I sat down with Nik Parr, the lead singer from Austin-based band, The Selfless Lovers to talk about their upcoming Third Thursday show with us on October 20, 2022, as well as other general music opinions.
Kylie Hogg: So, your website says you tour around 150 dates per year. Does that get emotionally draining as a band that is not yet ‘established’?
Nik Parr: Yes, absolutely. What is hard about it is that music doesn’t exist like it used to. What you used to do is go on the road as a band and go to cool venues where they would have a walk in audience. This is because our society used to be geared where young, hip people would go downtown to a venue to hang out because they ‘had cool bands’. It made a lot more sense when you wanted to tour; now, there is no walk in crowd. People go to a lot of these venues with the intent of going to a specific event. So, it is emotionally draining; sometimes it feels like you’re swimming upstream. The way the industry works is: you get a manager, an agent, a publicist and so on and you tour based on where your audience is. However, the industry is closed, like people like me are not allowed in it because I’m not part of it already. So I have to reverse engineer it.
Kylie Hogg: What do you mean “people like you” are not allowed in the industry?
Nik Parr: Just about anyone who makes it in [into the industry] generally already has background or knows someone in the industry. There are success stories of people who work their way up – but generally – its not like that.
Kylie Hogg: Relating to that, Matty Healy, from The 1975 said in a recent interview that ‘a lot of people call me a nepotism baby, or that I get a lot just because of the people I know, but you never hear about nepotism doctors. Because if a child grows up in an environment where their parents are doctors, it’s likely that that’s what that child will gravitate towards. It’s the same thing for artists a lot of times. Because I grew up around artists, that is what I gravitated to.” Do you think, as an artist, it’s harder to respect other artists who have been given more because of their connections?
Nik Parr:We all have something. I mean, I went to UT Austin, and that’s probably because they read to me at night as a child, and maybe, economically, they worked hard, but were in a position to where they could give me attention. So, I had a lot of advantages, everyone does, and we all strive to have those advantages, and theres nothing wrong with admitting it. Its a difficult road to go down because it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day I have to work with a lot of those people and I cant let myself dwell on it too much or I’ll be sad all the time. It also doesn’t effect their art, Marcus King is a good example because he had ties to the Allman Brothers Band but he makes great music. I’m sure if I had the connections he did I would be playing stadiums right now but I don’t so I don’t let it effect me.
Kylie Hogg: So you recorded Between the Bars in one take. Were you planning on that or was it something that happened by accident?
Nik Parr: It really started out with the fact that I didn’t have much money and I was going to record the album as a live EP just to show people that we sound good and use it to book shows. After COVID, I wrote a ton of new songs and decided to record them. The whole thing is recorded on analog tape which is why it sounds like that, but essentially it came about by trying to record an album as cheaply as possible while still making it sound good.
Kylie Hogg: Do you guys not sing covers? Or are you more of a fan of making songs up on stage?
Nik Parr: We like to improv a lot on stage, though a lot of it comes from necessity. When we book shows, we book for a set amount of time – no matter how many songs we have; there’s a lot of filler music that comes from that. Eventually, I end up doing this James Brown thing where I make things up on stage and after your set, you realize that you filled thirty minutes of your set with improv. Some of that stuff is good, so you take it and work on it and eventually some of those improved moments become songs. It’s like freestyling, just not as fast.
Kylie Hogg: I understand. What separates a, awesome artist from a great artist comes down to being able to read the crowd and feed off the crowd’s energy.
Nik Parr: Exactly! Which is why you really have to see our live performances; that is what our music was made for. It’s a lot less standard today but, when blues and jazz were popular, [live music] was a lot more standard.
Kylie Hogg: Well, blues and jazz, at their core, are based around improv!
Nik Parr: Ultimately it’s theatre – then you apply that to disco and funk. I used to listen to a lot of live James Brown performances, and theres a certain energy; that’s how I used to write songs. For our next album, however, I took time and thought about what I was writing because I wanted to be an artist that had things to say, which is very different.
Kylie Hogg: What made you want to pursue music? You got a marketing degree from UT Austin; when did you decide to make your career music?
Nik Parr: I learned to play piano by ear, same with saxophone, and I’ve been doing that since I was little. Then, when I was in college, I did a lot of sit-ins with bands where they would let me play with them on stage and I realized just how much I loved it. It’s like a drug; there’s nothing like it.
Kylie Hogg: Do you think that can be a power-trip sometimes?
Nik Parr: You have to get over it.
Kylie Hogg: How do you do that?
Nik Parr: Understanding that the talent and art is not about me, it’s about serving people. The art serves people. If you think it’s about you, the art gets tarnished. I have to realize that the talent isn’t mine and was given to me by either genetics or religion or whatever. My job is to maintain that talent.
Kylie Hogg: I like that you said your talent is borrowed, because that’s what art is. It’s a continuation of what has already been made.
Nik Parr: I’m a big fan of Johnny Cash and James Brown, so my art is a continuation of what they have done, which is a continuation of Black soul and blues music, which is a continuation of whatever else in American history. When you think of it that way it is very humbling.
Written by: Jordan Young