Spinning Platters Interview: Lily Cato of Parlour Tricks

by Gordon Elgart on March 16, 2016


The album Broken Hearts/Broken Bones was a nominee for Spinning Platters album of the year in 2015. Its combination of classic girl group harmonies, soaring melodies and dance driven beats truly defies description; even the band themselves know this to be true. The band is hitting the road this month with veteran rocker Electric Six, and they’re stopping in San Francisco on Sunday, March 20th at The Independent. Lily Cato got on the phone with me as the tour was just beginning to discuss her band, their videos, and which podcast is the best to pass the time on a cross country van trip.

Are you back in New York right now?

No, we are driving to … where are we going? To Detroit, where we’re stopping for the night, and then our first show is tomorrow in Palatine, IL.

Is that with Electric Six, already?


Have you ever met that band before?

No we haven’t. We will meet at the first venue, I guess.

How did that tour happen? When I heard about it, I thought that was an interesting combination. It’s not expected.

Actually, it came about through our manager, and it’s funny because at first I had the same thought. They are such a hard band to categorize or say exactly what genre they are. We found that people have that same problem with us. It’s sort of hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. It’s a little bit of a lot of different things. In that regard, we actually feel like it’s a great thing. It’s like a whole bunch of shit piled into one which makes for a really fun night of music, we think.

Is this your first time coming out to San Francisco as a band?

Yes it is.  It’s my first time as a person.

Any particular place you’re looking forward to seeing?

I’m looking forward to seeing San Francisco in general. I mean, I’ve been to LA many times. We’re playing in LA two nights before we hit San Francisco, and I have a lot of family there, so it’ll be nice to finally play a show on their turf and get the whole family together. It’s special for me. Otherwise, we’re just excited to play in new territory. It’s been a long time coming.

I saw you at South by Southwest last year, and I know you’re missing that craziness this year.

We just heard the president and the first lady are going to be there.

That’s right.

The one year that we don’t go.

I’m not going this year, either. People are saying, “you’re going to miss the president.” I said, “I wasn’t going to get in to see the president, anyway.”

Exactly. It’s just going to make it more of a shit-show than it normally is.

No kidding. Last year, how many shows did you end up playing? Were you doing the eight shows in five days kind of thing?

Something like that, yeah. That sounds about right. It ended up being a lot crazier than we anticipated. That’s sort of always how it goes, I feel like.

There’s a video you did. I think it was for Paste Magazine? Where you did the storm and then it starts raining.

Oh, yeah. It started pouring.

Did you know it was going to start pouring when you picked that song? How did that happen?

No, not at all. We did, if you look, we did like five songs. Four or five songs, I think. Right when we started doing that one, it just started pouring. It was torrential. It was like a joke. It was like they were dumping buckets of water on us, but it was great. It ended up being so much fun and so funny that it happened during that song. It was total coincidence.

I think it’s a fun video to show people. It really shows your personality. Let me ask you, then, in terms of your other videos … I think, probably, a lot of people noticed that Bob Boilen of NPR picked out your “Broken Hearts Broken Bones” video and called it perfect.

That was nice of them.

And NPR is pretty influential.

Yeah. We couldn’t have asked for a more, a kinder review of the video. We put so much time and effort into making it exactly right, so it really is meaningful that it got such a good reaction. It’s continuing to get a good reaction from people all over the world which is surreal for us. I don’t know. It’s really special to see it getting picked up by gay blogs in Russia and Denmark and Germany. It’s really moving and surprising for us. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to launch it, you know? It was really, felt really lucky.

Has it created any new opportunities for you already?

Just sort of in terms of, I found, because it coincided with this tour sort of coincidentally. We found that a lot of people who found us through the video are getting to know the album and coming out to shows along the way during this tour.

That’s really nice, to know that it reached people and that people actually took the time to go the extra step and learn who we are, not just that song, and that they want to come and see a show. That’s all we ever want to ask of anyone anyway. Come out and have a good time. That’s been gratifying.

Just the response, the video response on social media or response from different outlets that have subsequently picked it up. The things that people respond to are really touching to us. The couple in the video, or the old lady with the pineapple. People really have strong reactions to these things, and that’s what we had hoped for. It’s gratifying, and it makes us feel like the hard work was really worth it.

Yeah, it’s a fantastic video. Your earlier videos are good, too.

Thank you. Slightly more DIY.

I think what I like about them was the sort of DIY, like this group is having fun with the music.

That’s as DIY as it gets. We literally set up a camera on a tripod and hoped for the best.

Your band is called “Parlor Tricks” now. Previously, you had a pretty different sound. And it was “Lily and the Parlor Tricks.” Is it mostly the same people in the group now? Or is it really a new band?

It’s pretty much the same band. Our guitarist just recently left. Otherwise, everyone’s the same, and the way we work is the same. It’s just, sort of, the transition was very natural and not a big deal to us. We just sort of felt that everything was moving, just progressing in a different direction than when we started which makes sense. That’s what happens to everything. The shortening of the name was more pragmatic than anything else. It’s hard to say. A lot of words. A lot of syllables. We just trimmed the fat, you know? That was it. Who knows? Maybe we’ll change it again.

Your guitarist just left, so are you touring without a guitarist? Or do you have someone?

No, we have a sub. Someone we played with before, actually.

Good to know. One thing we like to ask everyone we talk to, and this is probably perfect, because I’m sure as soon as you get off the phone call, the music will go back on in the van. We always ask what you’re listening to in the van. What music are you listening to now that you want everyone else to know about?

We are listening, actually, just before you called, we decided to make the commitment to listening to all of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Smashing Pumpkins. We’re about two songs in right now. Two or three. So far, so good. We have a eight-hour drive ahead of us. We really have no excuse not to listen to the whole thing. What else? We attempted to listen to Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt a few minutes ago.

It didn’t work?

We only got a couple songs in. The natives got restless. We listened to Sarah McLaughlin before that. It gets pretty weird. It’s a little weird in here.

Is it the driver who gets final say?

No. We just take turns. We’re planning to listen to some podcasts and stuff. We’re a big fan of Dan Savage’s podcast. Do you know Dan Savage?

I do.

The Savage Lovecast. My favorite thing ever. “Serial Season Two” we’re going to listen to, but you want to know what music we’re listening to.

You might not make it through “Serial Season Two.” Most everyone I know has quit it somewhere in the middle.

Really? Is it disappointing?

Yes, it’s disappointing. Maybe you’ll stick it out.

Okay. That’s good to know. We don’t want to be bored and roughing it. We want to listen to something fun. What else? We listened to “Slow Ride” by Foghat getting out of the city. That was good.

Just once? Or is this on repeat?

We listened to it once, but we listened to the extended outro which is hard to get through but worth it.

Could you see yourself adding a cover song to the set just based on what you’re listening to? Is “1979” going to be played by any chance?

No, probably not that. We have a cover that we are planning to do. Some mash-ups. I don’t know if you heard it when you saw us. I don’t remember, I don’t know what show you were at. We do a mash-up of “War Pigs” and “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails and “I Can’t Stand The Rain” by Ann Peebles with the rock part by Missy Elliot from “Supa Dupa Fly.” We have that in our pocket for whenever we feel like doing a cover which sort of covers the ’90s.

We’ll look forward to seeing you on March 20th. You probably can’t keep track of the date, but for me it’s just one show.

March 20th. It’s the last show of the tour. It’s the only one I can keep track of.

Last show of the tour. You can leave everything on the stage. No need to hold back!

Exactly. Exactly. Leave it all.  All the gear, too.


Parlour Tricks opens for Electric Six at The Independent in San Francisco on Sunday, March 20th. Tickets are available on Ticketfly.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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