Parallel Play, the Dallas rock band that proudly invaded folk music with energetic performances and often head-banging beats, is calling it quits. Members Jeremy Drake (guitar), Jason Miears (banjo), Erin Gayden (upright bass) and Pappy McCall (percussion) cited other familial and career obligations as the cause of disbandment. The group was nine years old.
Formed in 2007, Parallel Play began as a creative outlet for Drake and Miears. The duo had previously rocked together in an alternative band while growing up in Greenville, Texas, but felt the genre had become too "polished," says Drake. When folk music made a comeback by way of musicians like The Avett Brothers, the two focused their rock-and-roll attitudes in new ways.
"It was raw, which was what we loved about alternative and grunge when we were growing up," remembers Drake, "so when we started writing again, we started in that direction."
Parallel Play derives its name for the psychology term, which describes the particular behavior when children are playing adjacent to one another but not engaging together — they are both with and without their playmate. Drake says the same philosophy applied to the band's performance.
"We chose that because we all just do our own thing and it seems to work out," he says.
In the beginning, however, it was not clear that things would work out. Parallel Play's first show, for instance, was borderline a disaster. It was the summer of 2007 at the Prophet Bar and Parallel Play was one of a handful of bands on the lineup. About 80 people crowded the small bar, and nerves were omnipresent. The duo started strong, but failed to entice the audience. Nerves turned to frustration by the fifth song after Parallel Play garnered little more than pity applause from the bartender.
Then it came to time play "The Cellar," otherwise known as "The Zombie Song." Drake had little trouble conveying the song's driving anger. And when the music peaked and mellowed out, the bar's operating manager dimmed the lights so only a red bulb glowed. After the finish, the lights came up and the crowd went wild.
"It was one of loudest rounds of applause we ever got," Drake says of the near catastrophe. "It's amazing we even stayed a band."
Parallel Play would go on to become one of the most prolific groups to play Prophet Bar, performing there more than 20 times.
The band's vibe is one not easily forgotten. Drake describes it as rock music played with bluegrass instruments. In 2010, drummer Pappy McCall joined the group, which helped cultivate Parallel Play's raucous fan base of roller derby women. (McCall coached the sport.) And soon, local musician Erin Gayden brought her bass skills into the mix.
"I would've never chosen folk or Americana or bluegrass as my No. 1 style of music to play," says McCall, who purchased a drum kit on Craigslist to officially become part of the band. "It's nothing I ever played before."
"We were barely folk when we began," Drake says. "We take all our cues from rock bands. It's how we play, how we write, how we act."
Whatever the label, it seemed to resonate with local music lovers. Parallel Play released two full length albums and an EP during its time. Drake also helped found the Deep Ellum Big Folkin' Festival in 2011, at which the band became a staple. Some of Drake's fondest memories of performing with Parallel Play were at that fest, including its inaugural year when Drake broke a string during the last song and had to figure out what kind of microphone "player" he was on the fly. (He opted for a Steven Tyler style, fully embracing the mic stand.)
Fans have one more opportunity to pay respects and dance it out to their favorite tracks. Parallel Play will perform at a memorial service — some might call it a farewell show — this Saturday, Aug. 20 at Granada Theater. Tickets cost $15-$29.