Richard Reed Parry: How a Haunting Became an Album
When it came to writing his first solo album, Quiet River of Dust Vol. 1, Richard Reed Parry sought to commune with the spirits rather that put his nose to the grindstone. The result is an immersive work, one that ushers you into a world of Parry’s own Zen imagining — a suite of albums ten years in the making.
“Making this record has been about discovering a creative process,” Parry tells TIDAL. “It was about having no agenda and having quiet and giving myself time and space. I don’t have to try to write a song, I just gravitate toward music and musical ideas and they just kind of happen. I explore them when I don’t have a deadline or band mates to argue with.”
Most of the time, Parry is a member of Arcade Fire, as well as a composer in his own right. That’s part of the reason why this album has taken a decade to come to fruition: lack of time. The rest has to do with Parry’s own aversion to rushing.
The songs took tentative root after Arcade Fire’s first tour in Japan in February of 2008. Parry stayed on by himself after the band left, spending his time at a monastery on the top of a mountain, surrounded by a cedar forest. “I was wandering around through this incredible space that felt like it was full of spirits,” he says. “It had good energy. It had limitless quietude and limitless space.”
Parry felt like the whole place was imbued with spirit, as he travelled through the forests and happened upon little shrines and places of worship. “Someone will set up a little statue in the woods and then someone else will knit it a little hat so that it doesn’t get cold,” he recalls. “There’s just this care taken. That kind of vibe and spirit and attitude really made a huge impression on me. I felt kind of overcome by it.”
In the midst of his wanders, Parry had an experience with the divine that would stay with him throughout the ensuing decade and result in the song “On the Ground.” While in the forest on the mountain, the musician heard singing voices in the distance — voices with no particular source. To him, they sounded like the men in his father’s band, the Canadian folk band, Friends of Fiddler’s Green: rowdy, male, harmonious.
“I don’t find those kinds of things unnerving; I don’t find things like that spooky,” Parry says, citing his Quaker upbringing as a touchstone. “I don’t practice anymore, but it makes experiences like that, where something is trying to be heard, not that weird.”
Driven by his time in the woods, Parry wrote “On the Ground” and “River of Death” when he returned home to Canada, feeling his way through drumbeats and half-done vocals. “It was a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other exploration of place and time. Giving myself space to just let music occur,” he says. “I don’t like to finish anything and I need to push to actually finish things. I hate committing to lyrics and I hate committing to song structures. There’s something about taming the limitless potential that I’m very adverse to.”
Finally, his friends Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National convinced Parry to finish the record. “It took Aaron and Bryce really saying, ‘Dude, we know that you’re sitting on these songs. Anytime we’ve heard any fragments of these songs we’re immediately obsessed with them. You need to finish this record,’” he recalls.
And he made it about halfway at the time of this release. Where there’s a volume 1 (which is out this September 21, the fall equinox), there is, of course, volume 2 — which will drop around the spring equinox in 2019. Parry likens the split in the project to the River of Death, which he visited in Japan. Apparently, it’s the place where children who died before their parents wait to accompany them to the afterlife.
“I thought that was a really beautiful image that lodged itself into my brain,” Parry says. “So I decided to divide this huge body of songs that I had into two sides a river. It’s not like the world of the living and the world of the dead, but a little looser. A little more like this side of the river that we’re on in our present form, a very human experience, and this other side that switches the perspective.”
“The reason why it took so long is that I wanted the world of the album to find itself and feel right,” he continues. “It was very much done by feeling. That’s a really good feeling. Feeling like you’re following the spirit of something rather than just creating notes on discs.”
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