By Lisa Shrewsberry
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, it’s all fun and games when a hog breaks loose.
Amid the blue-ribbon pig picking and swine-racing action scheduled for the West Virginia State Fair, a group famous for its feel-good post-party amnesia video “Musta Had a Good Time,” featuring a hog in the kitchen and all other manner of skin, takes to the stage. They are as Carolinian as Carolinian gets, with a surprising edge — a sound first cultivated inside a tin-roofed barn in a town that is the inspiration for their name (with an extra “e” for ease in pronunciation), Parmale, N.C., … population 278 or so at last count and two traffic lights (blinking yellow).
On their eve of country stardom, Parmalee is rock-and-roll hectic right now. Set to perform Saturday to culminate the week of fairgrounds performances, they’re shouting “Go Mountaineers!” to one of many summer 2013 stops in between recording their debut album, slated for release later this year.
“We cruise in our own lane,” lead singer Matt Thomas is overheard saying on a live radio broadcast scheduled back-to-back with this interview. “Thank God we have a venue in country.”
“We all started performing together as teenagers,” he explains of the family nature of their group (in relationship, not musical content). Matt’s brother Scott is the drummer; both watched their father play front man in a popular southern rock blues band where they grew up in Greenville, N.C. Barry Knox (bass) is a cousin to the two, while Josh McSwain (guitar and keys) is a friend who sticks as close as a brother.
However far they travel, their music is always respectful of their roots. Newest single “Carolina” pays tribute to their home state and to life on the road. “Carolina” landed in the top 30 on mainstream country radio.
While there isn’t a release date yet, their debut country album is highly anticipated by a growing fan base, courtesy of YouTube, a packed performance schedule earning listeners one audience at a time and their website www.parmalee.com.
Wherever they ultimately land on the road (today, it’s Starbucks between interviews) or the music charts, what is clear is the group’s enjoyment of what they will one day reflect on as the ride of their lives.
“We’ve actually been to more places and been busier this last year than ever,” says Barry. “It’s great to be in this position with an opportunity to do something like this. We’re just enjoying the ride — the festivals, big amphitheaters and getting to go to places and perform on-stage is amazing.”
One of those hallowed stages is the Grand Ole Opry, where the group has performed twice this year.
If their music happens to bridge genre divides (people not only say to lead singer Matt Thomas, ‘Hey, you sound like Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty’ — they skip right to asking if they’re kin), then “We’ll take that,” comments Matt.
For those who like their country like they like their coffee — half-and-half — this hybrid of country boys with rock influences in their DNA will be a favorite, a band that doesn’t really sound like any other in county today.
For those hard-core 100 percent Colombian drinkers and country lovers, well, Barry suggests give the new sound a double-shot.
“I think country radio has opened up. You’re hearing a lot of different mixes of genres in country — from hip-hop to rock to pop — but I think that’s good for listeners. It gives them something new, and people are really diggin’ it. We consider ourselves lucky to have a slot in country music.”
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