s worse when you’re going home and tour is over! We have to fly half way around the world to get home, and then just be depressed because tour is over. Though we’re lucky in that regard, because we are always touring or doing something. If we aren’t touring in America, we’re touring Australia, and then we’ve doing some European tours lately, and we’ll have some things coming up in Asia soon in a bit as well.
VH: That’s true. King Parrot has toured relentlessly for the last three to four years, starting in Australia, and America, and you did a run in Indonesia early on. You’ve started expanding in Europe as well. Do you feel this strategy of staying on the road, staying in front of crowds, has paid off?
MY: That sounds really cool when you say it’s a strategy! Whether it’s a strategy or not, I don’t know… I guess the US was the first “big” place that embraced us, other than Australia. We had some people who thought what we had would relate well to US audiences. I guess that’s why we’ve been here [in America] more than anywhere else. It’s such an industry here, a touring industry, and we’ve been lucky to chisel our niche in the states.
There’s so much more work to do, but we feel that with the new album, it will hold us in good stead. It’s a good building block to working our way up. In Australia, we can headline our own tours and pull good numbers, but it’s a weird thing too. We play grindcore. It’s not mainstream metal. Trying to accomplish and do what we are doing probably doesn’t even make sense [laughing], but we’re going to keep doing it because we love it.
We know there’s only a couple of bands really in the entire grindcore scene that get to do this as a real job where they make a living. We aren’t to that point yet, but we commit to it like we are and that’s so important. I think we are incredibly lucky to have the people in the band that make that commitment. We just love playing and writing the music. We love every part of touring and seeing the world. We’ve made so many incredible friends over here and in Europe and Australia, too. Hopefully, in the future, it won’t be such a personal financial strain on the members. I mean, we’re not dead, and we’re having a great time, and we’re not TOTALLY broke, so… why not?
VH: That’s the best perspective to have! You aren’t dead, you’re having a great time, and you aren’t TOTALLY broke.
MY: That’s exactly right. And, even if this was it, as good as it gets, we’d probably keep doing it anyway! But, hopefully, you know, we can get there. We’ll just keep working.
VH: Ugly Produce is your third album. I think it’s your best effort to date, from a number of perspectives. How long have you been working on the album?
MY: Thank you! I think we started not too long after the last album. Over the past 12 months, we’ve allocated a couple of writing blocks when we weren’t touring. We’d take a week and go up to Queensland, which is like the California of Australia, that’s where our dummer Todd lives. We’d hire out a studio for a week and just write. We did that a couple of times in Queensland, and then again in Melbourne where the rest of us live, which isn’t quite as glamorous. Melbourne is great, but it’s not warm! Just before we went in to record, we had a week with the producer making sure it was ready to go. All in, it’s been the better part of 18 months to make Ugly Produce, on and off between tours when we can.
VH: What is the statement you want to make with this album, or the goal?
MY: In terms of building the band, I think the goal is just having another quality album behind us, and having an album that’s not just a single, but a solid start to finish record that flows nicely. In terms of the song writing and the song structures, I think it’s our best effort.
We’ve been together now with Todd as our drummer for three or so years now. The chemistry in the band has really grown. We work together much better now. I think that will continue to improve as well. When we did Dead Set, Todd had only been in the band for, 6 months or so, I think? We quickly wrote it, we quickly recorded it. It’s a good album for what it is. It’s a little different, it stands apart from the first album and this one. When you are playing 150 shows a year, you build that chemistry and so when you go to write and record, it just makes the process little easier. I think Ugly Produce reflects that. So, buy the album! www.thehousecorestore.com
MY: Not so much a jab as a social commentary perhaps on unemployment situation in Australia, or maybe, really anywhere. We call it The Dole. Anyone who spends a long time on the dole, we call them a Dole Bludger… a bludger is like… lazy. Do you have that term here? So, in the video, we are trying to give the impression that band are a bunch of Dole Bludgers. It was an idea we had, just a bit of fun. I think the lyrics are probably more from an angle of me being sober, and my frustrations with drunk people sometimes, and also some commentary on me when I used to drink. We had fun with it. It’s a stupid song, with ridiculous lyrics, all tongue in cheek – check it out if you get the chance!
[Sidenote: Matt gives Vanessa an Aussie vocab lesson, complete with the proper spelling of bludger and use of new vernacular in a sentence. Vanessa proceeds to use her handy new word no less than half a dozen times throughout the course of the evening, most likely incorrectly.]
VH: 10lbs of Shit in a 5lb Bag might be my favorite video to date. I think I’ve watched it ten times, and every time I catch something new and laugh at something else entirely. When you write these songs, do you have video idea at the time? Tell me about how the videos come together.
MY: The videos are definitely after the fact. The songs have such thematic titles, although the lyrics for 10lbs of Shit in a 5lb Bag aren’t necessarily related to bondage and discipline, some little parts do. We have a great video guy, Dan Farmer, and then our friend Boyd Synnot, who does a lot of our artwork and merch. Boyd is very involved with the creative process of the videos as well. Usually, the three of us will work out what’s going on, and then we just develop it from there. We always try to throw little things in, where you have to watch it a few times to pick it up. Everyone in the band has bits and pieces that they contribute to make it interesting. We let everyone have their creative input into scripting to keep it as wacky and absurd as possible.
VH: I think you can definitely sense that everyone has a part. It really shows, and seems very authentic that way.
MY: Yeah! We want to keep it different and have heaps of fun, and just be ourselves. I think that may come off very Australian to people not from Australia. We’re just being ourselves and people outside of us wonder who these stupid Australians are [laughter].
VH: I think that may be part of why you do well here though. I think that’s something that is sorely needed. You mentioned earlier how music here is an industry, and to me that sometimes feels very serious and structured. You guys just say “fuck it. We’re going to do what we want to do”. I think that baffles people, but also keeps their attention. They can’t look away.
MY: Right, and I think that’s part of our live show as well. I talk to a lot of people after the shows because I like to meet them and hang out, and a lot of them who haven’t seen us before say they can’t help but smile the whole time we play. That’s important for us. We want people to enjoy it! We want to put on a show that we would want to go and see. It needs to be entertaining and high energy, and we don’t want to be contrived.
VH: This Broken Bones Tour runs through October. Where are you headed after and with who?
MY: We’re going straight to Europe after this for a headlining run. We’re looking forward to that since it will be our first headlining tour there. After that, we go straight to Japan, where we will headline some shows too. We’ve had such a good reception in the UK and it’s building in Europe. People in the non-English speaking countries in Europe have probably been the most confused about King Parrot out of everyone, because they can’t really get the gist of our humor and videos – some of them can, but the language barrier can make it tricky. Plus, when they see us live, and we just don’t fit into their “normal metal”… you know, we’re not going to pretend to be Satanists or be something we’re not. We just need to stick to who we are and what we are about and eventually maybe they will come around.
There’s not too much else out there like us. If we can get better at writing songs, and better at making music, and better at making videos, and better at playing live, then the rest will just speak for itself. That’s what we’re going to. If the Europeans want to stand there with their arms folded, all stoic, then yup, you’re going to get drenched in water, you’re going to get my ass in your face, until you decide to just get into it, and then we’ll all have heaps more fun. It’s not rocket science.
After all that, we have an Australian to tour round out the year. We’re upping the venue sizes, playing the biggest headlining shows we’ve done yet. We’re just going to go for it and see what happens. We feel like we have the product to back it up now.
VH: I’m always curious what moment, artist, video, concert, etc. turned you onto being a musician. What was the moment or moments when you knew this is what you wanted to do?
MY: There were a few. I knew when I was about 8 years old, I think. I always loved music, even before that. I remember standing on a table with my friend to play concerts for his mom. We would mime to La Bamba, or George Harrison. Do you remember that song “Got My Mind Set on You…” I used to love that song! That was the first cassette tape I ever bought, back in the 80’s. Then, I went and saw Poison live when I was about 8 years old. They were huge, when “Open Up and Say Ahh!” was out. I saw Guns n’ Roses at a huge racetrack. I was pretty sold by that point after all of that.
I think I got into the more extreme stuff when I was a teenager. saw Cannibal Corpse and some great Australian bands like Damaged and Abremalin. I still have the scar on my knee from that show. I ripped the top of my kneecap off in the moshpit.
Then, shortly after that, I think I was 14, I saw Pantera and Slayer within the space of a few months. That just blew my mind. That was it. My mom was upset, but 20 years later, Mom, I’m still out here doing it. Sorry, Mom. Tis’ what it tis’!
[Interviewers sidenote: Matt Young could have a career as a lounge crooner should the grindcore gig not pan out. His George Harrison impression is quite lovely]
VH: Last question. I know music has been very important for you, for your recovery and in staying sober. I understand that it is an outlet for you. I understand you have also started to delve into the business side and help other bands. Ultimately, what are your goals and aspirations with helping other bands navigate this process?
MY: For me, the most important thing is trying to help other dudes and chicks, because they are plenty of ladies getting involved, which is amazing, get to where they want to go with it. I’ve been through it. I’ve tried different shit that hasn’t worked, I’ve made lots of mistakes. If I can help other people not make nearly as many mistakes as I did, then I think that’s succeeding in my goal.
There’s a really good saying in recovery, “You can only keep what you’ve got by giving it away”. That to me is super important. I want to keep doing this! So, I’m going to tell as many other people as I can how to succeed, how to grow. I think it helps to foster the scene, and create more opportunities in live music. While the recording industry is shot, you still need to make records. The live music scene is where it’s at now, and so if I can help in any way with that, then I’m doing my part. It just makes sense to me. That’s what people did for me. One of my really good friends in Australia, Jason PC from Blood Duster, a kind of legendary Australian grind band, he’s helped me heaps throughout the years. He produced our new record, Ugly Produce. He’s got a studio now. People like him and many others, like Phil Anselmo, Max Cavalera, and Jesse Leach, they have all been super supportive of our band. I want to be able to do the same thing for other people.
We are always looking for new bands to bring out with us in Australia who are coming up to expose them to more of an audience. That’s the way I like to approach it. It feels more organic, and less business-y. It may or may not be a good business move, but fuck it! It’s true for me and for King Parrot. Even if it’s a harder road, I prefer it to the typical business model.