Interview with Paper Bird

Mark Anderson was a really great person to chat with earlier this year on the Murfie Podcast. He plays percussion in Paper Bird, a harmonious seven-piece band that’s gaining more and more national buzz each day. Here’s a transcript of our interview, and another chance to dig in to the interesting world of up-and-coming music.

INTRO: This is Kayla here, with your Murfie podcast, right from the world’s largest used and new CD store online. So, one band that I’m really diggin’ right now is Paper Bird. They’re a seven-piece indie folk band from Colorado. I had a chat with one of the band members, Mark, right after they released their new album, Rooms.

[MUSIC: “As I Am” by Paper Bird]

Kayla: Alright, so right now I have Mark on the phone, from Paper Bird. Where are you calling from?

Mark: I’m just calling from my apartment in Denver, Colorado.

Kayla: Ok, yes, I saw that you guys are from Colorado, and I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard a lot of great things about that place. So, are a lot of people in the band from Colorado, originally, or did you guys end up there?

Mark: Um, most of us are from here, originally. Some of us were born other places—like Sarah, my sister, and I, were born in Ohio, but moved here when we were really young—and then a couple of members were born in Texas. But all of us say we’re from Colorado—it’s where we grew up.

Kayla: Right—it’s your home, totally! You and Sarah are brother and sister—I did not know that.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. There’s another set of siblings in the band, too: Genny and Esme are sisters.

Kayla: Oh, awesome! That’s fun.

Mark: Yeah.

Kayla: How did you all meet each other?

Mark: Well, we’ve known each other for a long time—it kind of was a culmination of coincidence and then also just like, common interest. Like, we all moved to Denver—um, god, I don’t know, we’ve lived in Denver for a long time. And I think just like, through random acquaintances, and some people through school and things like that, a loose group of us started getting together—and then music is what pulled us in farther, and slowly our friendships culminated into the band, and we’ve been doing it for like, six years now.

Kayla: That’s the best way to get started, you know—the music brings you together, the common interests. And you guys have developed a really unique sound, because basically everybody in the band contributes to writing songs and that sort of thing; so is that how it usually works? Do you guys kind of come to each other and say, “I have an idea for a song,” and then do you work on it together?

Mark: Yeah, usually, um—it can be different processes. Sometimes people will bring songs that are pretty finished, you know, it’s like, the package is done, so we just add in what needs to be added in. But most of the time people will come in and have a song and really kind of throw it into the band and open it up for the band’s interpretation. So lots of times, songs will dramatically change from what they sounded like when they were written by an individual, after it’s gone through the process of the group. It’s pretty fun—it’s a really like, fun, collaborative process that’s just all of us inputting our influences, and just kind of seeing what happens.

Kayla: Yeah. So, when you guys are at shows nowadays, do you have a song that’s kind of, recently, or overall, a really fun song to perform, like maybe your favorite one that gets the most energy?

Mark: Sure, yeah, I think there’s two that come to mind off of our new record, Rooms. The single that we released, “As I Am”, the first track on the record, that’s definitely really fun to play, and it’s gotten really good responses from the audience. And then the other one, I think it’s the fifth track on the album, it’s called “Hold It Down”—and that’s actually a really interesting story for what we were talking about with the process of writing songs; like, that song was literally the complete opposite of what it turned out to be. It was kind of like, almost like a rock song or something when it was first brought to the band, and we wrote the whole thing, and played it in practice and stuff. And we had a producer work with us with this album, and he came to Colorado—he lives in San Francisco. And he sat with us the night before we recorded, and listened to that song, and he was like, “You know, I don’t know if this song really holds up to the rest of the songs—let’s play with it.” So he had us play the song at half the speed that we normally played it, so just sloooowed it down big time, and all these elements of the song that were really the best parts, this kind of like gospel-y, haunting feel, came out so much more on the slow-down. So we kind of like worked on it with that, and it’s become now one of our favorite songs to play, and definitely like a stompin’ song—it’s great.

Kayla: That’s really interesting. Yeah, so, I really like that—I don’t know if it’s all of you or at least most of you—sing during your shows, and contribute to harmonies, and stuff like that. And you have, you know, the three female vocalists all next to each other, and they’ve got this great harmony going on, and a lot of you contribute to that. And I was wondering, before you start a show, do you get together and do some group warm-ups, or get in sync, in any kind of funky ways at all?

Mark: I mean, kind of—we kind of have our own little rituals before the show. We usually, like, circle-up before and kind of put our hands in and have like, a cheer of sorts. But I know that the girls, they warm up usually before every show, just sing certain parts—and sometimes we’ll join in. But it’s funny cause we play so often, that I think sometimes we forget to do those parts—[laughs]

Kayla: [laughs]

Mark: —like, “oh, we played last night, no big deal.” But yeah, definitely like, it helps sometimes, for sure.

Kayla: Yeah, yeah. So, how has it been with your experience performing at Red Rocks? I know that’s an awesome, awesome place to perform and to see a show.

Mark: Yeah. Well it’s funny, because I actually played—well, Sarah and I did, and Paul who also plays in Paper Bird, he plays guitar—we all played with this other guy Patrick Dethlefs, who’s from Denver—just two nights ago, not last night but the night before, we got to play there with him. And it was amazing, it’s such an incredible venue. But then, to like do that, and then I’ll be able to do it with Paper Bird just a couple weeks from now, with DeVotchKa—it’s gonna be incredible. I don’t know, there’s no place like Red Rocks—it’s just incredible.

Kayla: Wow. Okay, so this is coming up. When is that happening?

Mark: June 14th with DeVotchKa, and then we also have one there with The Lumineers on September 14th.

Kayla: Wow, that’s really awesome!

Mark: Yeah.

Kayla: So, The Lumineers, you know, there’s a lot of good buzz about them too right now. Do you guys have any bands that are on repeat, you know, kind of new, current bands that you’re big supporters of?

Mark: Yeah, yeah, um, it’s kind of cool being from here, from Denver, cause there’s this like, really incredible music scene here, but I think it’s a little bit underrepresented, currently. And it’s growing, which is really cool. It’s funny cause we’ve been part of the scene for so long and just now it’s starting to gain this like, notoriety, nationally, I think. But yeah, there’s so many good bands here—like Patrick Dethlefs, who I just spoke about, I play with him occasionally, but he’s incredible. He’s a songwriter from here, really great guy, and his music’s just wonderful. And I really love this band Bad Weather California from here—they’re like, a really fun band. And, oh man, Nathaniel Rateliff, who’s from here as well; he’s kind of a bigger act—he tours nationally and stuff, as well, but he just started this new band called The Night Sweats—it’s Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, and it’s like this soul band—and it’s incredible, it’s so great. So, yeah, there’s a few—oh, wait, I should say one more: from Colorado Springs, Mike Clark and the Sugar Sounds. Mike Clark plays in this other band called The Haunted Windchimes, who are fairly well-known, and he kind of started his own project called The Sugar Sounds, and they’re just amazing—they’re so good. So there’s some bands from Colorado that I really love.

Kayla: Excellent, I will have to check them out. So what about all-time bands or musicians from any era—is there anyone you’ve listened to maybe your whole life and never really put aside?

Mark: Yeah, sure—um, there’s a couple. You ever listen to The Weakerthans?

Kayla: Uh, the who?

Mark: The Weakerthans?

Kayla: I have not.

Mark: They’re from Canada. It’s funny, cause they’re like— Well, the writer is named John K. Samson, and he had some solo stuff— I started listening to them in like, fifth grade or sixth grade, and fell in love with their music, and it just has continued—every record they put out, I just love it. So definitely them—I think like Paul Simon, I love Paul Simon, um, specifically like Graceland is such an incredible record—that’ll always be one of my tops. Um, but yeah, I don’t know, I mean it’s kind of funny—I kind of grew up listening to, a lot of like, punk, and a lot of like, harder music, and then slowly it’s simmered into more of this, folk, or like, alt-folk kind of world. So, it’s kind of funny that a lot of my influences are very different than what I actually play.

Kayla: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. That’s interesting because, you know, I’ve talked to people in jazz bands, and reggae bands, and a lot of those people will listen to a lot of punk or metal, even, and then kind of still hold that true to them, but then maybe acquire a taste for those other kind of genres later on. I think that’s really interesting, whenever I hear someone mention that same kind of thing.

Mark: Yeah.

Kayla: Um, so what about anything random that you would admit listening to? Like, any guilty pleasure pop songs, or maybe international music, or is there a certain genre that is totally in your mix because you just happen to like it?

Mark: Oh, sure, um—I love pop music—I’m a huge fan of pop music. Like Beyoncé is the jam—we always listen to like, Beyoncé and Rihanna on the bus and just like, dance—it’s great. And then also it’s hilarious because all of us have a guilty pleasure for pop country music, like just putting on the pop country radio station and jamming out—it’s great. So, I don’t know, no shame, I like, love pop music and dance music—it’s definitely great.

Kayla: Yes. Good pop, you know, good pop music—absolutely.

Mark: Yeah, I think like the whole, like, pop world is really great, too. Did you watch the Billboard Music Awards like, a couple weeks ago?

Kayla: I didn’t.

Mark: It was insane. So much crazy— It was just insane. [Justin] Bieber got booed—it was insane.

Kayla: What?!

Mark: Yeah, he got booed. He won some award, got onstage, and the whole audience booed him.

Kayla: That is really interesting! It’s really interesting how popular musicians in general, from any genre, they get built up, and then broken down. You know, you’ve seen it happen for like, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson; it’s crazy to see that happen.

Mark: Totally.

Kayla: And now Bieber, too—good luck to him.

Mark: Yeah [laughs], seriously.

Kayla: So, one thing I noticed is that, it looks to me like you guys manage your own social media accounts, is that right?

Mark: Yeah.

Kayla: Yeah. Do you think that it’s important for bands to manage their own Facebook and Twitter, or do you think it’s useful to hand that over to someone one day when you’re really busy?

Mark: I think it’s absolutely important for the actual band to at least be involved in it. I think that there’s aspects of it—like our manager will put our shows up into the calendar and things like that, you know. I mean, I think social media’s an incredible tool with keeping in touch with your audience, and being somewhat transparent with what you’re doing, you know. Like, we funded the record off of kick-starter, and that would have been entirely impossible without social media, without being able to, like, interact with the people who are contributing to help fund the album. But yeah, I think social media’s really important and it’s also really important for the actual members of the band to be at least somewhat involved.

Kayla: I agree. As a fan, it’s always really cool to see pictures that the band is posting from the tavern that they’re at, or something funny that happened, or, I don’t know—it connects you to the band, and it also gives you the whole other side of the interesting reasons why you follow a band.

Mark: Totally.

Kayla: Yeah, so I think that’s really great that you guys do that for your band, so, props for that.

Mark: Awesome.

Kayla: Yeah. So, you’ve got the new album out; you mentioned there’s a couple of your favorite tracks to perform on there. So, what are your upcoming plans? Are you gonna do some touring? You mentioned the Red Rocks shows—

Mark: Yeah, well we just got back from about four months of touring—it was long, long trips. It was good, I mean it’s great—and it’s great to get the music out there. But yes, we’re home now, which is wonderful, and we’ve got some shows around here, including the Red Rocks one, and then we will be going back on tour at the end of June for about a week, going northwest and then again in July—the end of July—going east for a couple weeks—and then we’ll be back for I think the rest of August, and then we’ll probably hit it hard again in the fall. But I’m actually having a meeting today with our management to kind of plan out what the fall and the rest of the year looks like, ‘cause we just released this record, but we’ve got a lot more material we’re working with, so we’re kind of excited, at least at thinking about making the next album.

Kayla: Awesome!

[MUSIC: “As I Am” by Paper Bird]

And that was Mark, from Paper Bird. To find out more, you can visit What you’re hearing right now is a clip from the track “As I Am”, and like Mark mentioned, it’s the first track off the new album, Rooms, now available on Murfie. Thanks for listening, everyone—I’ll see ya later!

Published by

Kayla Liederbach

I host a reggae radio show Wednesday nights at 7pm CT on 91.7fm WSUM-Madison called U DUB.

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