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Freddy Parish is the real deal

Olympian is a true singer/songwriter

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Writing about music for the Weekly Volcano, which circulates in both Tacoma and Olympia, presents an interesting predicament. The musical scenes and climates of the two cities are polar opposite. For the most part, things that go over well in Olympia bomb in Tacoma — and vice versa. Have you ever seen a Who Cares show in Olympia?

I have. Not pretty.

Of course, there are exceptions. There are bands that find success in both arenas. But facts are facts. The tastes of Olympia and Tacoma are vastly different.

So, how do I balance it? I’ve been accused of “suckling at the hind tit of Hell’s Kitchen.” Does that mean I’ve neglected my Olympia brethren, with whom I seminared for four hair-heavy years at Evergreen? Perhaps. On the other hand, I’ve been accused of “having a hard-on for Le Voyeur.” Only an Olympian could appreciate Le Voyeur’s (often empty, poorly equipped, sometimes artsy fartsy) eccentricity.

This week I’m writing about Freddy Parish, an Olympian, set to play Le Voyeur on Friday, Jan. 18. There’s nothing gimmicky about Parish, which is why, hopefully, I’ve found a rare situation where music fans from both scenes can agree.

Freddy Parish is, at heart, a singer/songwriter. While I utterly detest that classification (as I usually find it means absolutely nothing), in Parish’s case it’s right on. His ’07 debut, Ghosts in the Garbage, puts this on full display. With little outside help, Parish wrote and recorded nearly every element of the record — in his living room, no less. Smokey and atmospheric like a late night dinner and the smell of burnt coffee, Parish’s songs are real — almost too real for the idealistic college town he calls home. As only a man with long hair and tired eyes can, Parish has the rare ability to tell it like it is.

I caught up with Parish this week to discuss his debut record, his place in Olympia, and what it means to be a success.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: Are you pleased with the way Ghosts in the Garbage turned out? Now that you’ve had plenty of time to think about it, is there anything you’d change about the about the record?

FREDDY PARISH: Yeah, I’m satisfied with it. All the songs are really different from each other, and yet I think it’s cohesive. I’m proud of that. I engineered and produced it myself. I’ve been recording and studying audio production for a few years now and it’s my best work to date in that it sounds professional.

VOLCANO: Talk about the recording process and the musicians you worked with. How did they influence the outcome?

PARISH: I did some of it in the studio, but ended up preferring my home studio. My living room had great acoustics, high ceilings, wood floors, and a better atmosphere.

The arrangements include bass marimba, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3, dobro, concert percussion, power tools, and a bull whip, among the standard guitar, bass, and drums. I play most of the instruments myself, so it’s a studio record, mostly overdubbed. Only one track was done live with a three-piece band. I was lucky to get some great musicians to play what I couldn’t: violin, cello, musical saw, stand-up bass. My guitar/bass player, John Courage, contributed some key production ideas.

VOLCANO: How will the live show differ from the record? Who will you be playing with?

PARISH: I put together this band specifically for playing live, especially for bars and clubs where my singer/songwriter stuff is too quiet. I was doing a one-man band thing for a while but it got boring and felt schticky. The songs we play from the record have been put in a more straight ahead rock ’n’ roll format, and my new songs are as well. Freddy Parish and the Motel Roses are: John Courage on bass, Max Haendler on drums, yours truly on guitar/vox.

VOLCANO: How are you received in Olympia? How have your experiences at Le Voyeur been?

PARISH: Olympia’s music scene is bittersweet to me. There’s a lot of music and great musicians here, especially for such a small town. But I get turned off by this fad of quirkiness — songs about dinosaurs with Casio keyboards and shit. I’m not a fan of melodramatics either, but my stuff might come off as heavy and blunt to some people.  Maybe partially for that same reason, though, I am getting a good response. People pay attention and listen to the lyrics, and I think they can tell I’m being honest and I mean what I say.

VOLCANO: Where are you going? What is the goal? What is success for you?

PARISH: I think being a successful musician is a balancing act. Authenticity vs. money can be an obvious hang-up — that is if you care about both. That involves balancing your own creative vision with that of producers and band mates and people in the biz. And balancing promoting yourself with a sense of humility, and lots of other seemingly contradictory things you have to do at the same time. Such is life. I would be happy eating beans and rice if I could support myself as a songwriter or musician.

[Le Voyeur, with Sonny Smith, Friday, Jan. 18, 10 p.m., no cover, 404 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, 360.943.5710]

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