[INTERVIEW] Paper Lights’ Great Escape Metamorphosis

An interview about chasing outdoor inspired sounds and different kinds of escapes.

Paper Lights are an alternative/pop band from Atlanta, GA, and have honed a large and cinematic soundscape within their music. Over the last two years they have been on tour, opening for acts such as Allen Stone, The Fray and Miike Snow. The band released their first full-length album, Great Escapes, in March of 2016 which is now being relaunched with four additional remixes.

Meet Paper Lights

[WtMM] Hi everyone! Happy New Year! How are you guys?
[Paper Lights: Dan] Hey, we’re great thanks. Happy New year to you!

May we begin by asking you, who Paper Lights are?
Well I started a project a few years ago and tried to include a lot of our musician friends from around Atlanta. I met Josh around the same time we were starting it and eventually invited him to collaborate. He’s the only one who really grabbed on and has contributed a lot to the project. So after long the band just became Josh and I and we still get to bring our musician friends on tour as needed.

When did you decide on a musical career?
About ten years ago I was working as an armored car driver for Loomis Fargo.  I wasn’t really happy about my life choices that led to trucking around a bunch of money and guns plus it was really dangerous. Becoming a musician was at the top of my dream list so my wife and I decided to move to Atlanta from our home in East Tennessee and pursue it.

Sing-Songwriting Journey

Was there a long way to travel between releasing the first songs and the debut album?
Oh yeah, we went through lots of musicians, EP’s and even tours before we really figured out what we wanted to do. I started out as an auxiliary player for other artists and did that for years before trying to start something on my own. Even then there was no real guide for what we would be up against. I really wanted to figure some things out before releasing a full length record so that’s what we did.

How does your process of songwriting go around?
For the Great Escapes record Josh and I figured out a process where I wrote and halfway produced songs then brought them to him for final judgement. He’s really good at picking apart the composition of a song and taking it to another level.

All your songs have some magical element to them, be it a clever synth or a piano key well placed. Is the magical/mystical element something you keep that in mind while creating music? Or does it happen naturally?
Well thank you! We actually work really hard on composition and arrangements. Josh and I both have experience as composers and really care about the details of small sounds. Sometimes we will spend days chasing sounds that we end up scrapping just because they don’t bring an element that produces the right feeling we want. It’s a maniacal process but we always enjoy the feeling when we finally stumble on the right sound.

The Great Escape

Importantly, what are you trying to convey with you music? Do you see your music as a “Great Escape” for the listeners?
Well we named the band Paper Lights because the floating lanterns are commonly used as a celebration of life in some way or another. I guess I would want our music to be encouraging and honest. Something you would want to listen to on a road trip or any adventure where you’d want things to feel epic and emotional.

What is meaning behind your debut album, Great Escapes? And do you see it as a “Great Escape” for yourselves?
Yeah, as I started writing for the album escaping from circumstances or decisions started emerging as a common theme. I was spending a lot of time outside at the time and starting to see the outdoors as an escape from the stress and expectations of life in the city.
So the record became about different types of escapes we can experience good and bad. It’s also a reflection of my story of breaking free from the American dream and pursuing a more fulfilling life.

Following that, who would you point out as your main influences while creating its concept and sonority?
Ya know, I think we took a lot of pieces from different influences but for Josh it was probably a long list of film composers. I’ve been listening to a combination of composers and indie bands over the years. Nico Muhly is really inspiring to me as a composer/arranger. I’ve also learned a lot of unique vocal recording techniques from artists like Sufjan Stevens and Jónsi.

We can’t not mention the amazing work in your music video for We’re A Lot Like Trees! It definitely has a more nature-inspired sonority than the rest of the album. Why is that?
Well I know it’s a mostly electronic album but a lot of the themes were inspired by the outdoors. For the Trees song we wanted a fun video that would celebrate the unity of all living things and have lots of animals in it.
We used this amazing company from Brooklyn called Dream Bear who commissioned London based animator Emanuele Kabu to make it. We couldn’t have been happier with the way it all turned out. Those guys are incredible at what they do.


You are releasing a new album that feature both original songs from Great Escapes and four remixes. How did you feel, seeing other artists picking up your songs, dissecting and transforming them?
It was a really cool experience. Remixing isn’t something I had any previous experience in but it was really interesting to see how those guys can totally reinvent your songs. It’s a very special skill set and we were really honored that they shared it with us.

Past, Present, Future

Since you began until now, what to do you feel was the most valuable thing that ever happened to you guys as a band?
I think for me it was finding a love for house concerts. We’ve been really lucky to play festivals and club tours but I think we all really appreciate the relationships we’ve been able to develop by playing smaller intimate venues.
All the musicians who play with us have come to love them almost to the point that they’re disappointed if we don’t have enough living room shows on the schedule. It’s something that I think we will always want to do as we grow.

And now looking to the future, what do Paper Lights have planned for 2017?
We’re planning a busy tour schedule starting in February. Also we’re doing a project where we record our next record from a mobile studio in the National Parks and document the whole process. It’s something that we’re really excited about sharing with everyone.

Are we getting some collaborations?
Yeah actually we’ve been talking with our friend Nate Butler who is an Atlanta based Hip-hop act about collaborating on a few shows this year. I’ve always thought it would be a fun genre to play and we will most likely bring some different elements to his music.

When that tour happens, are you considering to play in European countries? Is Portugal included?
We plan to eventually get into the UK. I’ve toured there with a couple of other artists in the past but not Paper Lights yet. We would love to play in Portugal too. I’ve visited there and the people are incredible. It would be lots of fun.


We at Where the Music Meets would like to thank you very much for this interview, and wish you the best of success for 2017 and the years to come!

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