Interview: Papercuts

Papercuts - Photo by Chloe Aftel

Papercuts - Photo by Chloe Aftel

Based on connotation alone, the word Papercuts might not conjure up the most positive associations. That is, of course, unless the reference is to San Francisco-based musician Jason Quever, whose decade-old solo project is a richly layered expose of dream-pop mixed with folk sensibilities.

The new album, “Fading Parade,” which is Quever’s fourth and his first with Sub Pop, is a bit of a departure from prior albums, in the sense that the music expounds upon sound, branching out in both tempo and instrumentation. While it was recorded in Quever’s home studio, Pan American, he also brought in producer Thom Monahan.

That deliberate move toward more of a “rock” focus aside, Quever insisted that the result was not intentional as much as what came out when he set to writing.

“I always have ideas about what would be cool to do,” he said, speaking to the idea of forcing his music to follow a certain route. “[But] it’s really hard to control it.”

As for Quever, he admitted his technique revolves more around writing an excess of songs and then narrowing it down later. When it comes to compiling the track list for an album, he always chooses the ones he likes the best, regardless of whether there is a common thread between them or not.

“Most people tend to write a lot more than they put on a record,” he said. “Like, I probably wrote 30 songs or something, but the ones that stick end up being the ones that you like after a month or something. That could be random, you know. It might not be the ones that you thought.”

In fact, writing songs purposefully isn’t always the best route, because as Quever explained, songs naturally don’t lend themselves to being placed under a certain set of restrictions. And even those that do might end up being different than they started out.

“You gotta roll with it,” he said nonchalantly.

Additionally, Quever doesn’t feel any extra kind of attachment to his albums as entire entities.

“I don’t feel very protective about them all being together,” he explained. “They go well together because you wrote them in a certain amount of time, and you recorded them together with the same people…[but] it’s not like a musical or something. They stand alone.”

This is a concept that not every musician can embrace as candidly as Quever. Futhermore, while the songs that don’t make the album might end up on a promotional label release, or as an iTunes bonus or even on a b-side, Quever said that more often than not, he won’t bother to return to those ideas again.

“I don’t really mind just throwing them away,” he shared. “If [a song is] not that good then it’s not that good, and you’re wasting resources on putting it out to the world…you can’t hold on too tightly to ideas that might not get out into the world. Just move on.”

As for the writing process itself, Quever said that he typically needs to be at home in the Bay Area to be the most productive.

“It’s hard to write on the road…it’s definitely hard,” he said. “I like to have a normal life, walk to Dolores Park, and…you know what I mean, like being in San Francisco. That’s where I’m happy…that’s generally when I tend to write stuff.”

Additionally, he feels that when he’s on tour, it’s more about putting an image out into the public and working on maintaining it, as opposed to creating it, which is what songwriting tends to be more of.

“You’re, like, trying to sell yourself a little bit…[and] focus on making it through,” he said of life on the road. “It takes a lot of energy…you always end up with a cold or something…[and] it’s hard to find the time.”

Yet this doesn’t mean that Quever isn’t always thinking about songwriting. In fact, he admitted, he is always mapping out what direction he wants to take and what avenues to explore in the future. And naturally he tends to be inclined to want to make each new album a completely contrary album when compared to the one that comes before it.

But how he imagines an album and how it ends up are often on two opposite ends of the spectrum, something he said is all part of what it means to be a musician.

“You’ll never feel the same way [about a song] that you did when you first had the idea,” he said. “That’s why you keep writing I guess.”

Additionally, he said the way he feels about a song at the outset is incredibly different from how he feels when he performs that same song, so much so that it’s hardly even comparable.

“It’s not the same thing. It’s a different part of your brain,” Quever said. “It’s a different type of joy to, like, play for people. You’re more doing it to communicate with people, you know.”

And as for that live experience, Quever said his most recent tour, in support of “Fading Parade,” was enjoyable, largely in part to the fact that Papercuts headlined.

“It’s been fun to do and not feel like we have to run off the stage,” he shared.

Not only that, but seeing the reaction of the audience to the music makes it relatively worthwhile for him.

“You get to see exactly how people feel about what we’re doing,” he said.

And while the cycle of writing, recording and touring presents its fair share of challenges and rewards, Quever said it’s all just the nature of the beast.

“[I struggle with] just getting to that place where you feel like it’s worth going through the whole thing again. Every time I do it I think ‘this’ll be the last time’ because it’s so draining and exhausting, but then you always end up back there again,” he said. “[But] that’s the fun part, just to have something to look forward to.”

Papercuts plays tonight at Comet Club in Berlin. The show begins at 20.00.

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