For several years now, Parade of Lights have quietly been developing a fan base, and while there are still many people who need to wake up and hear their music, they are easily one of the most exciting electro-rock outfits in the world. The way they seamlessly blend pop hooks, rock grandeur, and electronic production sets them up to explode at any minute. It might never happen, or it could be just one song away—that’s part of what makes Parade of Lights so exciting.
Major labels took notice of their sound early on and quickly signed Parade of Lights, but unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well in the end. The group was just recently surprise-dropped from their contract, despite growing buzz and some truly excellent music. Their recent disappointment is a reminder that even after signing a deal, this sort of thing can happen to anyone at any time. That’s just how the label world works.
PoL drummer Anthony Improgo talks about their experience with the label, what happened in the end, and what’s next for the band that won’t quit, no matter what.
CEEK VR: Tell me a bit about how your relationship with your label came to an end.
Anthony Improgo: Suddenly! We really had no clue it was going to happen. Things had been a bit up in the air for us since February when we learned that the head of Capitol was firing everyone at our label Astralwerks (one of Capitol Music Group’s labels) except the A&R who signed us. That came out of nowhere for everyone at the label and us. Our manager said that it was first time he’d experienced a label being dropped instead of the artist.
Nothing really moved forward for us with releasing or promoting our new music until May when we were told we were being moved to Virgin Records. We thought this was a good sign since the head of Virgin is an alternative rock guy with a history of breaking bands like us. Our manager met with him and a few weeks later we met with him. A week after that meeting, our A&R called our manager to tell him we were dropped.
The weird thing is, the head of Virgin wasn’t told we were dropped and nobody we worked with at Capitol knew either. When our manager called them, there was a collective “What?! Why?!” It seemed like it was a decision made at the top by the people running the company who never worked with us or even met us. All our manager was told was there was nothing more Capitol could do for us.
The timing was strange, too, because three weeks before we were dropped we had a song called “Tangled Up” that was on the 13 Reasons Why Season 2 soundtrack—which Capitol’s synch team landed for us—that was streaming really well on Spotify with one million streams in two weeks. We thought they would use that as a launching point to promote the band, but apparently that wasn’t a big deal to them, even though it was for us.
CEEK VR: How did this make you guys feel?
Improgo: Shocked and surprised, really. I was actually at Disneyland when I got the call from our manager. Getting dropped in front of Haunted Mansion was definitely a first. Ever since the Astralwerks teams was let go, nothing was happening anyway, so part of our thinking was, “They weren’t really doing anything to push us, so does being dropped really matter?” Plus, we’d only been on Virgin for a couple weeks before it happened so we didn’t have a chance to find out how we would mesh with the new label team.
It was also bittersweet because we made some friends at Astralwerks and at Capitol. There were some great people there who were really good at their jobs and really cared. They did a lot to help us while we were on the label.
CEEK VR: Now that you are an independent band, how do you think things will change?
Improgo: The one big change will be not having Capitol’s sync team involved. Jenny Swiatowy and team really batted for us. They were instrumental in most of our big song placements that lead to creating a lot of awareness for the band. They brought us a lot of great opportunities that we’ll have to find a way to get with the distributor, AWAL, we’re working with now to release our independent music.
We also won’t have the major label radio muscle. Capitol never gave us a proper radio campaign so nothing has changed on that front. Lastly, we won’t have a recording budget but then again most music is being recording in the bedrooms or home studios anyway. Even when we were signed, we financed some of our touring, marketing and radio promotion ourselves, so we’re used to that.
CEEK VR: What would you tell other bands who are thinking or signing with a label or who are going through the same experience as you?
Improgo: Every label is different, but the main question bands should ask themselves before they sign is why do they want to do a deal?
When we signed in 2013, Spotify was around but it wasn’t a big deal. Apple music didn’t have a streaming service. There wasn’t as much opportunity to get your music directly to fans and get paid for it.
We wanted to sign with a major because we had a song doing well on Alt Nation at SiriusXM and a few other alternative stations playing it, and we thought a major could really blow it up at radio since we were able to get that stuff independently. That never happened, but we had a legitimate reason for wanting to do a deal.
If you think a label—major or indie—is going to be the difference in making or not, then you’re going to be disappointed. Right now, hip-hop blows up on its own. Before that it was EDM. Bands typically don’t these days and a label isn’t going to make it happen.
Our advice would be do as much as you can on your own and then try to get a partner to jump in to help take you to the next level. It could be a label or it could be doing a direct deal with Spotify or some other company. Or it could be just hiring people to do the jobs that a label would do.Eventually you’ll need help, but a label might not necessarily be the answer.
CEEK VR: You're in the middle of a series of EPs—what is the plan for all of this music?
Improgo: Right now, it’s just release it, promote it online as much as we can and see which, if any, of the songs react. That and play shows. If one of the songs gets traction, we’ll put more resources and money behind it. The “Tangled Up” video was our first DIY project from start to finish. I even climbed a 25-foot rafter just to block out some lighting. Talk about DIY! There’s talk about doing a video for each of the songs. We just might do that if schedules permit.
CEEK VR: What does the rest of 2018 bring for Parade of Lights?
Improgo: That’s a good question. We have our first shows in about a year in early October. After those, we’ll sit down and evaluate what the next move is. Our EP Human Condition - Pt. 2 comes out that weekend, so hopefully fans will like the new music, and it’ll generate a buzz that will create some momentum. How people react to the songs will go along way to determining what we do the rest of 2018 and going forward