For their new album, Nashville band Paper Route secluded themselves in an old house in the hills of Tennessee. They're the first to admit that this type of approach has become a bit clich, but there's a reason for it. Left alone with just your thoughts, the mind can wander and ruminate, stumbling upon new creative inspirational ground in which to build a new body of work. That body4 of work is Real Emotion; the band's righteous, intensely personal new album.
When the band swung through Brooklyn for their Baeble NEXT Session, we had the chance to sit down with JT Daly and Chad Howat. They're fairly easy-going fellows, but that doesn't mean the songs they played in session ("Chariots", "Writing On The Wall", and "Balconies") don't touch on complex depths of emotion. "It's about growing up, getting older, and a lot of it has to do with mental health," Chad explained during our conversation. It's interesting subject matter to explore for the first time. Real Emotion has revealed things about their fan base they never would have known without such heavy subject matter. Fans feel closer than ever to the band, sharing stories about overcoming depression or making the decision to pursue a psychology degree because of the album. "It's been honestly remarkable", JT explained. "I've almost teared up multiple nights talking to people after shows".
No tears here though. Our newest session is compelling look at Paper Route's heartfelt, brave new batch of tunes, out in the open and stripped to the bones.
the band Paper Route. - We try to avoid the question of describe your music. - Do you have any other questions. - How does Da Vinci describe the Mona Lisa? - Yeah, how does he? I would have loved if you would have picked up a wrong painting though. - Yeah. - Wherever we are at that moment, that's where that album is. And you can tell honestly, it might be inspiring or maybe we might cringe every once in a while looking back at those albums because it's very much like this is exactly where we were at that point in our lives. Love is never invincible It's the mystical, a body into a soul You, you thought of me differently, Traded everything, a moment in memory You promised me that everything is fair if it's love and war But you're giving up the fight Is it not worth fighting for? All of this tethered to the heart, holding what you meant If it's really what you want then I confidently send Chariots I send my love to carry it Without your guard our chariots fall Chariots No part of us left innocent Without your heart our chariots fall Chariots Blind to think you would never thirst in the burning earth and trade what our love is worth But I'm, I'm sewn to your sleeve refuse to retreat I'm chasing every shadow off the wall I am caught in time All these chemicals I take can't erase you from my mind All of this tethered to a thought I am holding here If it's really what you want then I'll patiently prepare Chariots I send my love to carry it Without your guard our chariots fall Chariots No part of us left innocent Without your heart our chariots fall Chariots I'm losing my faith I'm losing it all Just give me a chance before Where's the blood? Where's the blood? Where's the blood? I'm losing my faith I'm losing it all Just give me a chance before Where's the blood? Where's the blood? Where's the blood? I'm losing my faith I'm losing it all Just give me a chance before Where's the blood? Where's the blood? Where's the blood? Chariots fall Chariot Yeah Chariots fall Chariots - Sometimes we write songs that may not make complete sense to us at the time but we feel like they're right and then overtime they kind of take on their own meaning or fans will kind of find their own meaning in it and reflect that back to us and then we're like, "Wow, you're right, you know. " A lot our stuff is only understood when we look backwards on it, you know. - No art should make sense all the time. I think you're always in the state of becoming, yeah. New record is called Real Emotion. We rented a house in the hills of Tennessee and moved our studio out there and just secluded ourselves for a while and wrote and wrote and wrote and that became Real Emotion. And it's kind of just about growing up and getting older and a lot of it has to do with mental health and getting past the phase of life where you're falling in love for the first time and it's now like what's step two of love and what does that look like? - The thing that excites me the most about releasing this album... I mean in the past it would like, "Oh, man," like touring or the possibility of where this one's going to go or just getting it out, because our story has been so bizarre as a band. But on this one I think we've never really had something so...I guess such an easy bull's eye as...like this one is very, mental health is a huge issue on this one, and it's been just honestly remarkable, like I've almost teared up multiple nights talking to people after shows and they're just like, "You have got me through so much," or someone told me the other day like, "I told my boyfriend that I'm bipolar. I've never confessed that to him. " I had someone come up to me and say like, "I'm choosing psychology as a major because of the things I've gone through. " Someone last night was like, "I've lost a year of my life and I told my dad, 'Who's ever going to want me?' and now I'm happily married three years in." And I think that's just been very... I mean that alone was worth this entire whatever you want to call it as a band, a journey, the ups and downs. It's been huge to see a very almost like tangible results. You want to know You should be left alone I forgave you once, maybe twice I took control But you're writing on the wall, writing on the wall You want it all I've been through this before So I gave it once, maybe twice I took control But you're writing on the wall, writing on the wall Dip your finger in ink, finger in ink Spell it out, write it down, what do you think? How does it feel? You were there for the fall Dip your finger in ink, finger in ink It's a bitter cup filling up baby let's drink How does it feel knowing that it's your fault? You want to know You should be left alone I forgave you once, maybe twice I took control But you're writing on the wall, writing on the wall You want it all I've been through this before So I gave in once, maybe twice I took control But you're writing on the wall, writing on the wall Writing on the wall Never was your fault Draw a line in the sand line in the sand If the money's right overnight flash in a pan How does it feel laying down to be sold? Draw a line in the sand line in the sand It's an appetite oversight, choose where you stand How does it feel holding on just to fold You want to know You should be left alone I forgave you once, maybe twice I took control But you're writing on the wall, writing on the wall You want to know I've been through this before So I gave in once, maybe twice I took control But you're writing on the wall, writing on the wall You want to know Writing on the wall Never was your fault Writing on the wall Never was your fault Raise your arms and hold balconies of grace Raise your arms and hold what you can't replace - Balconies is maybe the simplest song we've ever written and it's probably the easiest song we've ever written, because most of the songs we write are not easy and it was just... I came in with a track and a musical bed. I played it for JT the first day we moved into that house in the Tennessee Hills and the next morning he came upstairs from the basement with the lyrics and the melody and that was done. And it's just one of those songs that kind of...it's almost the opposite of Writing on the Wall where it kind of translates on in any setting, just a piano or full band. - It's a drive song. - It's a driving song. - That was our... - The road trip song. - It was always like a dream of ours like, "We still haven't really nailed like we're on a road trip song," where you can just play and play and play and I kind of feel like we did it on that one. Hey, cheers. You're tearing out my heart burning a memory in time I know that it's my fault trading out trouble with pride Raise your arms and hold balconies of grace Raise your arms and hold what you can't replace It's the simple things that I can't get right It's the hunting heart trying to survive And for every wound there's a hill to climb. Can we reach that high, reach that high You don't have to speak You can just sleep while I drive And if I'm in your dreams am I what you want to find? Raise your arms and hold balconies of grace Raise your arms and hold what you can't replace It's the simple things that I can't get right It's the hunting heart trying to survive And for every wound, there's a hill to climb Can we reach that high, reach that high Raise your arms and hold Raise your arms and hold Raise your arms and hold balconies of grace There's loneliness in the things we need But inside your eyes I am reflecting There is grace to hold over you and me There are balconies, balconies Raise your arms and hold Raise your arms and hold
Early in the autumn of 2014, Paper Routes JT Daly, Chad Howat, and Nick Aranda moved into a cabin deep in the hills of Middle Tennessee, set up a makeshift studio, and spent a month dreaming up material for their third album. Just as they did for the making of The Peace Of Wild Things (a 2012 release created in a creaky plantation house called Joy Mansion), the Nashville-based trio purposely chose a remote and ramshackle space that promised retreat from the rest of the world. We like to work within the limitations that come with being far away from everything, says Daly, Paper Routes singer and main lyricist. It keeps us uncomfortable in a way that ends up being really inspiring.
Called the North House, Paper Routes temporary home brought contact solely with non-human life forms: bats whizzing past their heads during band meetings, snakes slithering into the house in the middle of the night, a tarantula-sized spider creeping into their piano only to be coaxed out by Howats 1930s-horror-flick-inspired improv on the keys (We felt like we were living in a parable, says Aranda, where all these crazy crawling things would suddenly appear out of nowhere, often in twos). But in a band that thrives equally on intense collaboration and solo experimentalism a dynamic thats shaped their lavishly textured, beat-heavy alt-rock for more than a decade those isolated quarters provided a perfect breeding ground for Paper Routes ever-evolving creativity. Living in the North House, there was an intimacy that isnt possible in real life, says Howat. I could be working on a song and hear something through the walls, and that would give me a whole new idea about what Im doing. We were able to hunker down and just completely immerse ourselves in this shared experience.
As a result, Paper Route carved out a vital new sound that closely reflects their purity of intention. Making this album, we really chased the feeling we all had back when we were just beginning to discover the wonder of music, says Daly. That feeling I can still remember from taping 'Champagne Supernova on my boombox when it debuted on the radio thats what we wanted to get into these songs.
Charged with the raw energy that Paper Route has revealed in touring the world with bands like Imagine Dragons and Passion Pit, the as-yet-untitled album achieves that feeling in part by making guitars central to its intricately crafted arrangements. On Balconies, for instance, a blistering guitar solo cuts through the songs airy atmospherics, building a brilliant tension against shimmering synth and Dalys soulful vocals. On the last record, the guitar was kind of the cherry on top an afterthought. For this one we wanted to go somewhere new, but also channel the spirit of the guitarists we loved as teenagers, says Howat, who names George Harrisons solo efforts and Blurs Graham Coxon as key inspirations. For help in sharpening that guitar-centric sound, Paper Route made use of the production and mixing skills Howat has honed in his work with artists like Paramore and Brooke Waggoner, and also enlisted the expertise of Darrell Thorp (an engineer whos previously worked with Beck, Radiohead, Air and Paul McCartney.
Paper Route first conjured up their melody-driven take on electronic-leaning alt-rock back in 2004, when Howat began using music as a means of battling insomnia. When I couldnt sleep Id make tracks on my laptop, and after a while I showed those tracks to JT and asked if he wanted to start a project together, says Howat. An old friend from college and former bandmate, Daly was then working as a painter and graphic designer (an ongoing endeavor that includes creating artwork for Paper Route as well as artists like Sufjan Stevens and Wilco Building off their powerful chemistry, Daly and Howat put out their first two EPs in 2006: a self-titled release and the three-song Thrill of Hope, whose closing track The Music later appeared in 500 Days of Summer. Over the next few years, Paper Route split their time between touring with arena-filling acts like Paramore and sharing smaller stages with the likes of Thurston Moore and Mark Kozelek (their fellow performers at SXSW 2008s Lou Reed tribute show). Releasing their full-length debut Absence in 2009, the band continued to straddle the pop and indie worlds, heading out on the road with Imagine Dragons in 2013 and embarking on their own headlining tour in 2014.
When it came time for the follow-up to The Peace Of Wild Things, Paper Route shook up their process with an experiment they named Band Camp. Wed just come off the road and we were exhausted but starving to create again, so we made up a series of exercises to try to kickstart everything, says Daly. For one week, Paper Route invited various musician-friends into their Nashville studio to try out those exercises (example: Play the heaviest song you can, as quietly as possible). While the band ended up scrapping most of the material born from Band Camp, they found themselves re-energized and refreshed by the time they headed to the North House. And though the album marks Daly and Howats first time writing with Aranda, the longtime touring guitarist gelled instantly with his new full-time bandmates. The three of us being in the same space, where theres this wide-open soundboard and anyone can sing a melody as soon as it comes to them it created something fully collaborative and just felt really great, Aranda says.
One factor that fostered that collaboration: Paper Routes unified vision of tapping into a deep-seated need for connection and transformation. We love the idea of being a voice someone else might cling to, the same way we did when we found those bands that changed our lives, who made us want to lock ourselves in our rooms and play their records over and over, says Howat. At the same time, Paper Route aspire to protect and preserve what Daly refers to as the sacredness of the musical language. With music, you can make people feel like theyre having a better day than they are, you can make them remember that theyre in love or not in love, you can make them mourn or make them celebrate, he says. Its a very powerful thing, and Im pretty positive that weve served that sacredness with much honesty.