I met Parachute Day’s drummer, Rob Diaz, at the shared practice space in Urbana, where it seems like half of the active bands in the area are practicing. He was playing some really great beats — tasteful, linear, and odd — and he said that he played for “Parachute Day.” The drumming alone was endorsement enough, so I searched Bandcamp a few days later, and was immediately hooked. Immediately. “All strings, no sings,” is the band’s tagline, and I can assure you that nothing is lost for the absence of a vocalist in this band. The band’s original members, Rob Diaz and Tim Recio, state that their goal is to strike a balance between pop-accessibility and techy-complexity, and they nail it. Recio, who has heretofore written all of the music, has a knack for harnessing nostalgic sentiment in sparkling, clean guitar tones. If you like Chon, or Toe, or yes — American Football — you will feel at home with Parachute Day.
I met with the four-piece Parachute Day at the aforementioned, mythical practice space a few weeks ago.
Smile Politely: Why don’t you introduce yourselves.
Rob Diaz: I’m Rob, and I play drums. I’m from Palos Hills, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago.
SP: Are you the Champaign connection, at this point?
Diaz: Yeah, I live in Urbana.
SP: What brought you to Champaign?
Diaz: Uhh...my girlfriend [laughs]. Just like, I had visited here a number of times, and I really liked the arts and culture of Urbana and Champaign. It’s very nice.
Brad Nelson: I’m Brad. I play this guy right here [points to a guitar]. I’m new here. [Morgan] and I have only been in the band for about 2 months...3 months?
SP: Are you from Bloomington as well? [It took me several minutes, and numerous questions, to realize that no one was actually from Bloomington.]
Nelson: Oh, no. I’m from Lincoln. I went to school at Millikin, and then Nashville for Audio Engineering.
Morgan Stricklin: I’m Morgan, I play guitar. I’ve only been in the band for a couple of months, and I’m from Peoria. I go to ICC, and study communications, because I don’t know what I want to do with my life [laughs].
Tim Recio: I’m Tim, I play bass. Rob and I started this, so we’ve been here the longest. My hometown is Palos Hills. We’ve been best friends since we were four. If you go to the corner by my house, you can see his house. So, there’s that. But now I live in Bloomington [aha!], err... actually Normal [oh]. I went to ISU, so that’s why I’m there.
SP: Have you and Rob been playing together for a long time?
Diaz: Yeah. Since [school] band. [Tim] played clarinet, and I played trumpet, and we used to do these duets for like the…
Recio: ...Solo and Ensemble Contest.
Diaz: Solo and Ensemble Contest! Yeah, and we did like, “Grand Old Flag.”
Recio: Eventually that blossomed into Parachute Day. [laughs]
Diaz: Yeah. We do a Parachute Day rendition of “Grand Old Flag,” so...
SP: I hope that’s true.
Diaz: [Laughs] No.
SP: So how did Parachute Day get started?
Recio: After Rob and I graduated from high school, we went to different schools, and we weren’t really friends for a little bit. I started a band with our friend R.J., it was like a pop-punk band. That will tell you enough about the band. The drummer was on hisway out, so I asked Rob if he wanted to join.
We played together for 8 or 9 months — something like that — and it eventually just dissipated, but I still wanted to play music. We were in the full swing of college at the time, I was about to go to ISU, but I still wanted to play music with Rob. At that point, we had known each other’s strengths and weaknesses and stuff. We still wanted to do the pop-punk thing, but we knew that we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t do some technical stuff, because those are the bands that we listen to. So we knew that we wanted to do something instrumental, and something technical, but also something in the pop-punk realm. So I guess that is where math-rock lies.
SP: What was the inspiration to go instrumental?
Recio: It helps us stand out a little bit, but also we are just super into allowing the instruments to shine. When you have a vocal, that’s just not really too much of an option, and also I didn’t really know vocalists at the time, so I would have had to have been the vocalist, and that wasn’t going to happen.
SP: Cool. So what bands are you into that serve as your inspiration?
Stricklin: Tiny Moving Parts.
Recio: Tiny Moving Parts. Yeah, that came a little bit after, but... yeah.
Diaz: Chon. [Tim] listens a lot of Scale the Summit. I think that’s where he gets a lot of his information.
Diaz: Inspiration! [laughs] But yeah. Chon, and there are some sorts of American Football-esque parts in a few of our songs.
Recio: I was just super inspired by bands like Pliny, Animals as Leaders, and yeah — Scale the Summit was a huge one. I definitely remember going to a Scale the Summit show in Chicago the year that we started, watching them, leaving, and going, “I want to be the Emo version of that.”
SP: Cool. You have a lot of super clean guitar sounds. Was that an intentional thing?
Nelson: Not so much anymore. We came in, and we made it a lot heavier. We’ve added some power.
Stricklin: I wouldn’t say “a lot” heavier. We’re not scary.
Recio: Yeah, another part of that was just that when I was recording the EP, I didn’t really know what I was doing, so those were the tones that just happened.
SP: So you played guitar on the EP, then?
Recio: Yeah. I played all the guitars and bass, and recorded everything myself, except for drums. Drums were recorded by Grey Taxon at Millikin. I didn’t really know what I was doing, so what you hear is just a result of that. I know a lot more now, and I know what I want us to sound like now, so that’s where these guys come in, and the “power” that they’re talking about.
SP: I understand you guys have gone through a number of different guitar players. What’s the issue been?
Recio: I think every band goes through it. You find people who can do it, but then you find out that people are on different tracks in their lives. It happens. It’s ok. There’s no reason to be salty about it. Eventually you just have to buckle down and find people who are committed to doing it for real.
SP: Speaking to that, Brad and Morgan, how did you find out about the band and get involved?
Nelson: Well Rob went to Millikin, so I kind of knew him. He started the year after I left, but I knew his band, Parachute Day, and we were in the same Fraternity. They made a post on facebook, and I hadn’t been playing enough shows lately, so I hit that up, and now I’m here. That was the basis.
SP: Was there a tryout?
Nelson: Yeah, there was a tryout, they sent out audition pieces, just thirty second blips of the song, and then came in with two songs, fully, for a full audition, after they accepted the video audition, for a real audition, then after that it was learning every single part of every single song, because we kept switching it all around with Drew being here at first. I learned more than just my guitar parts the first week and a half I was here — it was a lot of grinding.
Stricklin: I found Parachute Day, because in my other band, my guitarist was doing a tour at Millikin, and met Rob, and I guess Rob had told him, “Hey I’m in a band, check out my EP,” so we ended up jamming it and I ended up really liking it. Probably close to a year later we ended up going on tour, and for our tour kickoff show had Parachute Day play, and like, I was always a fan, but I remember that night being like, “I really want to play for them.” [all laugh]. Then probably six months later, I saw a riff video that Tim put on Facebook, and I just decided to message him, and be like, “If there was a band I could play for, I would play for Parachute Day.”
Full band: Awwww.
Stricklin: Like literally the next thing that [Tim] replied with was, “How old are you? Are you interested in auditioning? You should audition.” And we started from there.
SP: Cool. Tim, you recorded three guitar parts, and the bass parts. Why did you decide to play bass, rather than guitar?
Recio: Ok. So, we haven’t gotten to my favorite band of all time, which is Periphery. Their ex-bassist, Adam Nolly Getgood, is also a very accomplished guitarist. I read an interview with him, that was like, life-changing. They asked the same question: “why do you play bass instead of guitar?” He explained how visceral and powerful the bass is to play live, and--I hate to say this--but he described the guitar as this fiddly, stressful little instrument to play live, and the bass you just get to explode on. You get to dig right in. I was like, “I feel the same way! That’s amazing!” So that’s why I play bass in Parachute Day. I like to rock out, I like to move around a lot on stage, and you can’t really do that as much on guitar.
Photo by Melissa Rodriguez Photography
SP: There seems to be a lot of odd-meter stuff going on. Rob, what’s your process like for writing beats in odd-time?
Diaz: Well, Tim actually writes the drum layout of the song, how he hears it. So I take that, and after I get comfortable with it, I mess with it, and change it around, and add fills here and there. But yeah, just being a percussionist throughout school, since middle school, and just dealing with nerdy drummer stuff, where it’s either really weird odd metric stuff, or no time at all, I try to make sense of it. I try to make it interesting and challenging for me to play, but also easy on the ears for someone who is not into things being that complex. Oddly enough, most of our songs are in 4/4, but they don’t sound like they’re in 4/4 because there’s a lot of “over the bar line” stuff. We try to make it groove and danceable.
SP: So what’s next for the band?
Nelson: March 15th through 22nd, we are heading through Rockford, Chicago, Milwaukee, Muncie, Kankakee, and St. Louis.
SP: Any new recording going on?
Recio: The goal is to release a new EP before the end of the year.
SP: Any Champaign shows coming up?
Diaz: March 7th, we are playing at Blips and Chitz.
SP: Okay, last question: Where did the name come from?
Recio: Good question. I started writing a new song, that sounded sort of nostalgic, but also fun, and I just immediately thought of parachute day, from gym class. It’s the best!
Stricklin: It’s like a big ol’ bed sheet, with a bunch of kids, and you get under it, and it’s just this big colorful thing.
Catch Parachute Day at Blips and Chitz on March 7th when they perform with Mover Shaker, Greet Death, and Terrible Teeth.
Top photo by Kelsey Greene Photography