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A Dirty Dozen with BRIAN K & THE PARKWAY – February 2024

| 1 March 2024 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Brian K. Pagels and Stephen Russ, the DC-area duo, Brian K & The Parkway, are releasing their second single, “Straight Through” featuring Cat Popper, known for her band Puss N Boots with Norah Jones and Sasha Dobson and for her work with Jack White, Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson, among others, who provides guest vocals on the track out March 1, 2024. The duo are set to release their debut album, Killing The Bear, March 29, 2024. Most of the work on Killing The Bear was done by Pagels and Russ, but it was mastered by Justin Perkins (North Mississippi Allstars, The Replacements, Lydia Loveless), co-engineered by Zac Thomas at The Jam Room in Columbia, SC, and co-produced and mixed by Collin Derrick. The nine-song collection, a nod to the ‘70s rock sound of artists like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Warren Zevon, is guitar-based, roots-oriented rock, infused with a healthy dose of soul and R&B. Piano and organ play a critical role in establishing the sound along with some horns thrown in for good measure. The duo dubs their sound “coastal heartland rock,” reflecting the fact that their major influences are artists that hail from coastal areas such as New Jersey, Florida, and California, but are known for their own mix of classic heartland rock.” We get the duo to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Brian: Killing The Bear is our debut album and was definitely a labor of love for the past few years. Because the music takes several turns stylistically, which is a reflection of our many influences, people may not immediately grasp that all of the songs are unified by the common theme of characters mostly applying surface-level solutions to problems that go much deeper.

Stephen: There’s a part in one of the songs where I asked Brian to sing like Axl Rose and he DELIVERED… before asking me to remove it. (I didn’t).

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Brian: I’d always been moved – literally and figuratively – by music. I remember dancing to “Thriller” when I was a toddler, which eventually progressed to banging on pots and pans in my bedroom, and ultimately to playing the drums (my first instrument). But the moment I realized I wanted to play guitar and write my own songs was when I first saw the video for Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” on MTV and thought that guy going up and down the mall escalator singing while strumming an acoustic guitar was the epitome of cool.

Stephen: My Dad played MTV at night, so I got very into ’80s music videos when I was only four years old. When I got old enough, I tried out on the sax for the school band so I could play that sax solo from “Hungry Eyes” and I was awful. Drums were my second choice.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Brian: By the time I was 18, I had three Bruce Springsteen cassettes that I had spun constantly while driving in my ‘79 metallic blue Firebird around my hometown – Greetings from Asbury Park, Born in the USA, and Greatest Hits. But it wasn’t until that summer that I finally got to see Springsteen & The E Street Band live that I really understood the power of rock n roll. I was on a high for the next month, and that’s a high I’ve chased ever since as both an audience member and performer.

Stephen: The first tape I bought with my own money was the first Collective Soul album, and my first CD was the second Collective Soul album. I stand by this – I loved all the ’90s grunge stuff but Collective Soul grooved, man.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Brian: Benmont Tench. There’s a reason he’s consistently been one of the most in-demand keyboardists in the industry, in addition to his 40 year-stint in the Heartbreakers. He gives the song exactly what it needs – no more and no less. Jimmy Iovine said when producing Damn The Torpedoes that if something weren’t quite right with the mix, he’d just turn Benmont’s parts up and that would magically fix it.

Stephen: I swear we answered this independently! I’d love to write a song with Mike Campbell from the Heartbreakers. I think “Heart of the Matter” is one of the best songs ever written.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

Brian: I love hiking and I’m grateful to have a really nice trail system through the woods within a short walk from my house. I love the serenity of feeling completely enveloped by woods, and all the sights and smells that accompany it.

Stephen: Snuggling up with my 15-year-old miniature pinscher mutt Huey Lewis and playing video games.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Brian: We’re “fourth wave heartland rock.” There’s lots of guitars, but they aren’t mixed in a way that assaults your ear drums. There are prominent keyboards. There are some horns and tunes that draw on soul and R&B as well as rock n’ roll. You can trace our lineage back to first wavers like Springsteen and Petty, second wavers like Counting Crows and The Wallflowers, and third wavers like The Killers and The War on Drugs.

Stephen: My wife and I had a fight because she was trying to compliment a guitar tone I engineered for one of Brian’s solos and she said it sounded like Lynyrd Skynyrd. I love “Tuesday’s Gone” but that’s not what I was going for! She was right, of course.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Brian: I love cooking, especially for a group. For me, there isn’t a better feeling than enjoying a meal with friends that I spent a good few hours lovingly preparing.

Stephen: Brian for the first two. I love getting out from behind the drums and playing the guitar at an average skill level, so the third is probably me.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Brian: A few years ago, I went to Terrapin Crossroads, which was a club and restaurant owned by Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead. On the night I happened to visit, Phil was sitting in with the house band in the bar area. After the set, he walked right in my direction, so I shook his hand and said, “Thank you for the music.” That was all I could come up with.

Stephen: I used to be in entertainment journalism, so I am generally chill around celebrities. However, I met jazz drummer Dave King who plays with The Bad Plus once and absolutely lost my marbles. I would like another chance at that. This was even before he shredded all over Margaret Glaspy’s latest album.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Brian: I love performing live and getting that real-time feedback from the audience. There’s nothing like it. My dream job would be to work as a park ranger, but not the law enforcement kind – more like the ones who chop firewood for the campground and lead interpretive hikes.

Stephen: I really love crafting albums. There’s nothing like hearing the sounds in your mind and producing everything to work together and sound the way you hear it. And… hmm, I’d work at a library. That’s kind of my dream, period.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Brian: Question: “Would you mind if I introduced you to my friend Butch Walker?” Answer: “By all means!”

Stephen: *Laughs* No one has ever asked me what my favorite Mariah Carey song is, so I’ve never gotten to talk about “Fantasy” for roughly 10 minutes. Honestly though, you can make any question fun if you try hard enough.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Brian: There was a batch of some pretty good songs I wrote about 15 years ago before I had any real intention of making an album. I played them live a few times, but never recorded demos and now they are lost to time. I wish I had recorded them.

Stephen: I wish you had recorded them too! An older band of mine, The Fire Tonight, had an opportunity to record our final album with a pretty stellar Grammy level producer. It was hard to fathom spending the money when we could produce it ourselves. I’m happy with the album we made, but I would have learned a lot from that experience. I’d make a different decision for a future album with Brian, especially if Brian ever gets his wish of getting introduced to Butch Walker.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Brian: Bob Dylan’s Royal Albert Hall Concert. It’s not technically a recording session, but it is a performance (actually from Manchester Free Trade Hall) that was captured live to tape. I would have loved to be in the room when that heckler yelled “Judas” to which Dylan replied “I don’t believe you. You’re a liar,” before telling the band to “play it fuckin’ loud” and cracking into “Like a Rolling Stone.” Just thinking about it makes the hair stand up on my neck.

Stephen: I wish I had been in the room when Harry Nilsson sang A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night with the live orchestra. That record is astounding, and I’ve watched the video on YouTube at least 100 times.

BRIAN K & THE PARKWAY LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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