Boston's We Demand Parachutes are a slick alt-rock/pop-punk trio about to drop a hot debut EP.
The humble guys likely wouldn't personally demand your attention, but they certainly deserve it.
Consisting of Kevin McCord (vocals/guitar), Seth Richardson (bass/programming) and Ben Shumaker (drums/percussion), We Demand Parachutes are a band that love a good time but aren't afraid to look at the darker side of life, their single '29' a song about mental health and the anxiety about not being where one is supposed to be in life.
Ahead of their EP Outside The Null Field dropping this Friday (11/11), I was lucky enough to have some time to chat with the guys about the EP and their origins.
I appreciate you all taking the time to be here today. Let's start at the beginning...how did We Demand Parachutes come to be?
Kevin: We all grew up in Maine together [and] back in high school, we were in rival bands. Seth and Ben were sworn enemies. [Then] at a certain point, we decided to all hang out and became fast friends, and we’ve been jamming ever since.
[We] took a big break when we went off to college, and I joined the military. We were still friends and [kept] in touch but we weren’t making music for a couple of years. I was on a deployment one day and started messing around with a guitar and keyboard that I had, and sent some ideas back to the guys. They said that we should get together when I got home and work on some stuff, put some ideas together and just jam, have fun and see what comes out of it. When I got back, we did just that. We got together at my house in North Carolina, started playing through some ideas and having the time of our lives. It was like no time had passed. We realized that we should be thinking about doing this seriously. Since then, we’ve just been doing what we love together. It’s been a great journey.
I love the name We Demand Parachutes. I gotta ask...where did that come from?
Seth: *laughs* When Kevin was in the military, he was in training [and] there was a period of time when he was jumping out of airplanes. He was in jump school, and I think he said something to the group chat one day about doing his first jump or something. Me, just wanting to bust his balls, I said something to the effect of ‘don’t forget your parachute, you dumbass!’ Kevin goes, ‘I’ll demand a parachute!’. In that moment, a lightbulb went on. Ding! The band name was born.
For the first couple years, the band existed virtually, over things like Google Drive and group chats. Obviously not an ideal scenario for a band starting out but, hey, it obviously worked! How did you make the most out that sort of situation, to get to where you are today, about to release your EP? What were the upsides to all that?
Kevin: It was such a creative barrier at first. It forced us to change the way we interacted and the way we wrote songs. We had to be critical of one another but also, you know, not causing tension. It was definitely a learning curve. We got to really remove the ego and realize the process is very, very iterative and frustrating at times. It’s a lot different to being in a studio together and bouncing ideas off one another. There were big gaps of time in between working on stuff.
Having to work around those barriers in the early years meant [that] when we got together and had the chance to get in the same room, we became so productive. Ideas were just flowing. It was one of those things in which it was a real downside at first and a real barrier. But we were passionate enough to know that we had something cool and we were getting better and better at working together. It ended up being a benefit because it translated into the way we were able to remove ego completely and bang out some tunes that were awesome.
Your track '29' is a track about mental health, and Kevin you've said that your focus when writing it was to 'relate the feeling of being 29years old and feeling like [you] had't achieved any of the things [you'd] hoped to'. That is, definitely, a very relatable notion, and something that many people are nervous to admit. Is writing such a song, and touching on these more serious topics a conscious decision? Or is it a therapeutic process to get it out there?
Kevin: Thank you for saying that, that it’s relatable. It’s one of those things that, once we started writing about it, it did feel really natural. It’s something that we’ve all had to go through and deal with…growing up, y’know, worried about how people perceive you, or worried about when people think ‘hey you’re in a band and you’re 29 years old, approaching 30’. At the end of the day, you’re doing what you love.
I think it is therapy to write those songs and get out what’s on your mind. That’s the message behind it, that we’re all going through stuff and you need to talk to your friends and have those conversations. There’s nothing more important.
Seth: There’s also the element too, where we’d finish up having these great shows on a Friday or a Saturday and then we’d turn around and have to be engaged at our respective professions on a Monday. We’d just be all shouting in the group chat like ‘ugh, I’m in a three hour meeting today and I just want to play my guitar’.
Seth: That’s happening more and more as shows are starting to come back after Covid. You have these amazing times with the band and then be opening spreadsheets on Monday *laughs*.
You've built yourself a solid listenerbase. Does building that sort of connection with listeners and fans make it easier to be more vulnerable with your lyrics?
Kevin: Definitely. When you’re an emerging artist and somebody writes a comment or says ‘this song impacted me’ or ‘I love this song’ or even the smallest things like sharing our music…it makes us feel so good about what we’re doing. I saw a comment on YouTube the other day, somebody said ‘I’m only 27 but this song really hits for me’. That makes our day to hear that, and it only empowers us to continue to tell our stories and relate to the people that are listening. We just genuinely enjoy what we do and enjoy making music together. The fact that other people like it and are reacting to it is icing on the cake and a wonderful, wonderful thing.
You also mentioned, when speaking about '29' that there was a general feeling that, as a band, 'the traditional metrics of success didn't define [your] positions in life'. There's so many ways for bands to grow these days but, for you, what is most important in getting your music out there?
Seth: We’ve really tried to prioritize playing music in front of people, and have worked really hard to cultivate something that's grassroots and genuine and be able to play shows and see people in person. That effort to play, and play well, in front of people and connect with individuals that way, that has helped us to cut through the noise a little bit in that regard, and not worry too much about emerging social media platforms or participating in trends and just try to make good music, form relationships and build a good community.
There's a nice contrast between the serious '29' and 'Hungover You', a song about a celebratory party. Was it a conscious decision to have that sort of balance between the not-so-good and the good sides of life?
Kevin: It definitely was. For us, the origin of We Demand Parachutes is community and party. If you show up to a show, there’s a ninety percent chance you’ll end up in one of our videos or have a great conversation with us after. [We’re] just really thankful that we’re able to do what we love, and translating that through ‘Hungover You’. It’s face value lyrics. I went to a party at my buddy’s house, [and] we were rocking out and jamming. Then I went home and me, Seth and Ben were writing music in my basement and that’s what we loved. Downstairs in the basement, recording guitar, being friends and, ultimately, using that to transition into some of the more serious songs, the more serious tones of ‘29’ and another song on the record called ‘Outside The Null Field’. It’s a juxtaposition of being happy and doing what you love, and also telling stories that are serious and real and things you want to talk about. I think it’s great to have both and the record showcases that.
Seth: We came up playing basement shows, house shows, dirty punk rock clubs, veteran halls…stuff like that. There is a piece of all that that we try to carry in our ethos of having a good time and not taking it too seriously.
The upcoming EP is produced by Alan Day of the brilliant Four Year Strong. How did your paths cross?
Kevin: We interacted over something on social media - honestly, it might have been something as simple as an Office meme, he’s a huge fan of The Office and we are too. He messaged us like ‘I love your stuff and wanna work with you’. I called Ben and Seth like ‘oh my god, Alan wants to work with us!’ *laughs*. It was a crazy moment, someone you’ve been listening to - not just the music that he’s produced, but also made with Four Year Strong and just being a legend. We were so excited to jump into the studio with him.
We’d been playing music in our basement and self-producing everything. Having someone that was going to be a fourth perspective, have more omniscience and be able to step in as that fourth member, [and] from an editorial perspective too and help us build and shape the sound…we were really excited about that.
When we met Alan and started working on this record, he just exceeded all expectations. He had so many wonderful ideas. We just clicked and worked together really well. He has a wonderful ear for arrangements and sound and thinking outside of the box. It was just an incredible experience all the way through.
Ben: Prior to that, everything had been self-produced, recorded and mixed. As Kevn said, that fourth perspective, and a fourth look at genre - Four Year Strong is much a heavier band than we typically are. Having that outside view to look at different ways the song could go really opened our eyes and created the best music we’ve ever created. I’m so happy to be able to share it.
I've been fortunate to have a sneaky listen of the EP and it's fantastic. For someone who hasn't heard it yet, though...how would you describe it?
Kevin: I think it’s just fun. It’s better than anything we’ve put out before because it’s so neatly us, and has that forth perspective from a producer that took our sound and distilled it down to its best parts then added some extra hot sauce to it. We love it and think people will too.
Seth: We had a really good time making this record and I think it really comes through on the recording. It takes you along for the ride with us in that regard. We had a good time making it and we want people to have a good time listening to it.
Ben: And anybody that wants to jump into what it was like in the studio with us, we have a series on our YouTube channel making the record! We had a videographer with us the whole time to document that, to document the first steps from Seth walking in the door where he falls on the ice and it’s super awkward, to the last moment where we didn’t want to leave because everything we were creating was the best thing we’d ever created.