L.A.'s prodigal sons PAPA—comprised of childhood friends Darren Weiss (formerly of Girls) and bassist Danny Presant—have some shit to say.
Having seen the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of the entertainment industry over the past five years, PAPA have gone from D.I.Y. to the big leagues with mixed results. Now back on an indie label by their own accord, their forthcoming album, Kick At The Dust (out September 16th via Hit City USA), is the end of that road and the start of the next.
In trying to get across the idea that how "success" is measured actually means very little within a system built for a product rather than an artist; the album ends up as something of a call to arms for the band, who spoke to us in anticipation of our premiere of a new single off the new album.
How does your time spent living and studying in New York persuade your musical direction?
It was a crucial time for artistic development for us. We were free and wild and running around. Not only were we working on music, we were living with visual artists, helping them build galleries and set up their exhibitions. It was the first time that I personally felt like life was art itself and could be completely engulfed by the vision you create for yourself. The sound of the city was so different from where I grew up. There was a lot more hip hop, world rhythms everywhere. Women, flavor, smell.
Your music has been described as a mix of Springsteen, folk, soul, and rock-and-roll with a splash of Americana. What musicians have had the biggest influence on PAPA?
We have a pretty wide range of influences. I really do love love Bad Brains as much as I love Dean Martin. When I think of our musical aspirations over the years, it does seem to come back to a handful of artists—Nick Cave, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, The Clash, and Talking Heads. They all seem to share this thirst in their music, as well as disregard for what they did in the past to become more fully realized.
Since the release of your debut album, what lessons have you learned about the nature of creating and sharing music today?
It's the Wild West out there today. With technology moving so quickly, and the music industry filled with so many assholes who are more interested in hashtag synchronicity than artistic ambition and merit, it's anybody's guess. Which is why I'll refer to a quote by another one of our heroes, Patti Smith, "Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don't worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned about doing good work. Protect your work and if you build a good name eventually that name will be it's own currency."
Basically, I've been doing this long before Snapchat and Spotify, and I'll be doing it long after their gone.
Why was it so important for you guys to come back to your hometown of L.A. in order to truly refine PAPA?
As much as we loved our experience in NYC, we didn't feel the sense of community that was so strong back home. There were so many bands, made up of lifelong friends, all playing in each other's groups for free, supporting each others development. Aside from us, some of the bands that came out of that scene are Dawes and Haim. It took that familial feeling to lock things in for us. I always said that while New York was perhaps more inspiring, Los Angeles was always the place for me to funnel that inspiration into something new.
Your first album touched on themes such as (lost) love and freedom. What topics can we expect with the release of “Kick at the Dust”?
I think overall, the tone for this album is a major departure from our last record. Where, as you mentioned, in the past, their was a lot of heartbreak, and saying goodbye to many aspects in our lives as we were beginning to spend a lot of time on the road. Now, having spent that time on the road, and seen the ins and outs of the music industry, and felt the temperature of the musical community, we have a new message. This album is about empowerment, whether it be artistic empowerment, political empowerment, or sexual empowerment. It's about taking control of your life, and your vision. I think so many of us don't even realize we can change the unsatisfying lives we live. We have the power.
Finally, and most importantly, what do you believe it means to be a young American today?
Well, that means a million things at once. But now we're living in an extremely ugly, hateful, and complicated time. Don't get me wrong—there is an abundance of beauty and inspiration as well, but we have to decide how much longer are we going to be satisfied with merely being entertained in our culture. We must not wait to be engaged to make change in the way politics, and race relations in our country affect our present and future generations. Many people are taking to the streets, which gives me hope. People are putting their feet down and saying we've had enough. That is beautiful to me. I'd like to see it reflected even more in our pop culture, which continues to churn out mindless autotuned anthems of "living for tonight." We've seen where "living for tonight" gets us. It stinks. Stinks like shit. Sack up Drake.
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