No Flamenco: An Interview with Mice Parade’s Adam Pierce
Seven albums and 15 years into his career as Mice Parade, Adam Pierce refuses to be pigeonholed, hemmed in or even defined by critical expectations.
“There’s absolutely no flamenco on this record,” says Mice Parade’s Adam Pierce, who, it must be said, is a little touchy about the whole concept of world music influences. He has, indeed, studied flamenco guitar, played Chinese harps and based the percussion on one song on his new album Candela on a beat by Thomas Mapfumo.
Rather, he suggests, the new record is more of an indie rock album. He’s even appropriated the 1-4-5 chord structures favored by Frightened Rabbit (he mixed their new Pedestrian Verse) into his toolbox. “Mice Parade would intentionally use non-traditional chord progressions,” he says. “But I worked with a lot of bands -- Frightened Rabbit for instance -- that have 1-4-5 in every song. And I just figured it would be fun…”
“People always ask me about this world music, other music, but that was never a goal,” says Pierce. “I never had that conscious thought. It’s true that I love music from all around the world, I think it’s a shame that more of us don’t listen to more of that kind of stuff. I guess that whatever you listen to will naturally sort of happen in your songwriter.“
Mice Parade has now been around for 15 years and seven albums, and Pierce has spent nearly the entire time refusing to be pinned down. (It’s not hard to find old interviews where he makes the case for not being an electronic band just as strenuously as he now refutes his world influences.) Over that time, collaborators have come and gone. After Pierce, whose name can be rearranged to form the band’s name, singer Caroline Lufkin has been the main constant. Other contributors have included Doug Scharin (HiM), Dylan Cristy (The Dylan Group), Laetitia Sadier, Dan Lippel, Josh Mckay (Macha), and Gunnar Örn Tynes (múm). He has recently slimmed down his live line-up from a van-busting eight or night players to a trio -- just him, an unnamed singer and the classical guitarist Dan LaPel.
Pierce got his start in music with classical piano lessons, switching to drums as a teenager, just about when people began to speculate about a future of concert halls and conservatories. In the mid-1990s, he joined Boston shoegazers the Swirlies as a drummer. He was also a drummer in the Philistines Jr. during the 1990s, and in the early 2000s played with the west-coast metal band All Shall Perish. He joined HiM as a multi-instrumentalist and singer, and played on that band’s 2001 New Features, 2003 Many in High Places Are Not Well and 2006 Peoples.
Mice Parade took shape amid all these other commitments, beginning in about 1998 and shifting more or less at the whim of Pierce's mood at any particular moment “Mice Parade seems to have had several different eras,” he says. “It started with a couple of records that were mimicking electronica kind of music, live, and what not, very instrumental. From there, we started fooling around with Chinese harps and we did these 20-minute improv tunes. That was sort of the African jazz odyssey era, or we could call it the Chinese Harp era, when we were touring with two drum kits and all this nonsense. Then through the mid-2000s and toward the end of the 2000s, there was a solid touring era. The last tour we did with the big huge band was 2010.“
By 2011, Pierce says, many of the people who were involved in those massive tours were unavailable, due to children and jobs and other commitment. “So then I went and made a record on my own without as much attempt to outreach… outside of Caroline,” he says, referring Candela. “Other people play on some of the tunes, but I made less attempt to get the whole live band involved on this one, knowing that we’re going forward into new terrain. Now we’re into this acoustic trio thing, and that’s awesome, too.”
Caroline Lufkin, who has been with Mice Parade since 2007, is a major presence on this album. Pierce says he met her through a shared contact at FatCat records, and now sees her as an integral part of his his band. “Musically, I like the fact that while she remains kind of sensual and delicate, she can belt it out and do crazy things with melodies that you wouldn’t expect,” he says. “In terms of her being in Mice Parade and having toured with us a bunch, she’s just super great vibes to have around.”
Pierce says he’s proud of the honesty of Candela, and also a little tickled with his 1-4-5 chord forays into conventional indie rock. But, he admits that the record isn’t perfect, nor would he expect it to be. “I just look at recordings as something you do and move along. It’s not something I’d expect to be perfection and cast in time or something you have to sweat over and be judged by,” he says. “I just don’t care about any of that.” He adds, “There are sloppy moments. There are kick drum mics that were broken but we didn’t bother doing over. There’s all kinds of things that one could do a lot better. But you know… so what?”
Pierce will soon go on tour and remains excited about writing for his new pared down trio. He also, perhaps tongue in cheek, speaks of contemplating an all-flamenco album. “People are always talking about my influences,” he says. “Maybe I should do a proper flamenco album.”