Posted by Tobias Carroll
Papercuts, the long-running expansive pop band led by Jason Quever, play songs that can haunt and delight in equal measure. Quever’s songwriting is classical in its outlines and tactile in its execution; a list of relevant points of reference would begin with The Zombies and The Byrds and move forward from there. Their latest, Fading Parade, recalls the blissful pop of 2007’s excellent Can’t Go Back. Via email, Quever and I discussed songwriting, Salinger, and the secret lives of lyrical characters.
Your albums abound with character sketches and memorable images. When you’re writing songs that focus on a particular person or figure, how much do you know about them going in? Do they ever have lives outside of the confines of the song?
Hey thanks! Usually when writing a song I start singing some lines that come to me and then blindly feel my way through the rest it until I feel like a character or specific point of view has been achieved. I do feel like eventually I usually have a pretty detailed idea about what the story is in my mind and who the people are, though the songs tend to be very rough sketches for whatever reason, I suppose due to the confines of song structures, which I think is probably a blessing for me. Also, I have resigned myself to the idea that at least for what I do, the aesthetics of what I’m saying, the way the words sound, etc, are slightly more important that the story itself. Of course I’m always shooting for a combination of the two, but it’s so hard to convey a story in often a very small about of space, so I have to shoot for economy and allusion, but most of all, words that are effective sung in the context of the melody and phrasing, etc… So the development of the characters tends to be in my head as I keep having to sing.
When you began using the name Papercuts, did you have any literary connotations in mind?
Not really, I think it just struck me as a cool name and subtle reference to subtlety itself. Something about the music needing to be looked into, instead of hitting one of the head.
What have you been reading lately?
Well sadly I’m not a voracious reader, I tend to be too anxious to read sometimes, and find it difficult on the road especially. I did recently re-read Salinger’s Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. I am wildly jealous of his ability to make you feel like you know the writer so well. Sometimes it’s not really what happens in the story that matters to me, it just makes me feel less lonely. I often worry that my stories are the opposite, that I come up with scenarios that are ok, but it’s really the ability to convey them in a totally unpretentious manner that alludes me. It’s nice to write something that sounds like it hasn’t been written for mass consumption. Also listening to Life by Keith Richards, in the tour van. It’s pretty amazing and has the same quality of feeling totally open and personal (maybe a little too open at points!)
(Photo by Chloe Aftel)