Paper Route

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Paper Route

It seems the slew of modern music media is constantly focused on “the next thing.” Yet above the noise everone else is making, we’ve found one Nashville band worth truly making a racket about. Paper Route are three guys – Chad Howat, JT Daly and Andrew Smith – from Nashville-via-Greenville who for all their talent, found a laptop as their musical home – a foundation from which to build brilliant electropop structures.

So here’s our conversation with Chad and JT to let you in on the band, their work, and what you can expect from them in the near future.

SSv: Tell us about the end of For All The Drifters and how you gave birth to this EP and Paper Route.

Chad: I guess you know about For All The Drifters, our old band. Things just kind of dissipated after a few years of being in Nashville. I think we just ran out of steam. Things were just kind of in the air with us.

SSv: Did you all move to Nashville together for the sake of the band?

It just came time to end the band. It died and we were starting to get depressed because none of us were making music anymore.

It just came time to end the band. It died and we were starting to get depressed because none of us were making music anymore.

Chad: Yeah we all moved to Nashville together.

SSv: From where?

Chad: We all went to college in southern Illinois at Greenville College, but we’re all from the Midwest. So we were at Greenville and ended up moving to Nashville in 2002. So we were in Nashville doing the band thing for a couple or three years. It just came time to end the band. It died and we were starting to get depressed because none of us were making music anymore.

I think the genesis of Paper Route started when I went out to buy a laptop and I bought some recording programs and started to teach myself to record, make beats, stuff like that. Obviously, JT and I are super close and so we were hanging out and I think I made up a CD of some music I had been messing around with, which was not really that great at the time. He called me up a day or two later and said he had a couple vocal ideas for one of the tracks.

He ended up coming over a couple days later and basically tried to finish the songs. It took a while, but it ended up being the song “Second Chances” which is the first track on the EP.

SSv: So you were just recording instrumental at that point?

Chad: For the most part, yes. I’m not a vocalist. I’m not a great vocalist or a great writer, so I was just focusing more on music and creating mood and atmosphere. At that point, it was all instrumental stuff. I gave it to him and he gave it melodies and lyrical ideas.

JT: One thing is that toward the end of The Drifters, musically I think we had been in rock and roll so much. I think that we were just captivated by being in Nashville. There are tons of singer/songwriters. I think Mindy Smith was unsigned at that point. And we were just in awe of the fact that someone can get on stage and the whole place would just become silent because of a guitar and a voice. It was ironic to us because we get on stage and just crank everything.

People were loving it but I don’t know they were really listening to what we were saying. And so the fact that Mindy or just anyone… We loved the new David Mead album at that point. But something like that was so quiet and everyone was hearing everything that one person was saying.

Chad: I think we started listening to Bjork at that time. We were starting to listen to electronica more and singer/songwriters at the same time. So rock music became pretty dull to us, I think.

JT: Yeah, it did. I was really into the Underworld disc toward the end of that, so you can start to hear that beat influence I guess. But Chad got the laptop and I was just so excited to do any exploring in that genre. I was really blown away by what Chad did out of the gate.

SSv: Now, there are some members of the former band who are not a part of Paper Route, correct? Any hard feelings there?

Chad: They’re totally supportive. They’re both involved in other projects musically and we all support each other. We all miss playing together, but there hasn’t been awkward moments. It’s just the way things happened naturally. There wasn’t this big conscious decision to leave For All The Drifters and start something new. For All The Drifters was pretty much done in our mind. We just stumbled into making music together again, but it was coming from a different place and trying to capture that other kind of energy.

I just went and saw Brian Lee’s band at the Exit/In and I’ve seen Ryan [Young]’s band play, so there’s not any hard feelings.

JT: You know, we really didn’t set out to do this. It was really effortless, which made it easier to move into. And it was obvious to the other two guys that that had happened. I work in visual arts and I work with one of those guys, so that family will always be there.

SSv: What’s coming up for the band now that the EP has been released. I know you’ve talked about wanting to tour…

JT: Well, we finished the EP and we definitely moved straight into preparing for a live show. That was going very well, but we were still figuring out some pieces and trying to take it to another level. Then one of the other singers and songwriters in the project had to take off to Chicago to take a lead on another job for a bit. Chad did some producing and whatnot.

But now, we’re finally picking up where we left off. We’re starting midway through another album right now. We also added another live member to the band that will be doing the live sampling. I think we’re definitely at a place where we look back at the EP and we love it for what it is, but we’re ready to do another album. I think we start playing shows in March.

We’ve been in the studio all week working on some stuff…

SSv: Who are you working with or are you producing yourself?

Chad: We’re doing it ourselves. Basically we’re working on some Christmas songs right now which should be ready in November. Also, JT has been doing some film work, directing some videos and stuff like that with his company SS Mechanics. So basically, JT is working on a Paper Route film, a short film.

SSv: Really?

JT: It’s basically a documentary thing of the footage that was captured in between Andy’s Chicago trip and Chad’s producing. It’s the least we could do that have been buying our EP for a year.

Chad: Yeah, it’s a behind-the-scenes. So we’ll have our Christmas songs out next month and we’re gonna have our film up on the web somewhere. Between the three of us, we have a ton of demos and so we’re already starting on a full-length record, which we hope to get done early next year.

SSv: Is it all new stuff or are there tracks from the EP?

Chad: We haven’t really talked about that, but I would think it would be all new stuff.

JT: Yeah, we have plenty.

SSv: When you say plenty, how much is that?

Chad: Well, I have twenty demos just on my own that I’ve given to the other guys. And I think they each have about that many of their own ideas. Think so, JT?

JT: Oh yeah, songwriting has never been a problem for us individually. I think what we just long to accomplish is handing off our song to the other two members and have them ruin it and make it their own. Whatever everyone puts a check mark by makes the album. I think that’s the tedious thing, as far as demos. It can get absurd with the numbers.

Chad: I think the key is that we all write from slightly different places, even completely different places.

SSv: What are those places that you write from? Are they defined?

Chad: I think Andy is the most traditional songwriter in that he will sit down with a guitar and sing you a song he wrote. Sometimes I’ll write a song on piano or something, but half of the stuff I write just comes out as some sort of beat or mood or sample. Then I’ll give it to them and see if we can turn it into a song. I think JT straddles both. He can wear both caps. He can sit down and write a song if he wants, but he can also come up with a moment or a mood. So JT is a bridge between Andy and I.

So we all come from different places, but we’ve been writing together for so long that we know where those places are. I mean, I’ve been writing stuff with JT and Andy for six years, but I think they’ve been writing together for ten years. So we all know each other and we know where people are going to cover each other. I think that’s the lengthy part of the process. Coming up with something that’s cohesive and comes from each other’s strengths.

SSv: You talked about looking back at the EP. How is that music different than what you’re making now?

JT: That’s a great question. One of the huge changes is that before, we were very limited by the house that Chad lived in on the EP. We had his bedroom, which was the size of a closet and a tiny room on top of his room. And we tracked cello, drums, guitar, everything in that room. And everything from the heater turning on to the clock ticking to the typewriter that was in the room by accident made the album somehow. Since then, Chad has moved so it’s definitely a new list of items that will make the album somehow.

I think creatively, wherever Chad is at somehow becomes an instrument, just like the computer.

Chad: I think from an engineering and mixing standpoint, I’ve learned a lot since then. I went to school for it for a little while. I think I’m just trying to sharpen my abilities, but I’m also trying to learn the rules of audio engineering, so I can break them, if that makes sense.

I’ll never be one of those technical geniuses, so I don’t have to worry about that. But I’m trying to sharpen my abilities so that if Andy or JT has an idea, I can execute that pretty quickly. So, yeah I think personally at least, that’s something that’s different this time around.

SSv: What have you been producing?

Chad: I just finished an electronic record for EMI. I’m working with different people here in town with local independent artists like Trent Dabbs and Katie Herzig. Just people here in town. I’ve done remixes, too.

SSv: Do you enjoy doing that?

Chad: I do. But I think I consider it my day job and I consider Paper Route my passion – getting to make music and art with my friends. But if it’s between sitting in an office to make money and doing a remix or producing a record, I’ll pick music every time. It’s good and helps me sharpen my skills as much as I can.

SSv: JT, can you tell us a bit about SS Mechanics?

JT: I do the work with another guy named Daniel James and he’s the other live guy that we added to the Paper Route show. Again, it’s all in the family. We’re working on a short film right now and the soundtrack to that film. It’s basically something we’ll take to film festivals. We’ve shown some work and built some sets for some artists and for photographs’ sake. We showed some work in Chicago last month. It’s like Chad was saying, it’s my day job and then I record with Paper Route three or four days per week.

SSv: In a recent issue of Wired, Beck wrote an article about the future of music discussing the vast landscape ahead for the artist to combine visual arts with their sound. Do you feel you are on that edge or heading toward that edge at all? Have you thought of that?

Chad: I think we’ve always been conscious of our art, mostly because JT comes from a visual arts background. Even from the early days of the Drifters, visual art was always as important as sonic art. It’s an exciting for music, obviously, and it’s more welcoming to bands like ours.

JT: The thing I definitely am watching out for are things like Beck or the new Sean Lennon, which comes with a full film. Even when we released the EP, the first 200 had a single printed cover for each song. So, I’m wondering if we’re on the edge of this whole new amazing sight and sound genre happening or if it’s just oversaturated. I’m wondering if everyone’s just gonna go crazy. Everyone has videos. Are we becoming so bored? It’s hard enough to make a song now and find a moment and keep that moment and hope that people will engage taking time to listen to the song five times through and find that moment with us. Where now, are we just gonna have videos for every song? But it is a very exciting time, so I guess I can’t complain.

SSv: Anything else to add on what people can expect?

Chad: Expect us to play in your town come springtime. Expect a new record next year.

JT: We owe a lot of people a lot of thank you’s and a lot of live shows.

Chad: Yeah, there are a lot of people who have been extremely patient with us. We just try to make the best art that we can.

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