- McKenna Chatterley
One of music's greatest attributes is its ability to envelop expansiveness—something that can be experienced in the indie folk of Utah's own The National Parks. Over the course of their seven-years-long career and three full-length albums, the four-piece band has gotten closer to a sound they say is true to who they are.
Wildflower, their fourth album (due in June 19), has been forced to grow, as wildflowers do, through some cracks. Like everyone during these pandemic days, The National Parks are finding new ways to put themselves out there and stay true to who they are.
Wildflower is not only a rumination on what it means to be free, but it's also an exercise in restraint, demonstrating the band's hard-earned self-understanding. "I feel like we wrote more songs for this album than we ever have in the past," frontman Brady Parks says, alluding to the 40 songs they weeded through to find the 18 that they ended up bringing into the studio—a process starkly different from their habit of crafting 11-song albums. After narrowing it to 15 tracks, they've also released the single "Waiting for Lightning," a song about marking time in advance of a brilliant flash of opportunity.
"With this one, we wanted to take our time, do this right and make this the album we've always wanted to make," Parks adds. "There was a lot of experimenting and a lot of trying new things, and I think because of that, we were able to evolve our sound and keep who we are as a band and make it the most 'National Parks' album."
Megan Parks, the band's violinist, expands on her bandmate/husband's thoughts, saying, "We have old elements and also electronic elements, so it's like this weird world where there's like a whole lot of different things going on, but somehow, we make it work."
The band feels that Wildflower is a celebration of sorts, one for which they wanted an equally celebratory release party. "A dream of ours was always to put on our own festival, and doing it at a place that means so much to us—like Zion National Park—just felt so right," Brady says, describing the huge album-release event they'd had planned for April, called Superbloom Music Festival. The band recruited many of their favorite local acts to participate, including Joshua James, The Strike, Tow'rs, The Federal Empire, Ellee Duke and Brother. But, as the pandemic washed over their plans, they were forced to cancel the fest for 2020, with hopes to reschedule in 2021.
"I think it's a bummer because all plans have changed," Megan says. "We had touring, and we had Superbloom all planned out, you know, and ... no one can do that right now. But I think that we've really tried hard to find ways that we can still tour the new music and get our music to new fans."
One of these ways is their newly planned and rapidly sold-out Campfire Tour—a series of small, intimate shows of 40 people max, held in a series of friends' and fans' big backyards in cities all over the state. Megan emphasizes how right the set-up feels for the band, who—as you could guess by their name and the subject matter of much of their music—love the outdoors as much as they love being outdoors. "We'll bring the campfire and the sound system, and it will be really, really stripped down, acoustic, intimate," Brady says. And while intimate, each yard will contain enough space for social distancing.
Response to the idea has been tremendous, with dates selling out almost immediately, even as the band added more dates. Now, they're prepping to make their way into cities beyond Utah's borders as soon as it's safe to do so. "We really are so excited to get out and do all these shows and connect with people. I feel like people are just ready to connect with humans again," Brady says. "It's weird, I feel like it's gonna come out at a good time. It's really about having hope and knowing that better days are ahead and knowing that we are all going through challenges and difficulties—that the good days are yet to come."
Even during their own quarantine—which has been filled with frequent live-stream events and collaborations with Parks Project and Ultimate Ears—they've found time to reflect. "That's something I've learned a lot through all of this, being quarantined, is that we need each other," Megan says. "All of us just need each other to help get through things, to be able to connect to people. That's just something I've been thinking about."
Whether you have a ticket to one of their rare concerts or not, be sure to follow them on Instagram @thenationalparksband and on Facebook.com/TheNationalParksBand for live-stream sets.
And of course, don't miss out on their uplifting new work when Wildflower comes out on streaming platforms June 19.