An Interview with Drew Parsons of American Hi-Fi

The combination of four sweaty, unassuming guys proudly displaying their heavy metal T-shirts whilst belting out a brand of classic-influenced modern rock that gave them their name, is not the conventional way a new band manages to break through in today’s ultra competitive, MTV dominated music industry, but that’s exactly how American Hi-Fi have managed it.

Of course, the added bonus of achieving a Top 20 hit with “Flavor of the Weak” hasn’t done the band any harm either, but as American Hi-Fi bassist Drew Parsons explained, getting to know tour buses and road schedules inside out is the main reason why the quartet is currently holed up in an L.A. studio recording a new album when a lot of new rock acts don’t even make it past the bargain bins.

“2001 was a busy year for us,” Drew said. “Our main goal of the year was to do well enough that we were able to go and make a second record, but we achieved so much more than that.”

He adds. “One of the most important things we did this year was to concentrate on international exposure as well as success here in the States because if you really want to establish a career for your band you need to be successful internationally as well.”

The point is a valid one, and the culmination of almost a full year of good old-fashioned touring in the USA, UK and Japan is the release of a Japan-only live CD, Rock N’ Roll Noodle Show this month, and perhaps more importantly, enough new material to head straight back into the studio to record the follow-up to the band’s phenomenally successful self titled debut.

American Hi-Fi came together from the ashes of Veruca Salt, when drummer Stacy Jones decided to make the switch from background to forefront to become a singer/guitarist and enlisted the help of long-time friends Parsons, guitarist Jamie Arentzen (formerly of Sky Heroes), and drummer Brian Nolan (ex-Figgdish) to complete the line-up.

The Boston based band quickly signed to Island Records and their debut album, recorded in Maui with producer Bob Rock over an eight month period won plenty of plaudits for its mixture of old school melodies, thick guitars and a modern, radio friendly rock sound, and Parsons predicts that fans of the first album won’t be disappointed when the new record hits stores.

He said, “Right now we are recording in L.A. with Nick Launay (INXS, Silverchair), and I think the record is going to be similar to the last one, although it will sound a bit more raw. We want to keep it simple and rocking and try and record it as ‘live’ as possible. “Stacy had been writing songs the entire time we were on the road, so it will follow the same pattern where Stacy writes all the songs and we write our parts then help arrange them. He has pumped out 30 songs for us to choose from, because even though Jamie and I were hoping to get more involved in the writing process, we both suck at it!”

What Drew may lack in the songwriting department, he and his band-mates more than compensate for in a live setting, and such were the intensity of American Hi-Fi shows in Japan and the UK in particular, that the live album (recorded in Tokyo) seemed a natural next step for the band.

“Playing in Japan was a real highlight for me,” Drew enthuses. “We played two sold-out shows in Tokyo and Sapporo and the fans were amazing. The Tokyo show ended up being the largest headlining show we have played so far, so it seemed a great idea to release it in Japan and build on our fan base there.”

Whilst the Japanese tour was a phenomenal success, so was the band’s attempt to build a reputation in the UK. After already making an initial trip over to London earlier in the year, the band were scheduled to return in support of Weezer in November 2001. But when the headliners pulled out, American Hi-Fi decided to carry on with a scaled down tour, and according to Parsons they were glad they did.

“We fucking love the UK! The fans there can be so brutal to US bands but we had such a good time playing there. The fans were really energetic and appreciative, and we seem to have a lot more guy fans there, which I think is important if you are going to be perceived as a rock band.”

As well as being a great live draw, another reason for American Hi-Fi’s fruitful attempts to build a solid reputation at home and abroad is the band’s ability to appeal to different types of music fan, something Drew agrees with wholeheartedly.

“Yeah, there are a lot of different sounds to our band,” he comments. “We have so many influences from Cheap Trick to Wilco and we are pretty open minded when it comes to music. This past year we toured with bands like Our Lady Peace, Eve 6 and Everclear and we also did a bunch of pop shows with track acts, so I think we can hold our own with any heavy rock band, but we have a definite pop side as well.”

Such versatility should ensure the Boston based quartet continue to remain firm favourites with fans who have embraced the influx of new modern rock bands over the past eighteen months, but aren’t the band wary of becoming a victim of the dreaded sophomore album syndrome that has afflicted too many bands to mention over the years?

“I hope that doesn’t happen to us, but I think because we have all been in other bands before, and have watched them succeed and fail, that we are a bit more level-headed about it. In the past I’ve gone from touring the world (with Tracy Bonham) and making good money to being on unemployment and working in a pool hall, so we know not to take any of our success for granted. Our fans, label and management have been so supportive and that means a lot to us, so we’re just concentrating on making the best album we can.”

That as yet untitled album should be released in time for summer, and in case anyone wonders what American Hi-Fi will be doing between now and then, the answer should be quite obvious — hitting the road of course, on a string of Spring college tour dates.