“I’m the biggest Steely Dan fan,” Anatole Serret, the drummer of Parcels, definitively states.
He means it. He and his bandmates — five Australians who relocated to Berlin straight out of high school, sight unseen for four of them — make falsetto-driven, staying-cool-in-the-heat music that, 15 years ago, or maybe even eight, probably would not have been taken seriously, just as Steely Dan’s 1980 jazz-rock masterpiece Gaucho has not been taken seriously. Remember when people had a hard time admitting that they liked Fleetwood Mac, which now seems as though it had always been one of the easiest bands in the world to adore? Parcels takes Steely Dan, holds it giddily aloft, then grabs a ketchup bottle marked “Alan Parsons Project” and squirts it all over the place.
“When we first arrived [in Berlin], we were overwhelmed with the electronic music scene, and we all got really into it and we started listening to a big harder electro,” Serret says, giggling. “It was fun and you can definitely hear it on the Hideout EP that Berlin played a bit of an influence. In Australia, five years ago, dance music was super-lame: Only the hippie, druggie kids were listening to really bad ‘diggity-diggity-diggity.’ ”
Electronic music was fun to make in a city where almost every musician is a DJ, but by virtue of being new in town and knowing almost no one, they were able to do their own thing. Laboring with an ear toward making music that will still sound great in 20 years is one thing, but doing it without an anointed leader is another thing altogether. Parcels, Serret says, is a genuinely democratic project.
“Everyone writes their own tracks and then someone brings it to the band, and it’s like ‘Here’s a song,’ and then we’re all really a part of turning a demo into a recording and we’re all a really big part of turning a recording into something that we play live,” Serret says. “Everyone has room to kind of shine in all areas of the band.”
With all due respect to the musicianship that an act like Metronomy presents, there’s a more overt, tongue-in-cheek factor to a band like that than there is with Parcels. And while San Francisco’s own Poolside is a marvelous swat-the-floating-chlorine-caddy-out-of-the-way-and-please-pass-me-another-margarita-in-a-floating-koozie duo as well, Parcels is not a side hustle that took on a life of its own.
A song like “Yourfault” has a genuine pathos; yes, you can hear some Spandau Ballet on it, but slow it down a little more and it could almost be a Julee Cruise out-take, albeit one sung by a man. Often, the problem with music that sounds like a chill afternoon party is that sometimes it’s mixed and compressed so it won’t bleed over the fence into the neighbors’ yard. But amid the slapped basslines and borderline-supermarket synth parts, Parcels can achieve outright atmospheric heights on songs such as “Everyroad,” whose extended intro is overlaid with a couple guys talking about a pretty garden before climbing higher and higher until it’s almost a Pink Floyd-style jam — but lite, always lite. And their laddish self-presentation is sort of circa-1964 Beatles, full of group shots beside jets or in convertibles.
Parcels plays the Regency Ballroom on Tuesday, April 16, midway between the band’s sets at Coachella on both Saturdays. (They were born to play during the late afternoon, so here’s hoping that’s when they’re slotted.) On the strength of two EPs, an eponymous full-length, and a constellation of singles and remixes, they’ve carved out a fiefdom all their own — and a collaboration with Daft Punk certainly didn’t hurt, either. And if it sounds as though Serret and co. have built a career out of raiding their parents’ record collections, that’s not entirely so.
“I was recently in Australia and I was playing stuff for my mum, and she was like, ‘Yeah, I know this,’ ” Serret says. “I’ve been listening to Joni Mitchell, and it’s weird — there’s a whole ton of people I just listened to in the last year that I should have listened to much earlier.”
Parcels, with the Undercover Dream Lovers, Tuesday, April 16, 8:30 p.m., at the Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave. $30-$35, axs.com