If one new band has been making waves — dreamy, synthy, bassy waves — in Grand Rapids this year, it’s PARTS.
The duo, comprised of Marley Ferguson and Alyssa Midcalf, met late last year at a party and immediately hit it off. They found a shared interest in bass playing and Depeche Mode, which is evident in their first release, a self-titled cassette EP released in September.
PARTS’ music is evocative of its influences, but with a modern update. While the synths arguably sound like something off a Depeche Mode or Cure record, the drum machines have similarities to Beach House or Chromatics. This comparison isn’t lost on the duo, but it wasn’t something they aimed for intentionally.
“We keep getting told that we have this ’80s electronic sound, but we don’t necessarily get it,” Midcalf said. “There was never a conversation we had where we wanted to go for that. I guess our influences just bleed through into the songwriting.”
Both members grew up with love and appreciation for music, with Ferguson playing around in her father’s recording studio and Midcalf singing in musicals. As they grew older, they also both began playing their own music and were previously bassists in other bands.
“I’ll start a lot of songs by writing the bass part,” Ferguson said.
The two share writing duties, but the project began separately in their respective bedrooms.
“When we first started, all of our song ideas were started by one or the other individually,” Ferguson said. “But as time has passed, we’ve been able to start jamming together to come up with ideas that way, and that’s turned into some of our newer songs.”
This signifies a bright future for the band, as the first release already has a cohesive and clear vision of what it wants to be. The EP opens with Pieces, a song that begins with a dirge-like pace and then slowly unfurls around the two-minute mark with Ferguson opining, “I don’t love you, but I need you to stay.” The synths fade out and leave the listener wanting more.
The two talked about their lyric writing, and about the need to sound both affecting and inviting.
In particular, Ferguson talked about how one of their songs was fueled directly by her feelings as a woman in the music industry and the ways in which men don’t often take her seriously.
“That’s where the song started in terms of how I was feeling, but anyone listening to the lyrics wouldn’t guess that was what the song was about,” she stated.
She stressed the desire to craft personal songs that people could connect to universally, an idea that can be connected to the band’s name.
“We really came full circle with it,” Ferguson said of coming up with a name. “We wanted a one-word name and I said ‘PARTS’ one day. We then put it aside and made list after list trying to find a name. By the time we had music done and were ready to make the project public, we came back to the name and it just seemed to fit.”
Though the name may have taken some time, it now feels right — PARTS seems to make music about all the disparate pieces we put together in order to find ourselves whole again.
The duo is hands-on with every aspect, having hand-crafted the cassettes of their first release for instance, and they see this as essential. The same philosophy will be applied to the band’s first music video, coming soon.
“Having help is important for certain things along the way,” Midcalf said. “Like, we have never directed a video before and we will have questions about that, but at the end of the day, we want it to be just us having control over what we create.”
Head to partsmusic.bandcamp.com to listen to the self-titled EP.