The Honest Light of Small Parks

A few months ago Small Parks released their latest record and in the weeks that followed they spent a lot of time playing any and everywhere they could; including a house show in their hometown of Lansing, MI. What they didn’t get time to do was enjoy some time at Taste of Chaos. Which is a surprise to those who have heard Honest Light and heard similarities to the festival’s headliners – which we’ll find out later if Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday were ever idols of the men who make up Small Parks. First though, the music, and more.

Kendra: There seems to be quite a bit of bands coming out of Lansing. Is there a good music community being built up over there?

James Radick: I feel like Lansing is in a pretty good place, and I’m proud of that. With that said, there’s still strides we can make as a community to be more diverse and inclusive. We have a couple really good spaces here, but it’s still, like many communities, largely white guys making music. I think with more representation our community will improve, which is better for everyone. The more voices and insight the better. We’re making strides. We’re getting there.

“To Fit Better in a Room”

Kendra: You have this eclectic sound that fuses indie with emo, but there is also this base of punk mentality. Did each of you bring each style separately and then you gracefully married them over time?

James: The four of us each have our own music preferences, that’s for sure. I have always been drawn to the catchier bands in the indie/emo world, and I think a lot of that comes through in what I bring to the table with songs. Josh, our other guitarist, is a lot more musically knowledgeable than I am, and he brings in a lot of these really interesting songs and structures that I can’t possibly imagine coming up with. Danny, our bass player, has the most punk influence out of all of us, and he’s always looking to play faster. Our drummer, Dave, has this philosophy where he thinks drums are there to showcase the song, not distract from it. He’s the first person I’ve personally ever worked with who is like that, and the egomaniac inside me loves it. But, he always knows exactly what the songs need, and how to make it work. He’s been really, really great to have on board.

Kendra: We can hear all of that and more on your latest release, Honest Light. You dropped it back in early May and so far – have you been happy with the response?

James: When we were working on this album, I think we weren’t really sure what is was going to be. And I think it all really came together, stylistically, as we recorded it. That’s what I love about recording: you begin to notice the themes and narratives present in a record. We’ve put out a couple EPs, and they all felt just like collections of songs. With the full length, we wanted something that felt really cohesive. When people tell me that they listen to the record all the way through, that really means something to me. I love hearing what songs people like, and how they relate to them. That’s what making music is about for me: being able to make those connections with people.

Nowadays it’s really, really special when people actually listen to an album from start-to-finish. With the availability of streaming and the popularity of playlists, having people take the time to listen to an album all the way through really means something to me.
This is a really, really long-winded way of saying, “yes.” I’ve had some people have those conversations with me about favorite songs and things that struck a personal chord with them. That means the world.

“Years Ago”

Kendra: Listening to it, I got this more recent Taking Back Sunday meets Dashboard Confessional. Were those any of your influences growing up?

James: I don’t think any of us would consider TBS or Dashboard as influences, BUT that doesn’t mean that we don’t have sonic similarities. I think those bands draw a lot of influence from the Saves the Day’s and Sunny Day Real Estate’s of the world, which are both definitely bands that are influential to us. I don’t really think people make music that is 100% original: making music is more about a unique amalgamation of influences and experiences coming together to form songs.

Kendra: One of the songs I personally liked the most off Honest Light was “Years Ago.” I just felt it had a lot of heart in every note. Do you guys write with your hearts on your sleeves? Like are you the types that only write from personal experiences?

James: All of my lyrics have, to this point, come from personal experiences. I wish that I could be a John Darnielle-type and craft these phenomenal songs that are based outside of real-life experiences, but I haven’t ever been able to do that. Will that change going forward? We’ll see! But music has always been a very therapeutic process for me – especially writing lyrics. This album especially was about putting the thoughts and feelings I had previously tried to run from out there – being honest was my intent (hence the name of the album!

Kendra: Lastly, what are some immediate plans from you guys this summer? Do fans have any shows to look forward to – or are they waiting until the fall?

James: Our immediate plans are to slowly get back into playing more shows. We took a pretty big break from playing out, so that we could focus on our personal lives and creating this record. As we continue to get settled in, we want to start pushing the band more. We want to get out and share this record that we are so very proud of. I think it’ll start kicking into full gear come fall.

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