Paper Route

The last time that we “spoke” with Nashville’s Paper Route (JT Daly, Chad Howat and Nick Aranda), they composed a Postcard From the Road for us expressing that they had taken a familiar course of action: withdrawing themselves away from “civilization” deep in the hills of Tennessee for the business of music making by immersion with the intent to “focus on the noise” that they create. It’s an approach that resulted in 2012’s emotionally elemental album The Peace of Wild Things (which boasted songs “You and I,” “Better Life” and “Calm My Soul”) and that same approach will bear the fruit of their upcoming third record.

With time always comes the inevitable change or two and a few changes occurred between Paper Route albums: drummer Gavin McDonald left, JT got married, the band signed to Kemosabe/Sony Records and Nick officially joined the fold. Forward motion. Progression. Life.

In the meantime, on March 4th they made a pit stop here in Los Angeles at the Wiltern while on tour with MuteMath: it’s an acutely simpatico musical match. But before things lifted off onstage, backstage is where we found a gracious pre-show and seemingly at ease JT, Chad and Nick in a state of comfort that attests to years of that intimate space called friendship. And for some reason, the subject of chasing rabbits came up…

High Voltage: In your Postcard you said that you were going up to the hills in Tennessee to some remote area to work on album #3. Do you have a title for that yet?
JT: We’re still debating it.

HV: Any idea when it’s coming out?
Nick: No, it’s being mixed right now, so sooner than later. It’s never been sooner than later.

HV: Was that the second time that you did that? Going up to some remote place to make the record.
Chad: We typically always try to get out of our areas when we write and record.

HV: How does that work for you and why does that work for you?
Nick: I think because we’re surrounded by… Let me back up. Being in Nashville, there’s a great community of artists: like all of our friends play in bands and stuff. And I think you just kind of get a little numb and it just seems kind of noisy in that city and everyone’s kind of paying attention to what you’re doing and you’re thinking about it too much. So it was on our first full-length that we kind of had to idea of let’s leave, go to a house, get out of our comfort zone and have to work within those limitations and then not really pay attention to anyone around us. It helps us finish faster, helps us focus, and then we kind of present it and test the waters…you know, maybe with our friends and peers.

HV: Do you do that often? After you record a record, do you test-drive it out on the family?
JT: To a select few. We usually play it for our friends casually and see what people respond to and people don’t respond to. The leaving thing is kind of a financial thing, as well, because we tend to write, record and experiment a lot. It’s all kind of one process for us. For us, rent an expensive studio to experiment all day and to throw everything away is expensive, but if we just rent a house instead of our own studio, then we have all the freedom in the world to chase a different rabbit. Chase rabbits.
Chad: Chase all the rabbits.
Nick: Chase all the rabbit trails. There’s no pressure and it’s fun.
JT: Yes, it’s less like we’re in a studio and it’s more like we’re just being friends. Like a write-cation.
Chad: Yeah, I was going to say it’s weird because it removes the pressure, but at the same time, almost feels sacred. It feels like this is what we are doing, we are here for one thing. Then we always look back – like that was probably one of the best parts of making an album, was that time.
Nick: I felt like everything you do that’s like a normal thing, you have to treat the space…because you’re just living there, too, and you have to treat the space differently at different times. Chad – where the main console was was in his bedroom. He’s sleeping in the closet in the bedroom. Sometimes you’d get dressed and have coffee and brush your teeth, and then you’d go out, have a bite to eat in the kitchen, and then walk back in and now it’s the studio, even though it was the bedroom a second ago.
Chad: We completely redecorate the place. We take everything off the walls and then hang up all of our … I’ll like make stuff on the fly and hang it up. It’s kind of cool, I’m kind of proud of it.
JT: The Air BnB host was not excited!
Chad: He came in and I’m like, “I promise you it won’t be damaged. We have just blank paper on the walls so we can just write stuff on the walls.” and it just makes sense.
JT: I think it’s about creating an environment. I think we take a long time to make our records but I feel like very little of it is actually recording. It’s more about creating time to hang out on the porch for a couple of hours and listen to records together and watch documentaries together. This is a really long answer to a very short question. We just really enjoy it, clearly, and we’re big fans of it.

HV: It’s very interesting to have to do that. You work where you live, and I don’t know how difficult it is to sometimes separate – like you said, you walked out of the room and you’re having breakfast, then you walk back into that room and now you’re recording and working. How difficult it is to say okay, we’re done working. Now we’re going to go watch Dancing with the Stars.
Nick: Especially because we’re going to watch that on the same screen that we work on.
JT: I think we do an all-immersive thing where we do, we’re going to do a month straight and work and live and live and work and then we’re going to go back to our respective actual homes and have a semblance of a normal life.

HV: What is the band dynamic now like, Nick?
Nick: I just think that – for me, personally – the reason I love bands, and have always loved bands, is because there’s a collaboration that can happen between people and between minds. If you want to have a great gig where you’re just playing as a hired gun, you can play for like a solo artist or a bunch of things. But if you want to collaborate – that’s a really precious, sacred thing that’s really hard to go about so I think the dynamic is, I think it’s always developing. We got along as friends really well; that’s how I even ended up playing. There’s just a lot of mutual respect because when you really love something, it’s hard to control your emotions sometimes about it. If you’re in disagreement about it, especially. We just try to treat each other with a ton of respect and… That’s going back to why we take so much time to…
Chad: …hear everyone out…
Nick: …hear everyone out and put it on the wall. You hear it out, you develop it, you put it on the wall, you step back, and then you decide if you like it or not, and that, it can be pretty laborious, but definitely good for growing the dynamic.

HV: You guys have known each other how long?
Nick: JT and I go back like…
JT: Should we tell the truth? Chad and I dropped out of college together. We’ve known Nick for…
Chad: So it’s like four years?
JT: We’ve known Nick for…seven years?
Chad: Probably seven. From our side, JT and I founded the band like in 2004, technically. We had members come and like be there, then they left. Every time that happens you’re at a crossroads, like okay, now what do we do? We knew that two people wasn’t a band and we needed someone else to counter-balance I think, because you need a rock, paper, scissors kind of thing. Nick just arrived. I would even say he was sent to us. Usually we have such a long writing dynamic, and Nick had to figure out his role in it. He did an amazing job and his contribution – we wouldn’t make the same record. This record wouldn’t be that without Nick, and that speaks for him getting thrown in the deep end.

HV: 2016, what are we doing?
Chad: Releasing a new album…
JT: More of this… [Press, interviews, etc.]

HV: And as for touring?
Nick: We have put so much into developing the songs, it only makes sense that we would spend a lot of time making the songs come to life. I think that’s the main goal, in a nutshell.
JT: Music videos, tours…
Chad: Take up some new hobbies. Probably, new ways to pass the time.

HV: Other than chasing rabbits?
Nick: Yeah!
JT: That’s true.
Chad: Well, maybe we actually do that.
Nick: We might just run over rabbits on the road, really.

HV: Tell your fans something, because they’ve been waiting for you guys come back with a new record.
Chad: We’re sorry?
JT: Thank you for your patience, we promise this new album will be worth the wait, and we promise never to make the same record twice.
Nick: I would say it’s the most honest one we’ve ever made, and that took a lot, and we’re really proud of it.

Photo Credit: Cortney Armitage