Crosley and the B-Sides: Meet Paper Route
As an art school survivor, I'm no stranger to funky modern art installations. From Warhol to Judy Chicago (uh, maybe don't look her up at work), the expression of art through non-traditional mediums has new resonance in the digital world. Anyone can view a two-dimensional image on any device. Rows of people line up to take photos of the Mona Lisa on their phones. Figure that one out. But to walk into a curated, artistically crafted space is a completely unique experience that gives art its visceral feeling back.
So, naturally when I heard the band Paper Route took out an entire studio to create the visuals for new album, Chariots, I had to get in on that.
Burned out Televisions are a must for any art installation.
CROSLEY: Excited about Chariots, and the album that follows! This is an incredibly artistic album production, and the warehouse installation is incredible. Tell me everything! What gave you the first idea to install directly into a warehouse? Any performance artists come to mind?
Chad Howat: We are very conscious of the relationship between work and environment. It’s why we try to make our albums in non-traditional places like houses instead of studios. The environment informs the art. We also wanted to do the reverse, though. We wanted to bring our physical art to a new environment. We set up in a community work space area in Nashville. Most people there are creatives-graphic designers and whatnot…but we were there sawing, drilling, painting, filming, etc…We had always wanted to do something like this. It all stemmed from the idea of being on the cover of our album, something we’ve always resisted. JT has always been a talented visual artist and studied art in college. I know he’s been huge fan of Andy Warhol and I think he saw this as a small way in which to do our own version of the Warhol Factory. I’m a fan of Marina Abramovich-she’s the only performance artist I’m really familiar with, but I find that generally visual arts influence us quite a bit, actually.
CR: Chariots feels like a departure from Peace of Wild Things; and even from Laugh about it, while they seem like spiritual successors. Laugh About It is pretty cheerful-sounding, considering the subject matter. Was this intentional? A subversive move?
NICK ARANDA: One thing I really liked about Laugh About It was that it is all cheery and has a generally straight forward way of unfolding, at least sonically and structurally. But lyrically there is something off balance right from the start, and that was the edge to me, and from a guitar perspective I wanted to support that, which is why there are sharp cuts and jabs in the midst of a classic Pre-Chorus kind of section. So I guess I would say there is something subversive even in that. We are drawn to making moves like that.
CH: We like to paint with a lot of colors in our palette. Some artists are gifted at creating a mood that lasts the entirety of the album. Our albums reflect our lives in that there is a wide range of experiences. We never want to make the same album twice. Once people know what to expect from you, they should move on, I think. There is hopefully enough in our DNA that ties all our albums and music together, but we want each song and album to be new experiences for us as well as our listeners.
CR: How is the approach to pressing vinyl been different than getting a CD produced, or digital production?
NA: I really enjoy the large physical presence of vinyl. It's such a louder statement visually to make art that can be pictured in that size. It demands more attention, and that is the appeal to me. I think it requires a lot of mindfulness both in the sonic approach in terms of mastering, and in the packaging/visual effort to match. It has so much more vitality.
CH: When brainstorming the album artwork, we primarily thought ONLY in terms of how it would look and feel on vinyl. The uptick in vinyl as of late is fantastic. We have the ability to listen to any music wherever and whenever we want, but sitting down and listening to vinyl mindfully is one of life’s simplest pleasures and we are grateful that some people want to listen to our music that way. (Chad Howat)
CR: You’re in Tennessee! Not too far from us. How is Tennessee/the mid-south as a music scene? As an art scene?
CH: Tennessee has a long, rich history in music. We have Nashville AND Memphis! So in addition to the legacy of these two cities, the current music scene is quite vibrant. Living in Nashville, we’ve seen a lot of exciting things happen, and interest in Nashville artists seems to be peaking again. The music scene currently seems to be “anything goes”, which largely reflects the global attitude towards music. That being said, Nashville tends to be all about the song, so in addition some of the greatest musicians in the world, the song craft is unbeatable, although we’ve always sort of felt like a black sheep here!
CR: What was the first full song you played live together?
NA: That would be an early song, from an EP prior to Absence. We played the song "American Clouds" and that was my first time live with the guys. Incidentally it was the first time I had played an electric guitar in front of people, which only then it occurred to me that I hoped I wasn't awkward looking. I've seen some bass-players-gone-guitar, and it can be unsightly. (laughs)
Things are looking up for Paper Route!
CR: How did the collab with Jorgen Odegard come about? It’s killer.
CH: The Jorgen Odegard collaboration was actually a surprise to us. Our manger, Mac Reynolds, said that he had a surprise for us. Next thing we knew we had an mp3 in our email. I remember I was eating tacos by myself while in LA and I pressed play. I smiled ear to ear when I heard it. The song was recorded in a few days, released a few weeks later, and then remixed just a few weeks after that. It was a very quick process.
CR: What’s your favorite piece to play live?
NA: This one is gonna sound like I'm being prodded, but I honestly think "laugh about it" and "chariots" right now. Playing new songs live and watching them develop into a whole new beast is quite a thrill. Chariots was exciting from the first moment we started it, at Echo Bar in Los Angeles. Of the older songs, I always loved playing "Rabbit Holes" from The Peace of Wild Things. It is sort of surreal, and it has it's own arc. It's kind of a wrecker. (Nick Aranda)
CR: What was your first album? (CD or Vinyl!)
NA: The first strong memory for me was Insomniac by Green Day on CD. (Still have it and opening the long broken jewel case is part muscle memory, part tradition. It broke in this specific way so I had to open the cd very carefully to prevent it falling straight off the tray onto the floor.) My first vinyl was definitely from a Goodwill. I got a copy of Zeppelin IV because I knew it would be the most immediate way to make myself go find a turntable.
CR: If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
NA: George Harrison. I would just love to experience what it's like to be in such an apparent deep inner peace, like a sacred musical well.
CR: If you could go on a road trip with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
NA: I think I'd have to throw this one back. Like early 60's Stones in the USA, or even earlier, like an Elvis Presley all-cadillac rear view mirror dice kind of tour. Guitar cases strapped to the roof. I think the wilder the better. The people who lived through those times always told those stories with the most nostalgia.
CH: Yeah, I’d say Johnny Cash-the million dollar quartet with him and Elvis and those guys…It just feels like they’d get on Route 66 and live a lifetime of stories in a week!
CR: Who is your favorite artist outside of your genre? Or, who is your guilty pleasure artist?
NA: We constantly debate whether there is such a thing as a "guilty pleasure" in our listening. There are such credibilities in a lot of ours. Like. Isn't Yacht Rock kind of amazing? Michael McDonald is using these very nonlinear patterns in the synths and the overall melodies walk around so whimsically. So It's kind of calculated, but kind of rule breaking at the same time? And if it breaks some rules, doesn't it then actually become kind of edgy? The debate is ongoing.
CH: I do my best not to think in terms of genre, but sometimes it helps when you need to find something that fits your mood. Sometimes we listen to really heavy music like Deftones or Tool. I also LOVE Elton John-he’s my favorite artist of all time. But oftentimes when I’m making dinner at home, I’ll listen to Serge Gainsbourg or Brigitte Bardot. Billie Holiday is one of my favorites too!
CR: When it comes to soundtracks- which one catches your ear?
NA: Well Max Richter is a band favorite composer, so there are some more recent works of his, like the Leftovers, that we are REALLY big fans of. The change from the first season intro/theme to the second was Astonishing. You kind of hated the kitsch of the switch at first, but the contrast really makes it so interesting. I think he was used on the Netflix series "Chef's Table" also, which is also a big hit in Paper Route's homes.
CH: I really love John Barry and his soundtrack for “Somewhere In Time”. I had the theme played in my wedding, actually. He’s amazing and I highly recommend that. Of course, I also love Vangelis and anything that Ennio Morricone does, especially “Once Upon A Time In The West”. I’m hoping to score some films in the not-so-distant future!
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