By Liam Prost
CALGARY — The telephone has always been a ready-made motif for pop music. Even though the device has changed a bit in form and function over the years, the language and iconography of it remain the same. It embodies how communication is enabled, but also how it can break down. You write down numbers, make calls, record messages, and inevitably, call back. The process and language of the telephone is “nostalgic,” according to Paper Lions vocalist and principal songwriter John McPhee. On the PEI indie-pop band’s bombastic new release Full Colour, Paper Lions adds two tracks to the telephone song lexicon with “My Number” and “Call Back.” These two tracks are massive, confident pieces, but imbued with the inherent distance of a phone call, or the possibility of not receiving the one you’re waiting for. For Paper Lions it’s never about the conversation itself, but the possibility of it, the subject has a phone number, or is returning a call. These confident and skilled performers cleverly embed vulnerability into songs that even the most bookish introvert can dance to.
After their last release, the domestic and personal My Friends (2013) and its fully acoustic predecessor At Long Creek (2012), Paper Lions had some time to breathe and rethink the direction of the band, but instead of making impulsive decisions about new experiments, they took a methodical approach. Taking the songs into the studio for days at a time. With access to a studio for relatively cheap and the newly refined production skills of guitarist Colin Buchanan, Paper Lions had the time to “let each song unfold.” As a result, the “developmental process for each song was a lot more methodical,” and each song was able to develop of its own accord. This process gives the record a sheen of practise and attention to detail.
The final product is a smart, poppy record with danceable rhythms, a choice that Paper Lions attest came about organically from the songs, but fits the band enormously well. “We are certainly becoming more comfortable and confident with who were are,” McPhee tells BeatRoute. Young folks though they are, Paper Lions have 10 years playing together on their side and thus the band has become a family (two of the members are literally brothers).
With massive new songs to showcase, Paper Lions are touring the most exciting live show of their career. “If we’ve spent so much time and love and energy making the record, we should really do that with the live show as well.” They put together a performance with guest appearances and new productions effects in Charlottetown as a “dress rehearsal” for the tour, and are incorporating new elements in each city depending on availabilities. “This is going to be a bold statement,” McPhee argues of both the live show and the record. “We really want to go for it.”
Paper Lions perform November 29th in Calgary at SAIT’s The Gateway and November 30th at the Mercury Room in Edmonton.AB, Alberta, Full Colour, Gateway, Mercury Room, Paper Lions