In the wilds of New Zealand where the spirits of the trees still whisper secrets and the rocks hold their tales, you will find Amy Tucker West, also known as Parabola West. For those unfamiliar, Parabola West is a project stirred in a Celtic cauldron, mixing synths, folk music and a liberal sprinkling of magic, kind of a mix between Dead Can Dance, Lycia and Clannad so to speak. On the 29th of April, the album Stars Will Light The Way, was dropped, with dreamy ballads about the world and love, to heartfelt pleas for sanctuary and understanding, but always with an undercurrent of modern instruments blended with the traditional. So join us on our Celtic dreaming, speaking to the delightful Amy about the new album and.. well …everything to do around it. Beware of the imps!
Welcome into the fens of the Onyx Garden, Amy Tucker West of Parabola West. We occasionally drop in ritualistic items in the dark waters, just to keep the impish spirits happy.
Thank you! I have a dash of moon water prepared just for this sort of occasion!
In your bio, you say you discovered piano as a young adult. Was music a big thing in your life before this?
Music was a massive part of our household growing up. It would be very common for my mother, sister, and me to sing together as one of them played guitar. Lessons were something that we couldn’t really afford, but that limitation didn’t deter my mother. She was a painter, and so she decorated the walls of the music school with her artwork in exchange for us to have lessons. From that, I internalized from a young age that music was a valuable and important part of life.
You live in New Zealand, land of the long white cloud but you are not originally a Kiwi. How did you end up there?
I’m originally from the east coast of America, and I ended up joining a UK-based band in my early 20s and moving to England to perform with them. When I was over there, I met someone from New Zealand and ended up coming here with him in 2003. That relationship didn’t work out, but I loved it here and decided to stay. Fast forward many years, and I’m now an official citizen of NZ! Woohoo!
Was it a bit of a culture shock going from America to New Zealand?
It’s a unique experience to feel equally at home and equally an outsider in two countries.
I think the biggest culture shock is actually going back to America for a visit after so much time living here in New Zealand. The scale of things in America is overwhelming for the first few days. On my last trip, I remember visiting the grocery store and getting decision fatigue whilst standing in a massive aisle devoted entirely to hummus options. So. Much. Hummus. By the time I got to the toothbrush section, I was deranged with wonder.
Did you feel a difference in the music scene in NZ as opposed to the US and do you think this has influenced your style?
I wasn’t really active in the US music scene before I went to England, but I can now tell you that performing for a NZ audience versus an American audience is a totally different experience! In New Zealand, the audience will clap politely at the end of a song and probably say something nice to you privately after your show. In America, the audience is significantly more expressive throughout a show and will let you know what they think. The Kiwis are much more reserved, and the Americans are more likely to wear their hearts on their sleeves or ‘woohoo’ mid-song.
You launched your new album “Stars Will Light The Way” in April. Your last album was released in 2017 called “Purity of Weakness”. Can I ask why there was a 5 year break?
I released “Purity of Weakness” as an EP back in 2017 because I wasn’t quite ready to release a full-length album yet. My thinking was that you only get one shot at a debut album, so I wanted to make sure I had nurtured my audience enough and built my brand to the point where I could roll out a debut the way I wanted to. But, I certainly didn’t intend for “Stars Will Light the Way” to take five years to come alive! The schedule got a bit blown out by some family hardships and then a dash of pandemic. Life got a bit lifey in-between.
The sound of the album is this beautiful mixture of Celtic dreaming folk, with pop savvy. What drew you to create this style?
Thank you! I’ve always been drawn to a bit of darkness mixed in with the dreamy, and I found that the old folk instruments used in Celtic, Slavic, and Scandinavian folk really have an emotional / melancholy depth that appealed to my ear. But, I also love synth and electronic influences as well as ethereal / otherworldly sounds, so my music ends up being a blend of a few genres. I try not to think about the style or genre when I’m writing, and instead I just focus on getting the produced version to sound the way it does in my head.
What is the premise behind “Stars Will Light the Way”?
It didn’t start out with a premise or a theme in mind, but everything changed as the production got underway. I started getting these character ideas for each song, and they were very specific and in full color in my head. I decided to follow that thread, and alongside the album recording I began working on a book of visuals to go with the music. It culminated in a 48 page fantasy photography lyric book (which includes a CD). I decided on the title “Stars Will Light the Way” because each song explores a different way of finding a path through the darkness.
With Covid causing mayhem around the world for 2 years, how did this affect your creating and recording the album?
It was definitely a contributing factor for why it took 5 years to release this album! I worked with two producers (Scott Newth and Andrew Newth), and I can’t think of a single time that we were all in the same room together since the start of Covid. We worked remotely, sending files and ideas back and forth. In some ways, it was really cool to have that extra space for ideas to grow in isolation. There were some silver linings within the sh*t sandwich.
New Zealand is a rather magical place with its green rolling hills, snowy peaks and native inhabitants, the Maori, with their rich history and tales. How do you feel this has an effect on your music?
New Zealand is, indeed, a deeply magical place! For me, the landscape feels like it holds a spiritual energy. The past 7 years of living off-grid up a misty mountain has really heightened my appreciation for existing in harmony with the seasons and the elements. Lyrically, the themes of nature pop up a lot in “Stars Will Light the Way”.
Who or what were your early musical influences?
Depeche Mode, Tori Amos, Enya, Loreena McKennitt, Dead Can Dance, Information Society, Kate Bush, and fantasy film soundtracks. I also thrashed a mixtape full of artists from Projekt Records (standouts on that cassette were Love Spirals Downwards, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, and Lycia).
Is there anyone that you listen to now that brings you great joy?
I curated a playlist on Spotify called Beautiful Darkness which has a lot of examples of music I’m enjoying at the moment. There are a few Scandinavian artists (Aurora, Agnes Obel, Eivør, and Kite) that get a heavy rotation, but there are also artists like PJ Harvey and Coco Rosie on there as well.
If ever I am in a desperate funk, however, I turn to the Sesame Street Disco album. Specifically, ‘Me Lost Me Cookie at the Disco’ performed by Cookie Monster.
We have heard that you love French bull dogs. What is it about them that makes you giddy with joy?
Oh Frenchies! Yes, they are the perfect blend of cuddly and adventurous. They snore and fart hilariously through the night, and every Frenchie I’ve met has a friendly nature and a heart of gold. My husband and I had the privilege of raising two, and they brought us immense joy.
What do see in the future for Parabola West?
The immediate future is planning and executing an epic summer tour in the southern and northern hemispheres. After that, I’m interested in exploring the realm of writing for film and television.
Thank you for communing with us!
I appreciate the opportunity, thank you!