What better way to ring in the New Year with an interview from Atlanta-based band, Paper Lights? With their album Great Escapes released in 2016, and the deluxe edition being released on January 10th of 2017, everything is building up for an incredibly exciting year. Check out the album here, and find what Dan of Paper Lights has to say below!
You’ve crafted a fantastic album that fans and critics are loving, in part because of your approach to recording and using the sounds around you. Why did you choose to take this playful approach instead of something more rigid and standard?
Dan: Well thank you! I think the reason we used a lot of unconventional sounds is that I’ve always felt more connected with imperfections in music. With software it’s really easy to get everything sounding so robotic and perfect but it always feels like something is lost. When we add sounds like a door shutting or creaky pedal noise it always seems to bring some character back to the song. I feel like that kind of imperfection is a major source of connectivity for our music with an audience.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you meet? What was the moment you realized you had to become Paper Lights?
Dan: Well I started a project a few years ago and included lots of our musician friends from around Atlanta. The name came early on and just stuck. I met Josh around the same time we were starting it and eventually invited him to collaborate. He’s the only one who really grabbed on and has contributed a lot to the project. After a while I think we just realized that the two of us had a great writing process so we became the band and brought other musicians in as needed.
Who are your musical influences?
Dan: We each like a lot of different composers and arrangers like Nico Muhly, Thomas Newman, Nils Frahm and Jon Hopkins. I’m also a big fan of anything Bon Iver, Jonsi and Sigur Ros.
Your lyrics often have a note of advice or wisdom buried within. I’m thinking about “Adherent”, “Place to Begin” and of course “Everything Takes Time”. Did you make a conscious choice to look outward as well as inward when you wrote the lyrics?
Dan: Anything that comes across like advice or preachy has always been for myself. Sometimes I try to write songs from the point of view of other people and try to think about how I might feel in different situations. It’s weird but I wrote “Adherent” from an assumed perspective of a friend who was trying to escape from an oppressive religious system. It’s something I related to personally so a lot of the lyrics were a reminder for myself.
You have a reputation for great live shows. How important is being able to recreate the sounds on your album for live performances?
Dan: Thanks, I think because we rely on textures and sounds to communicate as much as lyrics it was really important for us to make live shows sound exactly like the record. We’ve been able to sample a lot of those same sounds and trigger them in live performances. For Great Escapes it was a challenge but we worked hard to find a good balance between those samples and live percussion. Also, I think finding the right musicians who understand that balance has been key to making the quality of our live shows consistent with the record.
How has the music scene in Atlanta influenced and helped you along?
Dan: I think the diversity of genres here has certainly opened my mind up to different influences. It’s changed my listening habits in ways I didn’t expect. We used some slightly hip hop sounding kick snare patterns on the Great Escapes record that were most likely influenced by our environment here.
What artists or bands are you currently loving?
Dan: I’ve been listening to this singer songwriter named Kim Janssen lately that I like a lot. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Lord Huron and JRJR’s new record since a festival we played with them in Winter Park last summer.
The deluxe edition of Great Escapes will be out on January 10th, but apart from that, what’s next for you?
Dan: We’re working on a video project with the National Parks that will involve us writing a record in a mobile studio as we travel. It’s something we’ve been working on the details for the last few months and we’re really excited about it. I’m convinced that our environments are the main influencer of creativity so it’ll be fun to see what happens.