[PSYCH FOLK] If you close your eyes and listen to the Parson Red Heads (only two of whom are actual gingers), you’ll probably envision hippies gyrating in tie-dyed dresses and flower children twirling in circles. But when you open your eyes at a Red Heads live show, you’re more likely to encounter scenesters with their arms folded sipping down tall boys of Pabst.
This disconnect isn’t surprising, considering the sextet of psych rockers is based in the Portlandesque neighborhood of Silver Lake in northeast Los Angeles—the same neighborhood Elliott Smith, Beck and Grandaddy called home in the late ’90s and early oughts. “We’ve really grown to love it here. We’ve created a really nice spot in the community,” says Parson frontman Evan Way.
“Community” is a fitting word for the Parsons themselves. The tight-knit group of former Oregonian twentysomethings is a mishmash of longtime friends, family members and spouses: “I went to high school [in Medford] with the drummer, who is now my wife [Brette Marie Way], and played high-school baseball with the bass player,” explains Way, whose sister, Erin Way, plays keyboard in the band. The tambourine-heavy music lies in the gray area between jam-band fare and psychedelic folk pop. But while the Red Heads are constantly compared to ’60s groups like the Byrds (which Way takes as a high compliment), their new EP, Owl & Timber (self-released in May), has a dreamy, soft-edged singalong quality to it that places the Parsons squarely in the present.
The Parsons do have one undeniably retro quality—their cultish all-white (think Polyphonic Spree) fashion sense. The clan picked up the dress code in late 2003 after imagining that other bands would “look cooler” in white. “Almost every time, they did,” says Way. The band’s career turned white-hot around the same time, as buzz around its full-length debut, King Giraffe (Yukon Records), scored it monthly residencies at the Echo, Spaceland and Silver Lake Lounge—three of L.A.’s top venues for indie rock (in L.A., residencies are a big deal). Suddenly, all-white seems alright, and everything old is new again.