With both having musical backgrounds, being married led Inga and Joel Roberts to create and perform music together between projects about five years ago. This new experience carried into 2012, when they met Joshua Caro; both were in groups opening for Radiation City at the Turf Club in Saint Paul. He joined their tour for Everyone's Looking, and has been The Parlour Suite's drummer ever since. Then after an extensive year of touring before she and I met, Inga says their writing style just "naturally began to gravitate towards a more electronic sound," and at Sofar Sounds they were already into this new writing process. Because "It was such an exciting feeling to tap into a new vibe," they started recording in April 2013 and finished throughout that summer at The Hideaway in NE Minneapolis. The addition of well-known producer Grant Cutler and their new move to Los Angeles has taken The Parlour Suite into a new realm of sound and possibility.
The album starts off with Inga and Joel taking turns with vocals, setting the example for both the rest of the album, and how the pair functions in the writing process. Inga said it best herself:
"There's a lot of ebb and flow between us, when writing. Each song is different... but usually one of us will write the core of the song, and bring it to the table. We really embraced the alternate vocal performances on this album. We really identify with that style of performance of give and take, and allowing each other to shine as individuals. I do really love that in "The New Midnight" we sing together... but in a separate way. That song really represents our style of writing and the sonic tone of the album Vibes."
This collaboration and the catchy beat continue through "Haunted (Vis a Vis)" and builds into "Tribes," with Inga's vocals hooking the listener in, leaving them in suspense during the verses and rewarding them warmly in the chorus. Minimalistic and classic 80's synth themes permeate Vibes, both mixing in modern elements and isolating each sound or feel for a time-bending effect. The only example of too much 80's and too little in-the-now sound is on "Wrong Number," in which Joel sings "have a nice dream" before the cheesy bass line takes over with a bit too much "whomp" for modern day. Yet there are great elements in the song that are clearly contemporary and unique to the band, and for every other tune on the album, that most fine of balances between decades-old and new sounds is toyed with and perfected.
It's the tunes in the middle of the album, such as "In My Head," their single "Pressure," and "Bali Hai" that are true declarations of The Parlour Suite's talents, strengths, and ability to create catchy pop songs with darker edges and deeper meanings that hail back to older times without ever leaving the present. "Pressure" is the album's single and its shimmering success, Inga both a star in its fantastic music video and with her glorious vocals throughout. Inga is the group's not so secret weapon, with stark and beautiful musical tones, and matching features. Her sound is infectious, and although it too is edited through software like all today's singers, it remains more real than most.
Then Joel incorporates the 80's feel marvelously in "Bail Hai" with well timed drums and minimalistic guitar, and at a time soloing with just drums and completely rocking it. "Fencing a Sword Swallower" gets into that ballad feel - you could be running around town late at night with this one, it's nostalgia just waiting to happen. In this and "Bali Hai" Joel shines, these two are where he gets to show off. "Bury You" carries the listener into full-blown ballad mode; a melancholy but romantic statement about death in which Inga and Joel share vocals equally, proclaiming their love to a "you" that is no mystery between them. "Release My Body" channels their vibe into a slow and steady exit, with Inga's rich and pure vocals leading the way. This is actually one of my favorite songs on the album, with every repeat of the lyric bringing you more and more into it, until it's gone.
For now they'll be hanging tight in L.A., promoting the album at shows, but The Parlour Suite would like to be back in their native Minneapolis at some point this year. Until then, check out their Facebook, Soundcloud, and of course, the album on iTunes. Thanks again to Inga for being in touch, answering all my questions, and being such a badass.