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Scrooged: An Interview with Papercuts

By ; February 16, 2011 at 12:55 PM 

Inspired by the 1988 Bill Murray movie of the same name, we bring you the third in a series of interviews called Scrooged.

Past

One Thirty BPM: Was there a particular moment when you decided to get into making music or was it more the result of a long-term gravitation?

Papercuts (Jason Robert Quever): Did you say ‘long-term gravitation’?

Yeah

That would be a good way to put it. I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision, I was just totally drawn to it. Early on, you don’t really think of it in terms of a job… I spent all my time doing it.

Was it something you started when you were young? Did you take musical lessons?

Yeah, for a couple of years I took guitar lessons. Then I got a four-track… and just sort of took off. I never stopped making recordings. It happened very naturally, just as a thing I liked to do whenever I had time. I studied art in school, but it never really took-over my focus too much.

You received a good amount of attention for Can’t Go Back. Then, with You Can Have What You Want, you didn’t get quite the same reaction. Are you prepared for either result with the new album?

Yeah, you can’t really worry too much about that. You just have to do it because it was fun to do, and not predict the end result.

I don’t know if I felt that way going through it, because it just sort of grew, as a band, and I didn’t really feel like things were going backwards at all… Yeah, I guess I just roll with it. I try not to have any outside expectations beyond just being able to make another record. That’s really all you want, that everyone who gave you money was happy enough that they’ll want you to do it again. That’s the only focus I have. Like if Sub Pop is happy, then I’ll get to do another one. And if they don’t, then I’ll just have to deal with that.

I think they are happy. I mean, everybody I know that has listened to the new record is very happy with it.

Cooool.

You mentioned ‘band,’ like with the previous albums. Did you consider it a band or did you think of it more as your project and you had some people playing with you?

Yeah, that’s probably closer to it. A band is a funny thing in that it seems like one thing if you don’t change your name, but it’s always different, a little bit, if some people are more involved than at other times. But, it’s always, at the base, me writing and recording at home first. So yeah, I guess I consider it more of a solo project, but the people I have now are pretty involved with it.

That’s what I read, that there had been a change.

Yeah, a lot of the songs we played before recording. This is a first in a lot of ways: I’ve never recorded in a studio before, I’ve never worked with a producer before, and I’ve never really rehearsed songs with a band before recording them. I’m still really possessive about the details in a way that no one will ever be.

Yeah, I mean, you wrote the songs.

Yeah, but it’s vaguely different now.

Have your influences varied from album to album, I mean, was something maybe informing the earlier work that is less apparent now, or vice versa? Not that there is a major difference between albums, it is still very much your voice and your songs, but the aesthetic has drifted.

Well, I feel like that is important to do. To not repeat yourself. It’s hard to get excited about a sound I’ve already done. I mean, obviously parts of the sound remain the same but you try to work with it in the confines of your own… talent, I guess.

It seems like it would be the easiest question to answer, but it’s always the most common question, about influences, but it’s actually the hardest for me to put my finger on. I don’t buy a ton of records and I certainly don’t get a record and think ‘this is what I want to influence me.’

‘I want to sound like this

In some ways it can be the opposite. I might have got into something that has nothing to do with how the record sounds… But, I think during Can’t Go Back I was listening exclusively to 60’s records at the time. And, it might have had too much influence on how I was perceiving things. I have a lot more variety now with an iPod.

Yeah, well, iPods exist now.

Yeah, because buying records before, it was used records. But I can’t really think of any conscious… I mean, I can’t really put my finger on what the new album sounds like because with Can’t Go Back the idea was mostly acoustic guitars. I thought it would be cool to make a record that I could play solo if I wanted to. Then on the last one, I got really into reverb and keyboards. This one, I just kind of wanted to do whatever. I wanted it to be as varied as possible.

Present

Fading Parade might hear the word “dreamy” associated with it often. Is there a particular attraction to you with this aesthetic?

I’m not sure what would make this more dreamy than the last one. I guess softer tones and reverb, but really there was probably more of that on the last one.

I mean, I guess it is hard to put you finger on what makes music “dreamy” but…

I mean, I don’t mind that at all, I guess I just didn’t set out to do anything this time, where I was trying for dreamy on the last one. I didn’t plan for that this time but things never come across exactly as you expect. It is obviously en vogue and I never consciously try to stay with anything. I think every time I try to make a record I think ‘we need less reverb this time.’ And, we never do. It just sort of transforms your voice so it’s really easy to want to throw on a bunch so you can actually enjoy hearing your own voice.

“I’ll See You Later I Guess” is one of the particular standouts for me…

Yeah, that one, when I think of that one I think dreamy because the instruments sort of blur so you don’t know what is what.

Yeah, there is almost a haziness to it, where it is a flippant comment on a painful memory.

Yeah, exactly.

What role does memory play in the way you write lyrics?

Well, this record, the title sort of plays on the idea of vague memories. But it’s never too specific, it’s more… feelings. It’s not that good to write about somebody and I don’t think any of the songs on the record are about any specific thing. I think for it to be fun, you have to think of someone’s different point of view, to get outside of my own head. I think if I wrote confessional, personal lyrics it wouldn’t be good, it would be too emo. It keeps it interesting to me to think of a different situation that’s not mine. Obviously it’s close. It’s the sort of things we all vaguely experience. But I don’t go into certain memories in particular.

You don’t want to have to bleed on stage in front of people.

Yeah, that’s a good point. You have to be someone else, anyway. You have to be removed. And, that’s an interesting thing, I’ve never thought about that, but when you’re in front of people you need a bit of a wall up. So maybe you need to feel like this is not me, that it’s a story. It would be harder to be like ‘I am sad because I am insecure’.

That wouldn’t make for the best night out on the town. Getting back to the idea of a more collaboration on Fading Parade, did you enjoy working in the collaborative spirit and is it something you are thinking about continuing?

Yeah. Hell yeah! It’s way more fun for me. It’s never been self-imposed, it’s just that I clock in the hours and I’m the one that is going to do that. But if everyone wants to be involved and we have the money… Getting someone like Thom (Monahan) is not free. I wanted to get Thom for the last one and that could be why, I mean, I remember seeing reviews of the last one that said it was ‘a little flat sounding.’ I definitely think that was exhaustion on my part. But yeah, I wanted to work with Thom last time, but it takes a long time to make a record and it’s not cheap. But yeah, I’ve always wanted to do this, but I think I just needed some time to explore myself, too, to find out how I wanted to present things in a way that I knew I wasn’t hearing that sound on another record. Now I am confident enough to explain to someone like Thom what I want and trust him that it is not going to fall apart if he changes something. And, obviously, he has way more experience than me, which is great. I’d love to do that again.

And the band, totally. It’s more fun to hear your record when you have other people on it. I just… I don’t want to listen to the records I made by myself. You can listen and be like ‘that was so fun; remember that day?’ or something, like ‘it was great what they played, I never thought about that part.’ You can hear new things because you didn’t do it.

Is audience reaction something you think about when you write?

That goes into it, but it can only go so far. I write a ton of songs and we recorded a few extras and we got responses about which ones people like the best and all that kind of stuff. So, I was open to that, which is like a small version of everybody else. You know? Like there’s people at Sub Pop and people that were around, so I sort of figured that was a microcosm for whoever might hear the record.

When you think of it on that level, I guess, kind of. But you got to please yourself and just hope that your tastes are not strange.

Future

So the album comes out March 1st and you are touring with Beach House about now-ish. And then Banjo or Freakout with you as the headliner in the spring. How does the music come across live, because it can seem more like solitary music on record, maybe solitary is the wrong word, but personal, I guess.

I don’t know how people perceive it. Like, I don’t know if it works. It’s always changing. Sometimes, you feel like you have a lot of energy to give and sometimes you want things to be subtle. I think for a while I was trying to do the old records as more energetic, but now I feel like the record is a little more energetic, so I’m just trying to do it like the record.

I mean, I don’t know if it is boring or not. Maybe standing up and listening to slow music is tiring but people still do it.

They manage to get through it somehow. Are you going to be playing older songs as well as the new material?

Probably mostly new. This is the first record that we actually learned all the songs. So, it’s kind of fun. I think when you asked earlier about audience reaction, I think we did gravitate towards playing things that would translate live, knowing that a lot of time is spent in front of people now. Before it was more bedroom oriented, you pretty much know now, like, you can picture which songs people might start talking through.

That’s the worst.

Yeah, I don’t really, I mean, I can’t really worry about what people will think.

You’ll find out soon enough.

Yeah, I guess we will. It’s just something I can’t think about because it is so far out of your control. I mean, it’s stressful because you want to please everybody, but at the same time, you can’t. You just have to make sure it is fun.

Well, at least with Beach House, you may be playing bigger venues, but it’s with a band who at least sounds remotely like you. It’s not like you are going on tour with The New Pornographers. At least it’s conceivable that the people there to watch Beach House might be into watching you, too.

Yeah, exactly, and they sound incredible right now. I don’t want to say that they are really tough to play with, but it does say something that a band that is really subtle is doing so well. I think if we execute really well, like they do, it will be really exciting. I don’t think people need a dance beat necessarily.

Do you have any creative ambitions beyond the band?

I mean, I feel really lucky to be playing in a band and I want it to keep going. I hope it keeps going. It’s probably my favorite thing to do, writing is definitely my favorite thing to do.

Lastly, when you think of your music endeavors and career, do you think of it as a success or is there anything you’d change about it?

I think the idea of success is way too subjective to really answer. I mean, some days yes and some days no. Some days you feel good about what you are doing and you have the perspective to see how lucky you are. Other days I feel the opposite, like ‘what is the point.’ But I’m happy to keep on truckin’, the way things are. For as long as I can.


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