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Parenthetical Girls

A group that has cautiously moved from the bedroom recording studio to the stage, Parenthetical Girls began as an amateur recording project by two longtime friends, rock writer Zac Pennington and part-time musician Jeremy Cooper. Indulging in a shared fondness for British post-punk, Brian Eno, and Phil Spector, the two began creating eccentric but playful indie rock tunes in 2002 on a lo-fi eight-track recording setup dominated by glockenspiel, a cheap synthesizer, and a guitar that refused to stay in tune. Calling their collaboration "Swastika Girls" (after a tune from Brian Eno and Robert Fripp's No Pussyfooting), Cooper and Pennington were initially unimpressed with their results and set the tapes aside until Pennington gave some of the material another listen in 2003 and decided to resurrect the project. Pennington handed the original session tapes over to two different musicians he knew and admired -- Jherek Bischoff of the Dead Science and Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu -- and asked each to mix the seven selections he'd unearthed. Cooper and Pennington were impressed enough with the results that they decided to release an album of the material; embracing the less-controversial handle Parenthetical Girls, their self-titled debut featured Bischoff's mixes on the "X" side of a vinyl LP, with Stewart's versions appearing in the same sequence on the other "O" side. A brief tour followed, with Cooper staying home and Pennington joined by Bischoff and Sam Mickens, also of the Dead Science, followed by another road trip featuring Pennington and Mickens. By the time the debut album was reissued on CD in 2006, Cooper had dropped out of active service within the Parenthetical Girls, and the second album from the "group," Safe as Houses, was primarily created by Pennington and Bischoff, and released in mid-2006. The group's lineup finally solidified around Pennington and multi-instrumentalists Matt Carlson, Eddy Crichton, and Rachael Jensen, with Bischoff continuing as a studio collaborator. This version of the group collaborated with 25 classically trained musicians on Parenthetical Girls' third album Entanglements, which took their music in an ambitious, orchestral direction. Tomlab released Entanglements in 2008. The mini-album The Scottish Play: Wherein the Group Parenthetical Girls Pay Well-intentioned (If Occasionally Misguided) Tribute to the Works of Ivor Cutler appeared the following year. The band then embarked on an even more ambitious project, releasing a series of limited-edition EPs, each featuring the likeness of one of the band's members on the cover, over the course of 15 months. Selections from each EP became their fourth full-length album, 2013's Privilege (Abridged). ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
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