Parade of Lights frontman Ryan Daly is cruising the streets of Los Angeles, answering questions about his electro-pop band’s new EP—on a hands-free device, of course—when another car cuts him off, nearly side-swiping Daly. He is angry for a split second, before his mind returns to the question at hand.
Parade of Lights’ new EP, released last month, is called The Human Condition Part 1. Add this near miss to the range of experiences covered on the record.
“Every song is about how people have flaws, myself being one of them, and how people deal with that,” Daly says. “Some of the songs are an expression of frustration about the human condition and how sometimes it’s hard to be a person. Even though some people may seem like they have this great life, they’re dealing with their own set of problems that affect them in their own way.”
The five-track EP, the first of a pair that may eventually get rolled into a full-length release, is Parade of Lights’ first proper record since 2015 LP Feeling Electric. That album’s title track lifted the then-quartet like a hot air balloon after being included on the soundtrack to EA Sports’ FIFA 16video game. Euphoric single “Golden” got a pick-up from seemingly every competition-based television event and awards ceremony, such as the Super Bowl, NBC Winter Olympics, Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards.
Daly, Anthony Improgo and Michelle Ashley are also getting attention for their new songs. “Inside My Head” and “Tangled Up” were both used on the second season of Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Daly doesn’t think the traditionally happy-sounding Parade of Lights is an odd match for the often-despairing series that covers subjects like suicide, sexual assault and bullying.
“That show is about the human condition,” Daly says. “It’s rewarding to have songs used in the show that discusses …serious topics with people today.”
Here he brings up the just-announced death of chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain.
“That shit is brutal,” he says. “It’s a very real possibility, and it’s a dark corner of the human condition that gets explored on this record.”
Take “Tidal Waves,” for example. With guitars ringing and a synth weaving in and out, Daly sings about waves of doubt and fears crashing around him. “Inside My Head” is about overthinking something so much that it cripples him from making any decision. At the same time, the song’s ‘80s melody incites dancing.
Sonically, The Human Conditioncould fly under the radar as an optimistic record. It’s meant to balance the sometimes-tragic subject matter. If with his lyricism Daly sometimes chooses to focus on the valleys, then the band’s synth-pop sonics, which blend the electronica of Passion Pit with the melodies of Coldplay, are the peaks.
And not all of the songs have the valleys. It’s the nature of life. Sometimes, there is simple joy. Electro-pop jam “Victorious” recalls “Golden” as Daly sings about overcoming any odds. The title track is an homage (on purpose or by accident) to Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.”
“[Life is] a series of stark contrasts that, the more you deal with them … the more you either come to terms with them and learn how to live with them, or decide to pull the plug or whatever you decide to do,” Daly says.
“You want to conquer whatever demons there are. If you feel bad, of course you want to get better. Maybe the music being optimistic is what’s coaxing you to get better.”
Daly has been through his fair share of valleys. He and Improgo played in a band together before, Polus, which played its last show after Daly dislocated his knee on-stage. The recovery took longer than expected, and the band members drifted apart.
The duo reconnected in 2010 and decided to make music together again. Bassist Randy Schulte, who also played in Polus, joined as well. Daly then went to work to recruit Ashley, who plays keys. She finally joined in 2013.
Since then, Parade of Lights have toured with the likes of Imagine Dragons, X Ambassadors, AWOLNATION and Fitz & The Tantrums.
Schulte left the band in recent months, prior to recording the new EP. Now a trio, the band recorded at Capitol Records in Hollywood, as well as the home of producer Carlos de la Garza (Paramore, Wolf Alice, M83, Jimmy Eat World).
“I’ve been friends with Carlos for 10 years,” Daly says. “He’s so genuine, so kind and he’s so talented. … He creates an environment that’s conducive to writing good music and being comfortable while doing so.”
It was also the first time the band worked with a producer rather than making all the decisions themselves. Parade of Lights has carried a DIY ethos that has included not only production, but principal photography, merch and design.
“It’s the best way to keep it cohesive and keep it genuine, I think,” Daly says. “The music is coming from us. The visuals are coming from us, so you’re getting the most transparent experience of how we see things. That’s how we would like to represent ourselves.”
Follow Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.