Interview: Rain Parade’s Matt Piucci on their upcoming tour and his thoughts on the Paisley Underground

Photo: Billy Douglas

After a two-man visit last year, Rain Parade are coming back with a full band lineup.

Back in 1983, Rain Parade released one of the essential albums to come out of the so-called Paisley Underground scene. ‘Emergency Third Rail Power Trip’ was described by Guy Lincoln of this parish as, “As 60’s sounding as the scene got. Tinged with both psych and folk-rock at the same time as hammering that Television extended work-out thing” when he gave it the number two slot in a top ten Paisley Underground albums article he had written for AUK.  Rain Parade were short-lived, releasing one more album, a mini album and a live one before going their separate ways but from the original line up there came Opal, Viva Saturn and Mazzy Star. They were cited as an influence by numerous bands in later years including many of the “shoegaze” gang.

Rumours that founder members Steven Roback and Matt Piucci had resurrected the band name proved to be true when the pair of them toured the UK last year and released ‘Last Rays of a Dying Sun, an album which was universally lauded. Now, the pair are set to return to the UK (and Europe), this time with a full band line up and they have released a four-track EP in advance of their visit. AUK had the opportunity to talk to Matt Piucci via a Zoom call from his home in Oakland, just across the bay from San Francisco, and kicked off the interview by saying that this writer had the opportunity to see Piucci and Roback play last year, supporting The Dream Syndicate in a tiny venue in Glasgow, a gig that Piucci remembers all too well…

I remember that. The venue was way too small, packed like sardines and I got Covid! But I also remember it as we all went out to Paisley (a town on the outskirts of Glasgow) before the show. We were looking to get some pictures under street plaques that mentioned Paisley; unfortunately, we discovered that they don’t have an underground.

That tour featured just you and Steven but this time it’s a full band line up I believe.

Well, obviously it’s Steven and me along with our long-time member John Thoman on guitar, we’re the three core members. Stefan Junca will be on drums, I met him through playing in Billy Talbot’s band and we’ll also have Derek See who will play guitar and keyboards. He’s played with the Chocolate Watch Band and a whole load of others including my band The Hellenes. He’s a very talented guy, a bit younger than us although he’s not young. He was born the day I graduated from high school. We’re all set up and ready to go after touring in the States with The Third Mind, Dave Alvin’s latest band. Dave’s a super nice guy, a roots guitar player but his new band is more out there, he’s got Jesse Solomon Sykes in the band and I’ve been a fan of hers for years.

You’ve released an EP, ‘Last Stop On The Underground’ in advance of the tour. Three new songs plus one left over from the recording of ‘Last Rays of a Dying Sun’. I was particularly impressed by the title song.

I had a feeling that folk over there might like that one, I think it has a kind of London sound on it if that makes any sense, that English psychedelia. Anyway, we wanted to have something ready for the tour and we’re in a really happy place right now when it comes to recording, we’re really getting into the flow in the studio with our producer Jim Hill. We were hoping to have vinyl copies to sell on the tour but they weren’t pressed in time but we’ll have CDs. And once we get back from the tour we’ll be back in the studio for the next album. The EP is just the start, we’ve got lots of new material to go through.

Speaking of which, what can we expect to hear on the tour? I presume it’s a mix of older songs with some of the newer ones.

Well, we don’t want to be seen as a nostalgia band and for the first time in our history we have a load of new songs to play live. But then it’s important to give people what they want. Anyone who is nice enough to get off of their couch, switch off Netflix and the like, and come to see us at a show, we want to give then what they want, so probably around half of the set will be the older songs. I think when we get to England we’ll mix it up a bit more, I’m not sure how well-known we are in some of the European places we’re going to but in the UK I reckon fans know us well enough to want to hear songs from the last album along with the older ones.

How did you and Steven get back together under the Rain Parade umbrella?

Steven and I had kept working together over the years, we had records out as Viva Saturn and The Hellenes, we didn’t call it Rain Parade but it was still us. Around 2012 I was asked to contribute to a benefit album for Bobby Sutliff of The Windbreakers who had been in a bad car accident. When I was recording it Steven decided to join in and then we went on to play a live show. And honestly, I don’t think we’d have carried on but we were floored by the reception. And people were talking to us about this generation of bands who were saying we had been a big influence on them, The Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine and, in the US, Beachwood Sparks. That was very flattering and I don’t think that Steven and myself really knew how much folk had appreciated us. And at around the same time, some of the original Paisley Underground bands were getting back together and we decided to record an album where we’d all cover each other’s songs. Jim Hill was back on the scene producing and he really helped us get the juices flowing. And then the pandemic hit. That was a time for reflection and quiet I suppose and it allowed Steven and I to work on a lot of new songs which were ready by the time we went into the studio with Jim in 2022 and we recorded 13 songs. And then Bill Hein, who was the president of Enigma Records 40 years ago when he signed us up, had this new label, Label 51 Recordings, and he heard the album and wanted to put it out. The label’s been great, really supportive and that really was us up and running again.

On ‘Last Rays of a Dying Sun’ the songs are credited to Piucci/Roback. Can you describe how the pair of you collaborate on a song?

We haven’t really got a routine, at our core it’s been Steven playing bass and me on guitar, I don’t think our way of working has changed much over the years, it is a collaboration, whether a song is mostly Steven’s or mostly mine, we decided a long time ago we weren’t going to worry about that. So, maybe a bit like Lennon/McCartney or Jagger/Richards, it’s really just Rain Parade. I could go through every song and point out who did what but that would be kind of boring. Some folk think that the guy who is singing is the one who started the song but that’s not always true. We have songs which are somewhat modular, one section is his, one section is mine, at any rate, when all’s said and done we’ve both put our stamp on it.

‘Emergency Third Rail Power Trip’ recently got a Record Store Day re-release in an expanded version. How much of a hand did you have in that?

We had it remastered by Jim Hill. He wasn’t involved in the original album but he did a really good job on the remaster. The first disc is the original 10-song album, the version which came out in the UK, and the second disc has our first single along with some demos and a bunch of live stuff, maybe not the highest fidelity but we’ve cleaned them up and put them on there. The Record Store Day release was on coloured vinyl but we’ll have a bunch of old-fashioned black vinyl to sell on the tour.

Are there any plans to reissue the rest of the back catalogue?

Maybe for the next Record Store Day we’d like to bring out a version of ‘Crashing Dream’ which is closer to what we wanted than the version that came out on Island Records. We had wanted to have Jim Hill producing it but the record company didn’t go with that and although our producer was a nice guy he didn’t really get us. So, we’ve got a chance to fix that. We’ve got more live stuff in the archives to add to it and hopefully that will come out at some point. We’ll flood the market.

Finally, can I ask your opinion on the term Paisley Underground

People like labels, it helps keep life simple. There’s some value in that. We had kind of like a shared sensibility back then but that term was a bit limiting. It wasn’t just us in Los Angeles, there was a lot going on at that time. In the South, in various cities, bands who were post-punk, slightly psychedelic. But I do think that there was a commonality of proximity and we were writing original songs. We were all the same age, went to the same schools, a bit too young for punk but we were all informed by that stuff. Was there a Paisley Underground, I don’t know but I don’t have a problem with that.

Rain Parade 2024 tour dates:

06.06.24 OSLO
07.06.24 STOCKHOLM
08.06.24 MALMO
11.06.24 HAMBURG
12.06.24 AMSTERDAM
13.06.24 ANTWERP
14.06.24 BRISTOL Strange Brew
15.06.24 LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
16.06.24 MANCHESTER Night & Day
18.06.24 NOTTINGHAM Old Cold Store
19.06.24 LONDON 229
21.06.24 VITORIA-GASTEIZ (ES) Azkena Festival


About Paul Kerr 438 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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Ooh, thanks for this! Gave more oomph to the idle thought that I might go see them when they play Malmö later this week.