Bradley David Parsons is finally ready to invite you into his world.
A drummer since the age of 10 and the percussive backbone of Bend's popular folk-rock quartet Wilderness, Parsons has been writing songs of his own for years—quietly honing his voice as a songwriter and vocalist.
Though more than happy playing drums in Wilderness (a role he fully intends on keeping), Parsons felt a growing desire to front a project of his own and share his unique musical perspective with others. When a window opened up in the group's busy schedule, he pulled the trigger and recruited a few friends (including his brother Tyler Parsons and Wilderness bandmate Nick Graham) to finally bring his songs to life.
"It was one of those now or never situations, where maybe I can balance it or maybe I can't," Parsons explains, "but I thought I might as well give it a shot."
Just like that, Corner Gospel Explosion was born. On the foundation of Parson's crisp percussion that deftly funnels wild energy into precise strokes, CGE blends reverb-soaked guitars with heavy bass and splashes of synths to create moody atmospheric rock that would nicely soundtrack the wet and foggy Oregon days that inspire the songs themselves.
"I grew up in the valley, so I was born with rain around me all the time. The best times for me to write and record songs are when there's nasty weather outside with rain and tons of fog," says Parsons. "I really love melancholy music in general and I'm a big fan of the shoe-gaze genre."
Over a self-described "spooky" musical backdrop, Parsons delivers metaphor-heavy lyrics that leverage approachable subjects like grandfather clocks and fish, to weave intricate narratives that grapple with slippery topics including human mortality and love. This colorful approach to songwriting can at least partially be attributed to the non-musical forms of storytelling he draws inspiration from.
"I had just recently gotten into podcasts when I started writing lyrics. I really enjoy NPR shows like This American Life and Radiolab," reveals Parsons. "Those are great because they're non-visual and open your mind to new ideas and new ways of thinking—and the storytelling is at a top-notch level." He adds, "I actually listen to more podcasts than I do music. Things like that inspire me a lot. It can be exhausting to just throw yourself into the music world and stay there. Having that escape of, 'OK, we're going to learn about elephants today,' is always a nice little break."
The generally serious tone of the music is contrasted nicely by the quirky personality of the band members themselves. Named after a phrase that Parsons happened to see on a random church sign in Portland (which by no stretch of the imagination actually describes the music they play), Corner Gospel Explosion has no master plan. A set of tongue-in-cheek band photos reveals members of the group casually standing around with pumpkins on their heads and a one-liner description of their sound reads, "We sound like bands that have 'bear' in the name." Their priorities are clear: play music and have fun doing it.
"We want to have as much fun as possible, but play as best we can as well," Parsons offers. "When you reach that balance, it's something special.
After releasing a self-titled debut EP in January, Corner Gospel Explosion finally shifted its focus to the stage, and turned the initial obstacle of figuring out what to do with a lead vocalist who plays drums, into a cornerstone of the group's spirited performances.
"I think people enjoy seeing a left-handed drummer with the kit switched around backwards, singing lead," Parsons says. "It's a little insane—even for me—trying to pull it all together. It's a bit of a spectacle."
Corner Gospel Explosion & All You All
6 pm. Friday, April 3.
Crow's Feet Commons, 875 NW Brooks St.