Wall of Orange Set to Make Their Live Debut

 Photo: Evan Davies

Photo: Evan Davies

Stepping into the spotlight for the first time as a frontman, music producer Gary Parks is turning heads with his self-titled debut album Wall of Orange. The album was written, composed, and produced solely by Parks who creates a sound of his own with layered, dreamy indie pop soundscapes. The psychedelic rock act takes everything you loved about alternative rock of the 90’s scene and morphs it into a modern day epic that listeners of both generations can appreciate. Stemming from a brief run with Dallas psych legends, The TomorrowPeople, the influences carried over into this passion project.

Wall of Orange is ready to shine in their debut performance this Saturday, April 29th at the Kessler Theater. I sat down with Gary Parks to discuss his concept for the Wall of Orange album and the process that led him to this point.

When did you decide to start the Wall of Orange project?

I started writing the songs that would eventually become Wall of Orange in 2015. Wall of Orange is basically my own personal project, I write and produce everything. The songwriting began in 2015 but the recording started in summer and spring of 2016. I released it a few months ago, but it’s just now starting to get traction.

What has the timeline been like for Wall of Orange from the first song you wrote to the release of the record?

It was all kind of done backwards. The record was released before it was even a band. I wrote all of the songs and decided this was something I wanted and needed to do in 2015. I spent about a year and a half writing and recording the record pretty much under the radar. I told my friends and family of what I was doing but as far as any public presence, Wall of Orange was completely unheard of until the record came out. Which is a little weird because the usual formula is: some people get together, write some songs, get some gigs and attention, then go make a record.

For me, since I have a key to a recording studio and I produce music for my day job, I just said “I wanna make a record.” So what I did after the record came out was think to myself, “Well now I wanna play this live, better find some people to play with.” There were some old friends of mine who had done some session work, so we got together. It’s like David Bowie or Trent Reznor, Wall of Orange is me. I’ve created this image and now I’ve got some guys who are going to help me bring it to the stage.

Your music has a large array of effects, textures, and massive production to create a unique sound. How do you come up with those specific sounds and tones?

A lot of it comes from experimentation and trial and error. For instance, I’ve received so many messages on Facebook asking: “Dude, what the hell are you doing to get that sound? What pedals are you using on 'Sweetest Blue'?” I won’t reveal my secret recipe, but I will say it has a lot less to do with guitar than you think it does. What I’ve learned to do is create a cool synergy between guitar and synthesizer to blur the lines between the two. So sometimes when you think you might be hearing guitar, you’re really hearing synth and when you hear synth, you might be hearing guitar. I like this hybrid sound that has more of a loose identity instead of a specific pedal. I will say that I’ve reproduced each track maybe 5 or 6 times. If I come back to a song the next day and I don’t hate it, I’m doing pretty well. One of the keys to being a really great music producer is knowing what not to do as much as you know what you should do. At some point as an artist you have to know when to step away.

You mentioned that all of the songs on the album are very personal, how did they come together?

So the album is a concept album and each song tells a story individually, but all the songs also collectively tell a story. The story as a whole is about recovery, coming from a dark place and stepping into the light. Lyrically some of the more personal songs would be “Little Destroyer” and “Hellogoodbye”. “View From A Broken Couch” is a nostalgic piece about how you may drift from people you know and love physically but the one thing that ties you together and always will is the music that you listen to together.

What means the most to me is when somebody messages me and says my music has impacted them. For instance, a guy messaged me the other day and said that he suffers from horrible depression. He said, “The song 'Monster', I feel like you wrote that for me. It’s helped pull me up from this dark place.” I could give this up tomorrow and with that, I could be totally cool with it. That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about speaking to people through music and in a way that transcends words and conversation. Making that connection with other people with music. I only want this to be commercially successful so that I can continue doing it and get my music out to people.

I was in an emotional black hole for 7 years and making this record pulled me out of it. All I ever wanted to do was connect on this really profound level.

Wall of Orange is an interesting name, what's the meaning behind it?

So this is going to sound kind of random and weird, but one of my biggest influences sonically as a guitar player is Billy Duffy of The Cult, specifically the Love album. Since I was a teenager, I’ve been chasing this specific guitar sound that I always called “Orange” for no other reason than that’s how I knew how to describe it. It has something to do with how I hear colors. So when it was time to select a name, it came right at the end of the album production. The entire time, this project didn’t have a name. I’ve played music for people and they always would say, “Ya know, there’s this thick wall of sound, a very layered and dreamy sound.” So I thought, why not Wall of Orange? This color and the way certain things have always sounded orange to me has real meaning. It just made sense.

You previously played in The Tomorrowpeople, one of the most premiere bands within the early 2000’s psych scene.  How did working with them influence your own sound today?

Well, what a lot of people don’t realize is that I wasn’t part of the original lineup. I came in around 2008-2009, the original singer of that band, Gordon Michael Gibson who also fronts the band Brutal Juice; he and I started working together at Post Asylum, a Post Production studio here in Dallas. We became really good friends and they got to a point where they wanted to release their old album they recorded from Geffen Records, home of Nirvana and Sonic Youth. They were signed to Geffen in the late 90’s, but the whole thing folded and they had to pack up and basically go home.

They were a band without a label, so in 2008 they decided they wanted to re-master and re-release those old recordings from that unreleased Geffen album. So I helped him get all of that together and they decided they wanted to play some shows so they told me, “I’d love for you to play guitar and sing backup.” So I joined the band in 2008 and was with them for a couple years to do some regional and local shows. Those guys were really big influences on me. They were like space rock legends and a lot of what those guys were playing stylistically hit home with me. It was a great experience to play with them.

A lot of my personal influences are bands that had their peak in the early- to mid -90’s. The Verve, Radiohead, early Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine, those guys. Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream was a massive influence on me, I would say that is in my top three favorite albums. They say that you become who you are musically in your late teens and early 20’s, that’s the music that resonates and stays with you for your entire life. My biggest influences are always the bands I was into in my late teens and early 20’s. For me, nothing else feels right when I tried to make other music because that style and approach has always been very fundamental to me.

How did the concept behind the “Sweetest Blue” music video come to life?

It came together basically because I had no money but working at a post-production studio; I have resources and I have people that were willing to help me out. I started looking through old public domain movies, stuff anybody can use when they want. I found the footage to this Russian movie called “Nebo Zovyot” from 1959, so Roger Corman got the great Francis Ford Coppola to re-edit the footage for American audiences and called it “Battle Beyond The Sun” and that was released in 1962.

So then I searched “Battle Beyond The Sun” on YouTube, threw it up under “Sweetest Blue” and thought, “Holy Shit! This totally works!” I sent it to an editor friend of mine and she cut together this type of narrative piece using that footage to “Sweetest Blue” and I was completely blown away. Then I got a director and we went into a studio and shot some high frame rate stuff and slow motion shots of me playing guitar. Afterwards they ran visual effects on it at work and that’s how it came to be.

What kind of visual elements are you bringing to your debut live show at the Kessler?

I’ve always been very calculated with all things Wall of Orange, so I really want the live show to be almost a cinematic experience. I’m not really a crowd worker so I’m all about creating atmosphere. I want Wall of Orange shows to be as if you’re watching a movie right up on stage. I started working with this guy who does really incredible video projections. I’ve given him the setlist so he’s suppose to piece together a visual in accordance to the songs. We’re playing the entire album plus a couple of songs that are unreleased.

Make sure to check out Wall of Orange at their debut show Saturday, April 29th at the Kessler Theater