Sometimes, Pærish guitarist/vocalist Mathias Court will sit down in front of a movie, TV episode or video game and play around on his guitar. The idea is for him to capture and channel the emotion of what he’s
watching into music, to try to create something inspired – intentionally or otherwise – by what’s on the
screen, to reach deep into his mind and pull out something that would otherwise stay there, dormant
and hidden. Inspiration doesn’t always strike, but every now and then, the trick works like a charm and
something magical is born.
“It’s not something you should do,” he chuckles, “because you’re less concentrated on what’s happening, but I do it with movies that I love and it just brings all the emotion out. You just let your fingers slip away and then suddenly you have this weird riff.”
That’s exactly what happened during the making of the Paris-based band’s second full-length – and first with iconic label SideOneDummy – Fixed It All. Court was watching a video game stream on Twitch when he heard a riff. He immediately stopped the Twitch channel, opened Logic Pro and the song “You & I” started to emerge. That might sound like an unusual process, but it makes sense. The three founding members of Pærish – Court, bassist Martin Dupraz and drummer Julien Louvion – met at film school in 2010. A few years later, guitarist Frédéric Wah joined. While he wasn’t at film school with the others, he’s also equally obsessed with films.
As such, it was no surprise that a broad range of movie, TV and video game references peppered 2016’s debut album, Semi-Finalists and that they do so again on Fixed It All. The jaunty, riff-laden quiet-loud alternative rock of “Journey Of The Prairie King” takes its name from a an arcade machine in the video game Stardew Valley, “Albert Suffers” is a translation of the title of early ’90s French indie flick Albert Souffre – which, incidentally, features a soundtrack by Court’s favorite band, the Pixies – and the contemplative yet insistent “Mike & Susan” is named after the Mike and Susan of Desperate Housewives.
“I always talk about how we’ve been very big fans of that show,” chuckles Court, “both a mysterious and funny way, because we know it’s kind of cheesy, but at the same time we love it. But I like the fact we also have references to an indie French movie from the ’90s, for example.”
Yet while some the titles of these songs might be slightly irreverent or tongue-in-cheek, the subject matter is anything but, and the songs themselves are based very much in reality. Recorded in Philadelphia, the band made Fixed It All with Will Yip (Title Fight, Mannequin Pussy, Turnstile), who Court says is the band’s dream producer , given that he’s worked on many of their favorite records. Yip, who has become one of the most prominent producers in alternative music in recent years, actually mixed and mastered Semi-Finalists, and it was he who approached the band about producing Fixed It All.
The producer is also partly the reason that this record is a much darker affair, both lyrically and musically, than its predecessor, but that’s also a desire on the band’s side to correct what Court feels are the shortcomings of that first record. Events in Court’s own life also took it down that darker road.
“It’s all a reaction to the first album,” he admits. “I’ve honestly never been 100% proud of the first album since it was released, for a lot of reasons. I always wanted the second album to be heavier, so the main goal of this one musically was to prove it could be noisier, no matter what the songs sound like. But there were also a lot of tough things happening in my life, and a lot of these songs are about love, relationships and depression. But one of my best friends committed suicide during the writing process of the album, and he’s in little pieces everywhere here, in every song on the album.”
These songs, then, serve not just as a tribute to Court’s late friend, but also as a means of catharsis and therapy for the singer to deal with the loss.
“That’s one of the reasons I write songs,” he says. “To take all the bad stuff that happens to you and try to make it into something powerful – whether that’s depression or if you’re just having a bad day. I feel like writing songs is always the best way to get something positive out of it – even though, at the end of the day, these songs are not very positive.”
It’s perhaps the first song and title track that sums up that duality. Though it’s first on the album, it was actually one of the last songs written – Court put it together on the final day of recording because, despite having written almost 30 songs, he felt he needed one more. The result is a track that contains not just the essence of the album, but also the band. It not only drives home the band’s incredible talent, but also the uniqueness of their situation as one of the few French outfits that has had success outside of their home country. That started with “Undone” which has now racked up almost 6 million plays on Spotify, and looks set to continue with this record.
While those numbers are impressive, and demonstrate the ability of these songs to strike a chord with an English-speaking audience, that’s just the tip of iceberg. Semi-Finalists now has more than 10 million combined streams and Pærish have made friends and toured with a plethora of high-profile American and British bands, from Sum 41 to Silversun Pickups, Moose Blood to Movements – something that’s practically unheard of for a French band to do in the alternative rock scene. It truly shows how transcendental their music is, and how easily it can break barriers that plenty of others have failed to break. You might think that would cause extra stress for the band, but it doesn’t – Pærish just want to focus on themselves simply by pushing themselves to improve with every song they write.
“I didn’t write these songs with any pressure,” says Court. “I just write songs for myself, so if I don’t like them and don’t find them better than what I’ve done before, I’m not going to show them to anybody else. I’m really just trying to improve every day. The trick is to not think that what you wrote in the past is the best things you’ll ever do – because that’s going to be a problem.”
It’s a problem that Pærish will never have to worry about.