By Rhiannon Levengood
There are roughly 1,200 miles between New York City and Minneapolis, Minnesota. It would take a little over 18 hours to make the drive without breaks, and about $350 for a nonstop, three hour flight from LaGuardia to Minneapolis International. You could always take a train, and for $200 with Amtrak, you’d reach the other city in 28 hours. It’s a lot of planning, but if you’re anything like the tech-savvy Austin Zudeck and Justin Thunstrom, collaborating on music can happen over the internet. For them, there was simply a one hour time difference between their two cities, and an occasional visit to one another. Until now.
Together, Austin and Justin make up the alternative rock band PARKWILD, which is now based entirely in New York City. The two met at GRAMMY Camp LA in 2011 and after some back and forth collaborating in the months following their meeting, they realized that working together was actually inevitable. Fast forward six or so years and we have a duo that’s ready to release their official debut single “Too Late.”
The track starts out slow and quiet, laying out a vibe very reminiscent of “Demons” by Imagine Dragons. It builds gradually with the pre-chorus as a brisk beat is brought in, and crescendos smoothly throughout the chorus before coming back down for the second verse. To put it simply, “Too Late” is a bop that not only slaps, but is smart and intricate to musicians’ ears. If you’re in need of a new driving jam, we found it for you.
Lucky for us, there’s a second single coming in March, so definitely keep PARKWILD on your radar! Check out our interview with the guys below and follow them on twitter @parkwildmusic and on Instagram @parkwild.
Do you think your hometown and childhood has influenced the music you create today? Can you recall your earliest memory involving music?
Austin Zudeck: I was born in New Jersey and raised in New Jersey and New York City. The fast pace of NYC and the edge and spirit that the city possesses definitely had an influence on the music we make today. I grew up playing gigs all over NYC and its left a mark on my creativity for sure. I remember being two or three years old and I would carry a half-size acoustic guitar with me everywhere I went, and I would try to sing and “play” for everyone I could, despite not knowing how.
Justin Thunstrom: I was born and raised in Minnesota. I think it has had an influence on my music, not necessarily due to location, but by the people around me. My earliest musical memory is playing my grandma’s piano at a very young age and doing so every time I was at her house growing up.
Where does “Parkwild” come from?
Austin: During a drive back to my girlfriend’s hometown I got Justin on speaker phone and decided that we were not hanging up until we’ve got the name. After throwing out names for nearly an hour and coming up empty, or having them being taken, I was so frustrated that I read off the next highway sign for “Dorney Park Wild Water”, and put the words together PARK-WILD as a joke. Then there was some silence on Justin’s end and we both realized that was a pretty cool and fitting name and PARKWILD we became.
Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom is an amusement park I grew up with in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Just a little childhood nostalgia insight for you all. Carry on!
What are your roles in the band?
Austin: We are both songwriters and producers, especially when it comes to the music for PARKWILD. We both kind of play every instrument when it comes to recording in the studio, and I sing the vocals. [For live performances] I take care of the lead vocals and second/rhythm electric/acoustic guitar. And Justin takes care of all of the keyboards and synths, triggering/sampling on the computer, and backup vocals.
What was the most challenging thing about working in a long-distance situation?
Austin: I would have to say scheduling because when you are in different cities and time zones, personal life and work life don’t really align with each other. Now that we are in the same place, we are able to set distinct times to work and our schedules are in phase.
Justin: The challenge is not having that in-person connection which is so important when creating. We had all the tools to collaborate over the internet but it was very limiting, which is why we began traveling to each other’s studios.
Who are your biggest influences musically?
Austin: Musically, my biggest influences range from Otis Redding, Carole King, Ryan Tedder (of OneRepublic), 30 Seconds to Mars, P!nk as well as Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally and Craig Wiseman (all amazing country songwriters). However, on a day to day basis I am inspired by all the collaborators we work with, that are constantly pushing me to hone my craft and strive for the best.
Justin: I’ve always been influenced by my friends and all the people around me who are involved in music. It’s inspiring to develop your skills alongside great people doing the same.
Who has been your favorite person to work with so far?
Austin: Aside from each other, we have had so many amazing collaborators that it hard to pinpoint just one person. The majority of our collaborators end up becoming our friends as well, which makes naming one even more difficult. Definitely love the songs we’ve done with Nick Seeley, Andrew Tinker, and Emily Vaughn — one of which is our single “Too Late!”
Do you have any advice for other songwriters when it comes to curing a creative block? Do you have other hobbies you turn to?
Austin:I don’t really believe in writer’s block, I think you just need to find your mental release from what I think really stems from overthinking. For us, that’s throwing a football or playing pingpong in the short term, or taking a day to go snowboarding or taking a vacation.
Justin: Creative blocks can be very frustrating but they don’t have to be. A lot of times when we get stuck on something, we’ll go do something else outside of the studio. We try not to force our way through creative blocks and are patient until the right idea comes to us.
Do you have any advice you would give to yourself five years ago?
Austin: Be patient, and stress a little less, life’s got a way of working itself out, and it may not be how it initially seems, but retrospectively it’s usually for the better.
Justin: Everything I was doing five years ago led me to where I am today and I wouldn’t change anything about that.
Where do you see yourselves in five years? Do you have any long term goals as a group? Individually?
Austin: As long as I am still having the privilege of making music, and making it with people I really enjoy spending my time with, I will be super happy. I would love to sell out arenas and have multiple number one records of course, but as long as I can make music for a living, then life’s good!
Justin: I see myself continuing to do what I love everyday. We have long term goals and aspirations to the highest degree as a group which also includes the ability to create and perform music for a living.
What have you discovered about yourselves through the process of creating music?
Austin: I discover things about myself through the writing process on a regular basis that otherwise, I would have left buried down deep. Music is very cathartic in that sense.
Justin: I have discovered my ultimate passion. Creating music is something I can’t live without.
What are you most looking forward to this year? Personally and in regards to Parkwild.
Austin: I’m super excited to make the move to LA in June. New York will always be my home, and I definitely see myself ultimately ending up on the east coast, but a change of pace is something that I am ready for. As for PARKWILD, just getting the music out there is what I’m excited about for 2018.
Justin: I’m so excited to finally release music as PARKWILD. It is something we’ve been working toward since we first met in 2011!
What do you want fans to take away from your music?
Austin: I think that the songs come from such a deep place, and for fans to be able to connect with us and discover things about themselves in the process, that’s what I want fans to be able to take away.
Justin: I would love for fans to connect with the realness of our music. In writing about experiences we’ve had, we hope that fans can relate and find meaning in our songs.
Would you do anything differently?
Austin: I think we can both say that we wouldn’t change anything. We love where were at and the journey!
If you could tour with any band, who would it be and why?
Austin: I think it would be amazing to tour with OneRepublic or Imagine Dragons. I also think it would be awesome to tour with our good friend LAUV. I went to NYU with him and we’ve collaborated a lot as well, and even though our music doesn’t fully make sense to tour with his, it would be too fun of a hang to pass up.
Do you have a favorite venue you love to perform in? Dream venue to play?
Austin: I loved performing at Webster Hall while it was still open. Such an energetic place. My dream venues would have to be Terminal 5 in NYC, then of course Madison Square Garden.
Justin: One of my favorite venues was a simple stage setup on a beach for a small show that Austin and I played as a backing band for another artist. We played during sunset and it was one of the most memorable shows thus far. Being from Minnesota I would love to play First Avenue and eventually US Bank Stadium.
Waffles or pancakes? This is a really important question to Moments.
Austin “Canceled” Zudeck: PANCAKES…
Justin “Angel” Thunstrom: WAFFLES.
If you could describe the other in 3 words, what would they be?
Austin: Intelligent, Honest, Easygoing.
Justin: Diligent, intuitive, passionate.
What are you currently binge watching on Netflix? Do you relate to any of the characters?
Austin: I just finished watching both seasons of Wet Hot American Summer “First day of Camp” and “Ten Years Later”. You have to watch the movie first “Wet Hot American Summer”. I can thank my buddy Jake Price for getting me into it. I went to sleepaway camp as kid, so I think back in the day I related to the experience, not necessarily the characters themselves.
Justin: I currently don’t have a show because I just finished binging The 100. I’m anxiously awaiting season five! Until then I’m open to suggestions for a new show. I don’t know if I can relate to one character in particular, but I can relate to their determination and relentless persistence.
Have you ever had any music-related injuries? For example, when I was in 8th grade, I stepped on a violin case in the band room, it slid out from underneath me, and I dislocated my knee.
Austin: I sometimes dance around as a joke during rehearsal. There was one instance, I was going a bit too intensely and landed on a guitar pedal. I would have been fine, except I was barefoot, so that hurt a bit. It was temporary though, but very painful, like stepping on a Lego.
Justin: Thus far I have not be injured musically (crossing fingers).
If you could learn any new instrument, what would it be?
Austin: I’ve always had a fascination with country music, and thanks to my dad I grew up listening to it.. So I think it would be great to learn the mandolin.
Justin: I think it would be awesome to learn to play the cello or viola. I have always been fascinated by orchestral music and would love to score a film someday.
What’s your go-to drink order?
Austin: A rum and coke.
Justin: Mojito, always.
Do you have a special coffee order at Starbucks?
Austin: I don’t drink coffee, but oddly enough I love coffee ice cream. If I find myself in Starbucks, I go with a Caramel Hot Chocolate.
Justin: I’m not a coffee drinker so I’d have to go with a peach black tea. Unless it’s winter then I’m all about a caramel apple spice hot cider.