By Al Kaufman
Denver is on its way to becoming the next big music town. First, the Lumineers took off after toiling in the Mile-High City. Up next may very well be Paper Bird. This seven-person collective will release Rooms on March 26th , and have released the first single, the sweetly harmonious “As I Am.” A sort-of rootsy, Americana, jam band in the past, (including on Carry On, a score for the Ballet Nouveau Colorado), Rooms offers a more indie-rock sound, with more instrumentation but still plenty of harmonies and rhythms. Drummer Mark Anderson talked about their new album and how happy he is about the success of his fellow Denver band.
You were on tour with the Lumineers while they really started getting big. What did you get out of watching a band take off from such a close range?
The interesting thing about watching the Lumineers take off is that we were close with them when they were essentially only playing this tiny open-mic at a bar in Denver. We were already touring frequently then and they looked to us to learn how to break into the touring circuit. The first surprise we had was simply seeing their tour posters in the places we were playing across the country. It seemed like overnight they expressed their interest in touring, then were popping up everywhere across the country. From simply seeing their posters around the country to now seeing them play at the Grammy’s for millions is a trip! But the Lumineers are some of the best people we know and rep Denver everywhere they go. We are lucky to have them as close friends and collaborators – Stelth [tour guitarist for the Lumineers] plays with us when he’s around — and are so proud of their successes. They’ve really opened doors for Denver that were not open before, bringing our scene into a national spotlight.
You recorded your latest album, Rooms, live in the studio. That’s got to be tough for a seven-person band. What were some of the drawbacks?
Honestly, this way of recording is preferable to us. We played together at the same time, but had all of our instruments isolated so we could maintain hi-quality sound and have the ability to punch in any parts we thought were weak. Tempo is probably the hardest part of recording live, but when you focus, maintaining a steady tempo is a fun challenge. We’ve recorded to a click, one track at a time before, but it’s hard to keep the energy alive. Recording the songs together, then going back to polish up the small things is the way to go for us.
Every song in this album is supposed to feel like a different room in the house. What’s the bathroom sound like?
Ha! Actually, I have been talking about bathrooms a lot lately, and it seems that bathrooms are a place people can find peace and quiet. You can’t tell me you haven’t been at a party or a gathering and used the bathroom as a place to slip away for a second, take a breath, and recoup. I think the bathroom is one of the quieter reflective songs on the album. I like that question.
William Ryan Fritch is known primarily for his film score writing. Why did you decide that he would be a good producer for Rooms?
We were all good friends with Ryan prior to the idea of having him as a producer. We’d visit him at his home in the Bay Area and were always incredibly inspired by his creativity and work ethic. We knew he had experience producing albums and as soon as we knew we were going into the studio, we reached out to him. Really, why Ryan was such a great producer for us was: One, he is the sweetest guy around and really created a productive but nurturing studio environment (We had a 96 hour week recording; creating a nurturing environment was crucial!) and, two, his musical brilliance, but a brilliance that is different than the work of being a touring band. Ryan saw music texturally, as a layer of sound rather than a structure with verses, choruses, hooks etc. He would dissect our songs focusing on the tiniest details, but ultimately these small details were the songs atmosphere. His meticulous approach and direction made our songs much stronger in ways that are sometimes even subconscious. But his advice was always soft and his presence was fun. Ryan has more spirit than most and having him around during a recording session is the best!