Parise is one of those hidden gem sleeper projects, a criminally under-exposed band that might blow your mind if you’re fortunate enough to discover them. The band’s potent mix of modern power pop, hard rock, and even hints of heavy metal strikes right where you want it. “…(The songs) are infectious, strongly melodic, and kinetic… packed with live acoustic drums, blistering guitar, and top-notch vocals…” The band released one absolute cracker of a 12 song debut, Parise1, in 2012. Formed and driven by Greensburg, PA native, guitarist Dan Parise, after he left alt-rock sensations Too Tall Jones, Parise had a mission: to showcase the talents of some of Pittsburgh, PA’s best musicians. To that end, he needed a rock vocalist with exceptional power and range, and found him in Liverpool, UK expat Andrew Shaw (1968-2014). Formerly of 2Die4, Say, and The Quest, Shaw injected added enthusiasm and a stellar vocal range to the band, both to officially released and as-yet-unreleased material. Taken in 2012 (and misplaced by various data failures), Iris feels finally honored to be able to present, as a Featured Band, what may be Shaw’s final (and brief) interview, prior to his passing in late 2014.
Hello Andy! What got you back in to music, so to speak?
I have never left music. I’m still just as passionate as I have always been. I started out as a music lover and music fan, and I’m still that. I’m always watching bands, or surfing the ‘net. I spend most of my free time listening and enjoying. Although, my personal output and performing/writing had been somewhat limited, until I met Dan.
What first got you interested in music, and becoming a professional musician?
I followed in my father’s (Harry Shaw – ed.) footsteps: he sang in rock bands all his life. He used to rehearse in the famous Cavern Club, and actually met my mother there. I have the earliest memories of family gatherings, where guitars were brought out, and everybody sang and played. We’d also listen to the family record collection, which was an eclectic mix: everything from ABBA to ZZ Top.
How did you get your start in this (messy) business?
I started going to gigs at an early age with my dad’s band. At one time they carried the loudest P.A. system in the city: they rocked. Liverpool is an easily navigable city by foot, and everywhere has live music. It wasn’t long before I had watched everyone out there and was gigging myself. My dad had three brothers who were all singers too, so, they would give me advice, and helped to shape my sound. I think simply having the fortune of being from Liverpool, and simply by virtue, influenced my abilities as a songwriter and singer.
How do you approach music in general, and what “keeps the fire burning”?
I am somewhat of a perfectionist – obsessive when it comes to my music, and put a lot of work in when I commit to something. Until Parise, other offers and music projects had been on the table, but none of them felt right. Music is in my blood for me; it’s part of my being. It’s all-consuming, a powerful exciting rollercoaster ride of emotions, at times, even dangerously hurling you into what seems like madness. For all of this, I am a muso, and always will be. I have played in bands since I was 14, solidly “paying my dues” as they say, playing every type of gig and genre you could imagine, good and bad. It’s only when you have played a month straight, night after night, sometimes 3 gigs a day, drove the van all over the country and slept in the back, getting up on stage – every time striving for a better performance than the last, whether you are ill, tired, hungry, messed up, drunk, or whatever. After a while you become a true professional, your skills are honed, and you are really in control of the great highs you feel when performing. That’s when the fire starts, and you never lose that. A break or hiatus every now and again ain’t bad either: sometimes you need it, to refocus and look at new opportunities.
You mentioned moving to the States… where are your roots? Who are your musical ‘muses’ or inspirations?
I’m from Liverpool, so, among my main inspirations are of course The Beatles, and ‘the Mersey sound’ from the early Sixties until today. Liverpool has had (one of) the most vibrant and healthy music scenes out there. It’s a very working class city, and Liverpool men are one of three things: a footballer, a comedian, or a musician.
How did you meet Dan?
I met Dan, when I moved to the States five years ago. Actually, I had been trying to set something up before I moved over – I was working with another band from the Pittsburgh area, and as it is ‘all over the world’, everybody knows the other musos in the area played with or what have you. I started recording with Parise, and knew it was going to become a great collaboration, and Dan was to become a great friend.
Who’s lyrics are these? Could you talk a little bit about the songwriting process for Parise1?
With the Parise1 album, Dan already had everything written, but we had so much enthusiasm that we would spend a lot of time in pre-production – pondering over lyrics, reworking melodies, augmenting harmonies, changing formats, chorus lengths, intros, outros, tempos, effects… the list goes on and on. All (done) with an honest and tirelessly hard-working approach. Like I said before, we are both cut from the same cloth, and are perfectionists to a tee. We leave no stone unturned.
Do you “channel” or connect with lyrics as-sung?
The lyrics are definitely Dan’s – he had the whole concept for the album. I just put my stamp on them, and if I felt a lyric or two needed changing, we worked it out. To that end, I do like I always do: whether it’s a lyric and melody I have written, or a cover. You just make it your own and place as much character behind the lyric as needed. Apart from that, we knew what we were after vocal-wise, so if certain parts needed more attitude, we would go over it again until it was right.
What are some of the perks regarding working on the Parise project? Do you think you got your message across?
I think that is the beauty of having your own studio: it frees you up to be more experimental, and to record more takes, and make a composite vocal afterwards. We spent a long time recording and producing this album; that is the luxury of having your own studio. Having said that, I also like the feeling of the whole band being in the studio at one time on a schedule and getting it done. Sometimes it’s much more organic, and the whole vibe transfers onto the recording. At every juncture in the making of this CD, we had open thoughts, debates, and questions until we were sure it was right. We would take rough mixes everywhere, play them in the car, and let confidants hear snippets for reactions and feedback.
And you guys sure got it right.
At each step, we made sure we were always on track.
Thank you, Andy, for your time and for your contributions to music!
Thanks for doing this.