Cleveland's Falling Stars Crank Up the Guitars on New Album

Group features two veteran local musicians who first met in high school

click to enlarge Falling Stars. - Cowtown Chad
Cowtown Chad
Falling Stars.
While singer-songwriter Chris Allen and guitarist Tim Parnin, who play together in the local rock group Falling Stars, weren’t exactly close friends when they attended St. Ignatius high school in the late '80s, they did know each other then. They played in different bands at the time and crossed paths when Allen’s band played a Battle of the Bands at the school. At that event, Parnin just happened to be the soundman and provided Allen with a Marshall amp and speakers.

“He brought me a Marshall stack,” says Allen, adding that one of his favorite rock ’n’ roll moments of all time came when he watched Parnin play Van Halen’s “Eruption” at an after party for an Ignatius basketball game at the high school cafeteria. “We got five votes for last, and five votes for first at that event.”

The two are sitting in a back room at Ready Set Coffee Roasters, the coffee joint in the Gordon Square Arts District that Allen runs with his sister, to talk about Lonely No More, the new Falling Stars album. The album comes out on Oct. 27 on Tee Pee Records.

Their friendship solidified in 2015 at a memorial for mutual friend Sean Kilbane, who booked bands at the Happy Dog. At that tribute concert, Allen asked Parnin to join him on a cover of the Replacements’ “Bastards of Young.”

“We then got together and wanted to come up with all new things,” says Allen, adding that early tunes they wrote, “Down and Out in Ohio” and “Losing Without You,” are still in the band’s repertoire. “We decided that if it worked, we would do it. And it worked out.”

The attempt to sound different from their other musical projects – Parnin plays with indie rockers Sweet Apple and Cobra Verde, and Allen leads the long-running alt-country act Rosavelt – meant that some songs took some time to complete.

“There are lots of songs that we had parts for early on,” adds Parnin. “One of those songs, ‘Another Wrong Way Out,’ is now a staple. That one was sitting around for almost a year, and it was so catchy, we knew we had to record it. People really like that one live even though it didn’t come naturally.”

The pair released Stranded in the Future in 2017 and followed it up with 2019’s Let It All Go EP.

Though the band initially just included Allen and Parnin, the duo eventually recruited bassist Dave Padrutt and drummer Gerry Porter. The four all play on Lonely No More, an album that distills influences such as Tom Petty, Dinosaur Jr., Husker Du and the Meat Puppets with songs such as "Lonely No More," a tune with a great J. Mascis-like guitar solo.

“I’m a pop junkie,” says Allen, adding that his taste in music isn't really much different from Parnin's. “There is a certain amount of guitar chaos that we both enjoy.”

“I like Eddie Van Halen, but I won’t finger-tap over one of Chris’s songs,” adds Parnin, who delivers the crisp licks found throughout the album.

On “Love Is Enough” and a cover of Tom Petty’s “Walls,” the group worked with Don Dixon (R.E.M., Smithereens), who also produced Stranded in the Future. However, the group tapped John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile) to produce and mix the bulk of Lonely No More.

To get the right vibe for the album, Agnello and the band headed to the Magic Barn in Solon, IA to record the album. That studio famously features the high-end Neve board from the now-shuttered New York studio the Magic Shop, a place where David Bowie and Lou Reed recorded.

Parnin and Allen say that the new album was also filtered through Padrutt, who added harmony vocals and pop sensibilities.

“He’s more vocally present,” says Allen when asked about Padrutt. “The first album was purposefully not a lot of backing vocals. He sings lead on 'Sky Is Falling' and has a sweet-sounding voice while mine sounds like it was murdered in the back alley, so it works out good.”

One of the new songs, “Indigo,” a tune that features a wall of guitars, has been part of their live set for nearly five years, and others combine Dinosaur Jr. guitar theatrics with sharp pop hooks, putting the band in a genre-less category of indie rock/pop.

"At this point, we don't feel like we need to make some homogenous album that can be marketed," says Parnin, who adds that the band has already started thinking about the next album and has gathered about 12 voice memos that represent the kernels of new songs. "If we like it, we like it. It doesn't even matter if we think the label will like it."

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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