The Beat Goes On: An Interview with Holly Dodson of Parallels
Parallels is a synth-pop trio from Canada featuring the sometimes crystalline and fragile, sometimes sultry and sensual vocals of Holly Dodson. Starting out as a vehicle for former Crystal Castles drummer Cameron Findlay and Dodson, friends from high school, after their debut Visionaries, Dodson took center stage. Brother Nick has since taken over on drums with Artem Galperine on keyboards, both also in Eyes of Giants. On their third full-length release Metropolis, Holly and band sound more confident than ever, the interplay of drums and synths and vocals draw you in from the first seconds of the title and first track. If the teen comedies of the 1980’s were somehow transplanted to the digital age of the 2010’s Parallels would be the band that most exemplified those tales of angst, romance, acceptance and the hope that all would be sorted out by the end credits.
I’m happy to hear new music from you! I just got a hearty laugh from seeing your Age of Consent video (cool to hear Artem’s vocals too!). I’m sorry I missed the Civilization EP release but am catching up now.
Aww thank you – better late than never! Yeah, Age of Consent is always our go-to jam song during rehearsals so we thought we’d do a little tribute – an ode to one of our fav bands.
Your voice always makes me emotional. It’s happy and sad at the same time, as is your music quite often. Is this your personality? What singers do you gravitate to when you’re happy? When you’re sad?
I’d say I’m a bit of an old soul, generally pretty positive but not afraid to confront my shadows so my music is a space where all those emotions can come through – will forever be dealing with being a Gemini. Happy or sad, my top favorite vocalists are Ann Wilson, Janet Jackson, Kate Bush, Dave Gahan, Natasha Khan (Bat For Lashes), David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, Paul McCartney.
As a singer was confidence imbued in you at an early age to sing loud, express your gifts?
Confidence was always encouraged however… I can be really shy so it took me a while to become comfortable with what I have to offer. I’m definitely my own worst critic but this album was a bit of a turning point – I didn’t double my entire vocal or drown it in effects – we wanted it to be featured more.
Did your singing give you the strength to go further in your life outside of music?
Absolutely – and to be able to bring those experiences back into my music.
You also wrote and created most of the music on your several albums. When did you start learning how to use electronic music equipment? What equipment and programs are you good at using and what equipment or programs have simply baffled you?
Piano is my first instrument so that led to keyboards and synths. I learned the technical stuff through trial and error and produced/engineered a solo record before Parallels. I have to give huge credit and thanks to my Dad who showed me around the mixing board. His software preference was Pro Tools, so that’s what I learned on. Logic still baffles me, I have to say – for programming it’s fine, but mixing – I can’t get comfortable for some reason. Illogic, haha.
Your father is a musician and created Marigold Studios in 1976 which you use for Parallels and your brother Nick is also the drummer in Parallels. What is a favorite family memory surrounding music?
Yeah we’re a really close family, especially when it comes to music – they’re always around for an honest opinion too. I recently joined my Dad’s band (The Stampeders) on the road last year in Ontario and then down south on this past January and it was an incredible vibe – seeing all their fans still coming out after 40 years. He’s in a 70’s classic rock back so my favorite times are when we get to hang out with him and his bandmates – our extended musical family – and hear all their stories.
Was there a time you told your father that you wanted to be a serious musician or was it just something you’ve always done?
Around when I was 16 I went to my Dad for some guidance cause I had been writing some songs. At that time though he had no idea I wanted to make music but I sang him a few tunes and he was very producer-like about it. He thought I had pretty good tone and intonation so suggested that I learn how to program midi to make some demos. Then I put them up on MySpace and started to get a good vibe – he definitely understands that songwriting buzz and drive to create so I think when my parents saw me obsessively holed up in the studio, they started seeing it as a more serious thing.
What do Nick and Artem Galperine contribute to Parallels with their musical abilities and personalities?
They’re both incredible musicians – both self-taught and can literally play any genre…or fake it convincingly haha. It’s so inspiring. They sort of grew up jamming together so have a really great musicial connection, so intuitive. They’re also hilarious to be around.
When you set out to write Metropolis did you have a clear set of goals to reach? Was there any equipment/instruments, sounds, styles, rhythms or tempos you wanted to try that you hadn’t before? Was there some songs or bands/artists that inspired you to try different things for the new album? For instance the faster beats of Catch, or the darker percussive yet atmospheric Heart of the Wild. Technicolor’s guitars stand out too.
I always go into productions not wanting to repeat what I’ve done in the past, evolve but still remain true to the Parallels’ sound we’ve been working with. My inspirations are vast but over the past couple years, last year in particular we lost so many of our rock stars. So I felt their inspiration really intensely – Metropolis didn’t have a bass until the very end, and I almost didn’t put one on because of Prince. A lot of the guitars are inspired by Scary Monsters – era Bowie.
Is music a source of self-discovery, of challenging yourself, a creative outlet?
It’s a huge part of my identity so yes, and they all go hand in hand – if I’m not growing creatively or losing curiosity, I’ll be out.
Could you ever see yourself not singing, not creating?
There’s so many songs I want to write so, the short answer is no. Not in the near future anyway. I’m really interested in writing for other artists and have been writing in other genres as well. Some songs aren’t the right fit for Parallels so I might release them as a solo project or under a different band name…to be decided!
I consider Parallels a modern update of much of the music I was breathing in during the early 80’s and as a teen. Your songs would fit right in with a mixtape full of Depeche Mode, Yaz, A Flock of Seagulls, Psychedelic Furs and New Order. What would be a few bands in your more modern mixtape? I’m guessing there might be a few Canadian acts too. You’ve got to represent.
I love that – thank-you! I actually just made a Spotify playlist of more modern tunes I’m into – I really do listen to everything. One of my favorite bands, I mentioned before, is Bat For Lashes. I love her whole space. I’m also really into Say Lou Lou, Lana Del Rey, Hercules & Love Affair. Canada is home to a ton of awesome synth-pop groups who I’m a big fan of… Austra, Diana, Purity Ring, Grimes, Featurette, For Esme, Ralph…just to name a few!
To end our chat, I woke up early and went to research for this interview and as I said above, found out about your cover of Age of Consent cover and video. You’ve done a few covers such as Pet Semetary and Lawrence Gowan’s Moonlight Desires. Are there other songs you’ve covered live or enjoyed jamming to in the studio? What songs would you like to cover in the future? Maybe a cover album or EP in your future?
Oh good idea! Any requests?? There are so many, my bandmates roll their eyes whenever I say “we should cover that”. The second I listened to it, I heard a synthpop version of “Love”, Lana Del Rey’s new song. And I don’t know how I’d approach them yet but “Let Me Roll It” by Wings or “Policy Of Truth” by Depeche Mode are on the could-be-cool…anything by Depeche Mode actually. So happy they’re still on the road!
(By Bret Miller)