Earlier this week, we attended an exclusive event with alt-rock band, Paper Route. The event, organized by AirBnB as part of the company’s new Music Experiences initiative, strives to close the gap between artists and their fans. The company collaborates with artists and venues to organize intimate events, in which the artists can share new music, ask or answer questions and – in the case of Paper Route’s showcase – show off a magic trick or two.
Paper Route first came together after JT Daly and Chad Howat moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Once together in the city, they began collaborating on tracks and sharing their music on the early-2000s mega-site, MySpace. The band quickly built a following, playing arenas with bands like emo-rock royalty, Paramore. Nick Aranda officially joined the band just before they began working on their newest album, Real Emotion.
Before their show, we sat down with the band to talk about artistic influences, creating their most recent album and their decision to collaborate with AirBnB.
Lets go back to a little bit before Paper Route. When and how did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music? Is there a single defining moment or a bunch of experiences that led to your decision?
JT Daly: This is one of the most single defining moments in my life, which I’ve only recently started talking about. I was a little one. In my youth, I heard “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden, and was like, “I think I want to be a singer for the rest of my life.” It was obviously an uphill battle considering that his was one of the best voices of all time. (Laughs). I guess I just don’t know really how to undo [that experience], personally. This is kind of the only thing I know how to do now.
Nick Aranda: Mine was similar but kind of on the opposite end of the scale. It was not so much being like, “That is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard” or, “I wanna do that with my life.” It was more like, I didn’t really realize or comprehend what a “band” was until I heard this interview. This band in 1997 was putting out an album. They were Canadian and it was their second album but it was the first one that was getting attention in the States. It was Our Lady Peace. They were playing songs on the radio and I thought the songs were cool but then the songs would stop and they had the band in the studio doing an interview. It was just like normal dudes answering questions, talking about their songs and then they would play the next song. They previewed three or four songs that way. I remember that we got to where we were going and I made my Dad leave the car on so we could listen to it and after, I just realized, “Oh, you can just decide to be a musician and that’s what you’ll be.” So, then, 12-year-old me was like, “I’m going to go for it.”
Chad Howat: For me, I just grew up making songs, making movies, just being creative. As I got older, I was pursuing a degree in psychology. I was 18 and decided that I needed to give a career in music a shot. So, I decided to put the psychology pursuit on-hold and study music business, and that’s when I met JT and we started making music together.
Earlier, JT mentioned Soundgarden and Chris Cornell, so who been have some of your biggest artistic influences? Are there any artists that formed your interest in music or anyone that you’re really into right now?
Nick: It’s ever evolving. There are definitely some staples that we reference that inspire us but…I don’t know where to start.
JT: When we first started, it was a lot of Björk and Massive Attack but we were also living in Nashville, TN and I think that kind of bled into out songwriting. We love storytelling but we were also mid-west boys at that point. I think the only stories that we felt comfortable telling were our own and so, artists like Ryan Adams really stuck out to us at that point. Now, we just love British melody. Blur. Radiohead. Oasis. It’s constantly changing. Now, it’s also a ton of soundtrack stuff. Chad does a lot of soundtrack stuff on the side and instrumental things. Elliott Smith is [Nick’s] favorite artist.
Chad: JT’s obsessed with Nick Cave.
Nick: Chad, would you say that you kind of have a hero like that?
Chad: For me…maybe not as much as you guys do. I kind of have a hero every year. I think [Nick’s] got Elliott Smith and [JT’s] got Nick Cave. Right now, mine’s Max Richter, probably. A year ago, it was probably Nigel Godrich, or something. I think the common thread between us is that we’re constantly chasing inspiration, which is kind of an uphill battle as you get older because you can never hear something new for the first time. That’s why we’re trying to expose ourselves to new types of music. The other night we were listening to –
JT: Oh, man.
Chad: (Laughs.) This genre called Plunderphonics and a record by The Caretaker. It’s wild. He has another album that is just all mechanical sounds. It’s almost more of an art installation than music. So, I don’t know, I guess we have to try harder to find more inspiration. We’re also drawing inspiration from other arts as well. It’s kind of actually blending into aspects of this tour, as we’re not confined to a stage.
I discovered that you guys created Real Emotion in a house deep in the hills of Tennessee. Why did you decide on that space? How did the space inform your creative process?
Nick: It’s a little bit of a two-way street – the way that that space shaped the sound – because there were some forces of nature there that we really could not have prepared for, no matter what we did. Namely, it was spiders. There was a major spider problem in the lower level of this house. At one point, it became almost biblical. We had just left for the weekend. JT was still there and he was having dinner [with friends].
At this moment, the members look to one another and shake their heads. The familiarity between the musicians is striking. Paper Route seems to be not only a band but also, a group of close friends coming together to overcome hurdles, celebrate triumphs, and share stories that emerge along the way.
Nick: While they’re leaving, they find snakes downstairs, and he battled single-handedly these snakes with spiders running in and out. It’s just like, what? Super strange. It was an Airbnb that we had found, and I actually walked in once it was decorated, so I didn’t get to see the transformation. They brought every poster, anything iconic, from the studio. There were beads over a doorway that had a sacred-heart, Catholic-inspired art piece. All of that was installed by the time I arrived. They definitely walked into a suburban style house and took everything down. It was a little bit like throwing as much of ourselves into the space and letting it kind of playback, but being so remote is the purpose. [We become] completely unplugged from influences and it just becomes more sacred when you put that much effort into the space. It’s definitely been a band tradition, even before this album.
Did you go into the studio with a vision for your most recent album or did you let it grow organically as you were collaborating and interacting with one another?
Chad: I think it kind of came in two parts. For this record, we kind of just threw everything at the wall to see what would stick and then took a small break and looked for some common threads amongst the standout ideas. We kind of realized a couple of interesting things to chase. Some of the other songs fell by the wayside and we kind of kept some, but when we got the house in the hills, it really was a concentrated effort to shape the cornerstones of that album. We eventually took that back to Nashville to write the other half but we knew that we had those cornerstone songs to build upon.
In your band’s various biographies and descriptions, you speak of the “sacredness of musical language” in connection to your sound. Could you elaborate a little bit on this point? How do you preserve this sacredness in your sound?
JT: Believability is the thing that means the most to us. Just the storytelling aspect, you know? We really only felt comfortable telling our own stories and that’s not to say that we might not evolve past that but that has been a huge part of our band’s DNA. I think that everything’s sacred but what means the most to us is us being honest and true to ourselves. I think the reason why that translates is that the people who are listening to our music are usually the people who relate to it. We are basically learning from each other and helping each other evolve.
The band members nod in agreement.
JT: That’s what I think is so important about this tour that we’re doing now as we basically tore down all of the walls, the natural progression of a touring band. You get a little bit bigger, you play the same venue, you go back and you bring more production and you get further and further and further away from the actual humans. We decided to just flip it completely upside down and after out third album, you know, [and as we’re] growing as human beings – we’re getting older and our stories are changing – we wanted to go back and look everyone in the eye and hear their stories. A part of each of these shows is people asking questions and them telling stories, and us sharing stories. I think in general that is, for lack of a better description, a language that we’re speaking. It’s the Paper Route language. We’re sharing these moments in life. We’re sharing these hurts. We’re sharing these joys. We’re celebrating things together.
Chad: I would just add one practical thing, this mantra we had. The first day we moved in, we pitched this idea of like, “if no one else is going to hear this record, what would we make just for the three of us?” So, that was just like something to keep in the back of our heads because that helps to keep the purity. Eventually there’s going to be management and A&R and marketing and they’re all going to speak into these ideas. So, let’s just try to keep this as internal and close to our chest for the first part of the process. So, we just kind of pretended that no one’s going to hear this record, ever.
Nick: We actually wrote that on the walls. We’d hang up all of these giant strips of brown paper. JT is sort of like the official band scribe (all laugh) for all intensive purposes. He’s got notes. If we’re kind of struggling with something in a musical moment, there’s like a feeling when something’s wrong, you know? It’s just not going the right way and I’ll just look over and he’ll have written something new on the wall. I will try to carry that idea back into it. Every time you get stuck, you can look around and see these questions that we’re trying to continue to ask ourselves. It keeps you honest…with yourself. That’s the key.
You guys have played huge arenas and smaller venues alike. Now, on The Space Invaders Tour, you are offering “intimate musical events” to your fans with four special shows delivered in collaboration with AirBnB. What drew you to this collaboration? Can you speak a little bit about the experience so far?
JT: We were having this conversation about basically how to do everything that we wouldn’t do and the living room tours got brought up. A lot of artists are doing living room tours now. We though that was great but we kind of just wanted to blow it up. We just asked ourselves, “What would we do in a living room setting?” I think that sort of led to [the idea of] not limiting it to just going to homes to play. Let’s play spaces. That somehow led to AirBnB as, being the brilliant company that it is, they have spaces. It’s not just homes. It’s these unique buildings or areas in general, you know? I mean, we played on a hill next to the ocean on this tour. So, that became a running conversation, and we reached out to [AirBnB] and chatted. We also listened to this podcast with the CEO and we were just really impressed with his vision.
Chad: We always have an affinity for the underdog and they are like the new guys who are doing something different. When they started, it was a weird idea and the masses weren’t really understanding [of it]. But now, they’re taking on the big corporate giants. Anyone who has an underdog story, we have an affinity for it.
Nick: Right. And I think if you’re [operating] a hotel and you want to deliver the most incredible experience to a guest, you would offer room service, activities, discounts to play golf and tennis, and beautiful pools, and it comes to this sort of opulence. Whereas, the first time you stayed in an Airbnb, I bet you were like, “Somehow, this is really freaking awesome! This is way better than any hotel.” Somehow they translated this desire to connect people to a community and that’s what I was really attracted to. We’re constantly trying to do that; we’re constantly trying to not just stack more riches upon it to make it look better. We’re trying to find a way to make it feel more real, like something happened.
Absolutely. When you book a hotel, you’re staying in a room, but when you book an AirBnB, you’re staying in a home.
Chad: Right. We’re using AirBnB for accommodation during this show, as when you go to a different city, you want to stay in a neighborhood, you know? Meet with the locals. They’re just getting rid of the middleman and we’re getting rid of the middleman when it comes to playing a show.
You’ve released a new album and you’re about to finish a tour. Do you have any upcoming plans that you’d like to share? Have you started thinking about your next project?
Nick: Definitely. As far as the plans, I think we’re still in the dreaming phase and that relates to what we’re going to continue to do with Real Emotion. I think we have some fans that are dying for us to come to Europe and things like that. There are some places where we should honor that and so, bring the music to those fans, but we also tend to be impatient. We are already ready to start putting something else together, so it’s in the dreaming phase. That’s what’s been cool having just the three of us out [on tour] as it’s a lot easier to do that. Normally, you’d have to finish the tour, get done with everything and find a way to get away and have the time to dream about that. So, I think we’re kind of feeling that familiar kind of pull starting again.
As they prepare one of the final shows of this tour, the members of Paper Route seem happy and relaxed in the face of the future. During the few minutes to spare before the band begins to set up for the show, we ask a couple of quick, closing questions.
If you decided to completely change your music style tomorrow, which genre would you transition into?
Chad: (Without pause.) Plunderphonics.
JT: I would love to do rap. It would be hilarious.
Chad: I’ve been trying to get JT to rap for a while now. It would be so much fun.
Nick: We had a question [at our show] last night. It was a hypothetical. You get to make a super band with other musicians. Three from any group, any time period, whatever, and yourself. And the band that I made, I think it would be kind of sick to start. The first one that I picked was [Dave] Grohl. Grohl’s going to play the drums. Josh Homme is going to come in –
Chad: You just want to be Queens of the Stone Age!
Nick: Hang on. I got one more coming at you. I was originally thinking, “Oh, I’d probably want to do like topline lead funky guitar kind of thing.” And then I thought, but maybe I should just go to someone who’s a master of that and then we could work together. So, the last one is Bowie. If I got to play bass and some rhythm and that was my band, I would like to hear what that sounds like…I feel like that would be pretty sweet.
Are there any artists that you’d love to collaborate with? Apart from Dave Grohl and Bowie.
Chad: I’ve always wanted to work with Mark Lanegan.
Nick: Nigel Godrich. We’ll produce his album.
Last one, NBA Finals: Cavaliers vs. Warriors. Who are you rooting for?
Chad: (Without pause.) Cavs.
The other members agree as JT reveals that he hails from Cleveland, OH. In the final moments before set-up, the band continues to laugh and joke easily. They move about the back garden and front room of The Chipped Cup as they call friends and family, check in with the AirBnB team and move equipment around the venue. Next door, a crowd builds as they sip complimentary cocktails and wait for the show to begin.
Following the show, we received a sneak-peak of Paper Route’s latest music video for their track, “Balconies.” The song, featured on Real Emotion, is gaining increased attention following the band’s performance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. In communication with The Knockturnal, Daly shared the inspiration behind the song and its music video.
“[This] is a song about accepting love when you least deserve it. Sometimes you just have to let go…” the artist explained, “We saw The Beatles LOVE performance as a band and were just blown away by the emotion that the dancers were expressing. We knew we had to made a video for “Balconies” and decided this would be the vehicle: dancing. Each dancer was allowed a whole take to do whatever they wanted as we played the song. I was almost brought to tears watching them express the lyric in different ways. This is one of my favorite things we’ve ever been able to do.”
Dynamic, emotional, and intuitive, Paper Route remain true to themselves in their latest video. Premiering this Friday, check out the visual for “Balconies” below.
Want to know more about Paper Route’s NYC performance with AirBnB? You can read our review of the event here.
Featured Image Credit: Allister Ann