Human meets machine
Paper Tiger debuts Me Have Fun with local electronic showcase
by Dane Smith – Mountain XPress
There is a place where the seemingly contradictory worlds of jazz and electronica collide. It’s a place where multi-instrumentalists meet DJs to blur the line between lounge, pop and trance. And in Asheville, Paper Tiger is your guide to such a place.
More than seven years ago, vocalist Molly Kummerle (Ruby Slippers) and DJ/producer Isaac Gottfried (MINGLE) began collaborating in their spare time. Now, having fully dedicated their creative efforts to the project, the duo is poised to release its debut LP, Me Have Fun, and for fans of seductive, electro-lounge, it is well worth the wait.
The album’s sultry opening track sets the tone for nearly an hour of slinky vocals, crunchy drums and ethereal backdrops that play on each of the duo’s respective strengths. But this project is more than a sum of its parts. Paper Tiger is creating a musical landscape all its own, and it’s a strange and inviting place.
For the most part, Me Have Fun is devoid of hooks, relying instead on infectious grooves and catchy melodies to draw listeners into the dark, smoky moods that dominate the record. It’s an eclectic mix of warm keys, funky bass and crackly samples, intermingled with such subtlety that distinguishing where the human ends and machine begins is nearly impossible.
“That was one of the things I loved about Isaac when we started working together,” says Kummerle. “It’s chill, and he’ll phrase something really weird and then put an effect on it that will make it be like, ‘Oh, that’s electronic.’ But since he uses a lot of vinyl, it has a really organic feeling. So it’s funky but it’s still … I mean, I love records. I grew up listening to records. There’s nothing like that sound. We definitely wanted to keep that.”
The band sent the recording all the way to Europe to ensure that warm, vintage feel was preserved, enlisting Shawn Joseph (King Britt, Massive Attack) to put the finishing touches on Me Have Fun. After all, Kummerle points out, it had been nearly three years in the making and the band was determined “to retain the integrity of what [it] was looking for.”
In addition, she says, Paper Tiger aimed to create a full listening experience, rather than a series of singles to play on shuffle. But in the age of digital downloads, “You have to approach people with the type of music that they want to buy, in the format that they want to buy.” So she and Gottfried compromised, tracking separate musical interludes for a seamless collection that also lends itself to radio and allows fans to pick and choose if they wish.
“I like to listen to the progression that the band went through from the beginning to the end,” she says. “I want to know what order they put the songs in. I really like to feel the process that the band has gone through. And so we definitely wanted to do that. But we also didn’t want to shoot ourselves in the feet. That’s why we broke it up.”
When it came time to design the artwork, Kummerle admits that they “knew just enough to really drive one graphic designer completely nuts.” So the band staged a contest through Creative Allies — Kummerle works by day as Marketing Coordinator at sister company Music Allies — and received an overwhelming response, eventually choosing a majestic tiger stooped upon orange clouds for the cover image.
“We knew that we would know it when we saw it,” she recalls, noting that the winning submission “was actually the first design that came in.”
To mark the album’s release, Paper Tiger will perform alongside several of Asheville’s fellow genre-bending acts at the Orange Peel’s local electronic showcase on Saturday. Strangely, Kummerle says the gig has been in the planning stages since early November and the fact that it coincides with the album release was pure luck.
“These are bands that I would want at my album release party anyway, if it was all my party,” she says. “So it worked out perfectly. It gave us the venue, and it gave me help in billing it out. It’s just really good timing.” To round out the lineup for the release, the band is enlisting the help of some friends, including Chuck Lichtenberger, who played keys on much of the recording, Dave Mathes, the band’s new drummer and cellist Franklin Keel. In addition, videographer Ben Mason will be on hand to “set the ambiance and mood.”
So come Have Fun with Paper Tiger. They really want to play for you.
“This project is so close to my heart that when people really get it and really want to hear it, it’s like, ‘Oh god, I really want to share it with you!” Kummerle says with unmistakable sincerity. “We really want to come play!”
— Dane Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
who: Paper Tiger, with The Nova Echo, Sonmi Suite and Dep
what: Local showcase
where: The Orange Peel
when: Saturday, Jan. 15 (9 p.m. $5. theorangepeel.net)
SIDEBAR FOR DANE’S PAPER TIGER STORY
Along with Paper Tiger, the Orange Peel’s local showcase this month features three more buzz-worthy electronic acts:
The Nova Echo
Energetic, boisterous, pop-savvy, futuristic, young, going places. Before they were well-known in Asheville, the electro-pop band made a name for itself at vampire conventions. In fact, ConventionFansBlog.com says that for the March, 2011 EyeCon The Vampire Diaries, “The first musical guest to be announced is The Nova Echo.” The group (Caleb Hanks, Evan Bradford, Will Arledge, Matt Hixon, Lee Brooks and Jeremy London) recently released its sophomore album, Voyager, which can be downloaded for free or donation at thenovaecho.net.
Experimental, atmospheric, driving, practiced, complex, impeccable. Sonmi Suite (David Mathes, Mike McBride and Robert Garmhausen) has one of the coolest-ever websites on which all of the features (music, photos, blog) are included along with motor assembly, oxygen tanks and ventilation garments on two fully diagrammed astronauts. Hard to top this self-description: “Through their synonymous awareness of harmony, texture, meter, (a)symmetry and the analogous relationship of predictability and unpredictability, they were immediately able to create music that smeared multiple genres together, creating a gyroscope of emotions throughout their sets.” More at sonmisuite.com.
Prolific, proficient, innovative, introspective, timeless, cinematic. Dep is the recording name of producer/one-man-band Danny Peck. His compositions are “a blend of techniques involving digital/analogue sounds, field recordings, circuit bending and basic sequencing all wrapped up in to melodic explorations in electronica,” but the compelling beauty of his work shares as much, aesthetically, with harpsichords and violins as with synthesizers and Moogerfoogers. Check out Dep’s most recent release, My Quiet Life, and his other free, downloadable tracks, at dep.fm.
— Alli Marshall