Exploring Parenthetical Girls' obsession with Kate Bush

Rebecca Ambrose

Parenthetical Girls

Zac Pennington

Kate Bush just released her tenth studio album, 50 Words For Snow, and there are few people outside of the 1980s UK that love Kate Bush more than Parenthetical Girls' Zac Pennington. The Portland group began recording in 2003 and have three albums and various other projects from EPs to tribute albums. Among these is the EP, Demos for the Dreaming, a whole EP of Kate Bush covers.


Pennington's obsession with Kate Bush began more with an adolescent obsession with Tori Amos—who apparently had a piano bench decoupaged with pages from Kate Bush's book. Then, Pennington met Jherek Bischoff. Bischoff and Pennington have been collaborating since the start of Parentheticial Girls and they found commonality in their love of Bush. (Bischoff's dad has a framed copy of Never For Ever on the wall of their home studio. Bush was everywhere.) With Bischoff's help and Pennington catching up on all the years missed, Kate Bush soon had another twentysomething American to adore her. Dream come true.

For Pennington, asking the question, “Why Kate Bush?” is like asking “Why David Bowie?” It doesn't really need to be asked. It just is. Pennington describes Bush's presentation as “unapologetically pretentious, drama school, and ostentatious.” He adds that “these are all adjectives that can describe anything worth listening to.” And he's right.

Yet at the same time Pennington describes Kate Bush in a way that I think would even surprise Kate Bush. “She is singularly ambitious in the way that all great pop iconoclasts are: she makes deceptively bizarre and challenging music that is also somehow totally accessible AND hugely popular,” he says. “Her work is obsessive and messy, and exists entirely in a vacuum of her own design. It's also totally absurd at times, but also like all great pop iconoclasts, its genius totally transcends its absurdity, just as it celebrates it.”

This love is what led Parenthetical Girls to release a whole EP of Kate Bush covers. The idea started with an invitation to a tribute night at Holocene, a club in Portland. The band decided to take on the challenge and began laying out ideas, sketches and sketches of ideas. The challenge soon expanded into something more than the band anticipated but also into something worth sharing. As Pennington says, “They're embryonic at best, but there's something that I really like about them.” But, in the end, Pennington only wishes for one thing: a time machine to go back and have the perfect date with Kate Bush in 1979.

You can download the EP, Demos for the Dreaming, for free here and check out Parenthetical Girls live in Brooklyn tonight at Glasslands with Gauntlet Hair. Maybe they'll play a Kate Bush song for you.

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