DFW’S From Parts Unknown’s McCracken Talks With En La Calle

IMG_7822.JPGFrom Parts Unknown | Photo By Chris DurbinIMG_7821.JPG
From Parts Unknown | Ben McCracken Photo By Chris Durbin

By Forrest Cook

By now not many DFW music fans might say they’ve never heard of the rawkin’, up-right-bass-sporting punk band From Parts Unknown who over the course of their past 6-year career have dropped many an undistractable show-goers jaw and careened numerous happy-go-lucky connoisseurs of high-quality Texas rock and roll music to the dancefloor with raucous performances, an alluring array of merch and memorabilia, and songs that beg to be listened to over and over again.

Now, those few unlucky, missing-out “local music fans” would have to explain themselves with all the elegance of a flightless bird, as From Parts Unknown seems set to take over the world with their new EP, a pair of record-label and distro contracts, and international aspirations. Not-to-mention the rest of the scene remains in unanimous aggrandization as to who’s dealt the prom-farts around here. (That’s a reference to the band’s offbeat IG handle @promfartsunknown) If you’ve never seen FPU, then I highly recommend you get on that, like, ASAP… before they blow up, and leave town, and never come back – but fret not! Whether you’re a new fan, old-thyme roadie, or perhaps just looking to wet your beak on some of the spectacled extra crispy flavors of the metroplex we’ve got everything you’ll need on FPU to get caught up to date, unruffle those pitiful feathers and collectively we can pull your head out of the sand together.

I sat down with Prom Farts front-man, Ben McCracken, on the Three Links patio where he was “living life dangerously” in a breezy button-down shirt and sipping patiently from a non-alcoholic bottled root-beer. FPU is a frequent installation to the Three Links stage where they will make their next appearance on August 3 for Prom Farts Fest to celebrate the release of their latest EP, S8N, as part of a collaborative juncture between TX-based Stars At Night Records and Chicago’s Stupid Rad Merch Company.

It was a quiet Tuesday evening and Ben had the night off from slanging drinks at The Old Crow in Lower Greenville where you may have met him before regaling friendly souls who will listen with stories of the road or life lessons learned. Still… “I’m reserved a lot,” he tells me. “A lot of it comes from being out on the road and playing shows and then coming home and working in bars and dealing with people and being around people. The older I get – I’m just trying to watch what I say.. think first and listen more.” He makes the joke that he’s “a total emo kid” as I addressed the correlation between his own music and that of bands like The Lawrence Arms (amongst others) and noted that at least he’s a tall emo kid. He’s handsome. With tussled-hair, and a five-o-clock shadow – graciously, he showed up in more than the wife-beater he’s occasionally reduced to after sweating through each energetic performance – hardly as flattering as the button-down suit and tie look that FPU is accustomed to starting off the night with.

Let’s be real for a moment. It’s all just one big strip-tease.

IMG_7820From Parts Unknown | Photo Credit: Chris Durbin

“I always thought about how cool Bad Brains looked in those early photos when they would always wear suits, because they were like, ‘This will be crazy. Let’s fuck with people’s heads…’ Plus, I think that it helps to have some separation of that, to be this different thing on stage, to be this personality, and put on this show. You’re a different persona when you are on stage and so appearance and some kind of cohesion or consistency among everybody not only help us get into our own thing and feel comfortable and get that familiarity through it all, but I think it helps the people too… Then after a while it gets to be a lot bringing suits on the road and shit.”

FPU takes on a healthy demeanor which does its part to avoid generalization. “We started this band not wanting to have staunch limitations on what type of band we are and what we can write and stuff like that. To us, we were just a rock and roll band with an upright bass.” It’s something that’s hard to miss. Chris Parish’s trademark boom-ticking on the base is synonymous with a rockabilly label they’ve long been eager to avoid.  “It’s nothing against the music or [those] bands, and obviously we have a lot of influence from that. We like Tiger Army, and we’ve played with psychobilly bands before, but there’s so much close-mindedness in that scene… There’s just not a lot of bands with uprights out there. There’s not a lot of diversity with [those]bands.” From Parts Unknown is trying to change that.

“Musically, when we started this band, we played a lot of shows with a lot of rockabilly and psychobilly bands and we are just too weird for that. We are so against the grain in comparison to that. We’d play shows and a lot of the times some of the stuff went over people’s heads, because they want songs about Cadillac’s and monsters and I’m writing songs about living in the city and playing in a travelling band and relationship issues. Just the stuff that’s our lives. I don’t work on Chevy’s or hang out with monster men and fantasize about murdering people. I deal with… like, existentialism and depression. Also, we like being a weird band and standing apart.”

“I think that we’re a kind of [weird] underdog rock and roll band trying to do big and serious things, but trying to make real connections and real art with people,” he says. He’s a likeable guy. “We really do love getting out there and meeting everybody and playing out there whenever we can.”

He takes a sip from his root beer as a near-by bar patron asks for a light to which I oblige in exchange for a smoke. (The patron later offers up his whole pack, because the scene is alive and well!)

“More than anything, I’m just really excited to see what people think about the new songs both live and on the record. I feel like as a band we are constantly pushing ourselves in big ways and never more so than now. Especially with songwriting since Jimmy’s joined the band… He puts on a big show when he drums and puts a lot of energy into his performance. It’s just made the shows a lot more free-flowing for the three of us. I feel like we can just go and jump and put the energy out, perform the songs, have as much fun as we can, and go from there.” Jimmy Sefcik is the newest addition to From Parts Unknown as well as being an Austin transplant who joined the band on the road (in Alabama, officially) while doing a fill-in job last fall.

“Now that Jimmy’s in the band, we’ve kind of broadened our scope of what we can do as a band. I’m really excited that we are about to put out this new EP, but we are writing a new album now, and that’s the really exciting thing. I can’t wait for those songs. When people see us live, it’s a mix of the new EP and like all the new stuff we’re writing and then some older songs… I guess that’s the thing. It’s hard to feign excitement for something sometimes [that] you’ve spent almost two years on, and then you’re so into the new stuff, but that’s the record industry. That’s just records.”

From Parts Unknown (Ben at least) has been actively engaged in what he calls “a two-year plan” to get the most out of recording/mixing/mastering, marketing, and booking the bands regular and semi-aggressive tour schedule, getting on festivals, and setting patterns – starting in the Midwest and spiraling out from there. “We’ve been on a bunch of terrible tours and played a bunch of shitty places in a lot of cities… so we found better venues, met better bands, better promoters, better networking people and they help you out. At the same time, you’re learning. I’m always trying to actively study and take what I can from the way everybody does everything.”

They’ve just embarked on a return-tour to the East Coast, “first time in like a year and a half!” That culminates in FPU’s first shows in Canada. “Finally!” Ben exclaims, elated. “It takes that fucking long, you know? You want to get back in three to six months and then you start to realize that fiscally – and just schedules and everything, and then trying to just book smart enough – It doesn’t work out.” They’ve also announced an Australian run for this coming September. “It’s going to be a crazy year,” Ben tells me. “Right now, this new album… we are aiming to have a twelve, thirteen-song album. Maybe cut it down to ten. The big reason we even had this push on writing and finishing and doing all this was because a friend from another band kind of put that pressure on when we were at Fest. We were kind of catching up and doing the whole thing, and we ran into our buddies in Pears. Fat Wreck Chords was supposed to build them a home studio and then Zach (Quinn) wanted to produce our next record. So, he asked if we were ready to do another record and I lied. Like, ‘Totally.’ But then the studio project ended up falling through. Instead, now we’re going to fly Zach down to Austin at some point in the next couple of months or so. We were trying to do it this month but there was a scheduling conflict. That’s the thing that sucks is these things take so long in the end but he’s going to come down and be our, like, 70’s producer and help us with re-writes and arrangements and help us out. Weigh in on it. That’s the goal.”

Chris Parrish(left) – Upright Bass| Jimmy Sefcik- Drums | Ben McCracken- Guitar, Vocals (far right)| Photos Credit Chris Durbin aka @imageanonymous Instagram.

“We are always so ahead of ourselves, but we are excited to put S8N out, and to have new stuff up on Spotify is exciting.” That new stuff just hit Spotify on July 18, and includes six new tracks including previously released singles, “Burn Your Home”, “Ashtrays” and “Snowed In/Blacked Out”, as well as artwork by Kaia Bellanca Beggs. They’ve launched a pre-order through Stupid Rad Merch Co. whose “epic roster of bands” includes Red City Radio, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, and The Bombpops.

“Amazing bands we love,” Ben tells me “…At the same time our friends from Seattle, Burn Burn Burn, put out a record with some friends in Austin, Stars At Night. So, we wanted to do something with both and help out all our friends. There’s not a lot of money in a lot of labels now, so without going into debt too much this was like our way to fund the new record, and get that out on vinyl and help out two starting labels.”

The pre-order includes multiple colored-vinyl variants, T-shirt bundles, and some choice other items running exclusively with that order. “We are really excited about this new EP. Jaimie McMann mixed it for us and he’s done some of my favorite records. All the Dead to Me records, and Forgotten Country by Good Riddance, NoFX, My Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon. He’s a great, great producer. Then our friend Adam Gibbs out in Austin mastered it. We’re excited Kaia did the artwork…”

“I’m really proud of a lot of these new lyrics that we’re doing and especially tackling subjects that I’ve never tackled, like losing my dad.” Ben relates a line he’s particularly proud of from S8N song, “Thieves”: “A bum fit for a king.”

He explains how he was arguing with his then-girlfriend in the middle of a Whole Foods, knowing the end was nigh. “I came up with the line like, ‘A bum fit for a king.’ And how our lifestyles – a lot of what goes into it – are all a perspective shift. You can be a travelling musician and you’re sleeping on people’s floors and relying on handouts and charity and other people’s hospitable nature and how the wrong shift of that and it’s a different lifestyle all together. So, I really like those lyrics in that song because I really thought that as a whole it was a representation of us being a travelling band.”

They’re a travelling band from Texas, who now, thanks to Parrish, have a fully functioning van and a working A/C. They’ve been revitalized with the help of Sefcik on drums, and validated by labels, promoters and band friends across the country and beyond. Their newest release, S8N is available for streaming on Spotify with pre-orders ready to be filled at https://www.stupidradmerch.com/from-parts-unknown-s8n.

As for the lead guy, Ben: “I was like, ‘that’s so poetic.’”

We part ways, but I’m confident he’s keeping it together. “Look at me,” he says, “I’m a regular Hemmingway.”


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