Molly Kummerle loves her band camp roots, her folk-singing experience and her Motown-belting side project. But her heart belongs to the smoky, velvety sounds of Paper Tiger.
The project, which combines Kummerle’s breathy, hushed vocals with electronic orchestration to produce a trippy combination of acid and lounge jazz (acid lounge?), comes to East Tennessee in support of Bonobo on Friday night, one of the heavy hitters in the fast-growing electronic music scene. Hailing from Asheville, N.C., Kummerle and her fellow performers have crafted a comfortable niche for themselves in a town often known more for its roots and jam-band scenes.
“We’re really excited to be part of a vastly growing electronic scene here,” Kummerle told The Daily Times this week. “Moogfest (the AC Entertainment-sponsored festival held over Halloween weekend) has certainly helped, but even before that, there was a healthy pop scene we were a part of. I just started deejaying also, and it’s amazing how many people I meet are deejays doing really killer electronic music that I wouldn’t know if I was just a singer in an electronic band.
“The electronic scene is definitely very healthy. When I started Paper Tiger, being more of an electronic musician I wanted to embrace and connect all the scenes I’d been a part of in the past. I tried really hard to spearhead that and be a positive role for the electronic scene.”
Originally from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Kummerle moved with her family to Asheville as a middle-schooler; part of a musical clan, she was playing guitar, piano and trombone by the time she reached high school.
“I started working in a bar when I was 19, and that’s how I got interested in trip-hop and acid jazz,” she said. “Up until then, I sang in a folky group and sang back-up in a Motown band, but this felt a lot more like home and a lot more like what I was hearing in my head as far as original music goes. So I started working with MINGLE (a project that included producer Isaac Gottfried) to put a stamp on it.
“There’s this richness about the music that isn’t techno. Bonobo, Massive Attack, Thievery Corporation — they all have a rich sound from the vinyl they use, which gives this edge to it that’s really funky. It just made me see images and progressed my feelings beyond the music. It took me to this other place.”
In the studio, they crafted the album “Me Have Fun,” released last year to rave reviews. They’ve opened for artists like Bonobo and Eliot Lipp, performed at Asheville’s swanky Bele Chere festival and at Moogfest. Kummerle, who also performed with the band RubySlippers, has slowly put together a live act that takes what she and Gottfried create in the studio and replicates it in a way that’s faithful to their recorded sounds as well but branches out in new directions as well.
“I feel like it’s an endless horizon for one,” she said. “There’s so much technology and so many different ways to do what I want to do that it’s always changing. Every show, we’re doing a little different and adding a little more. At first, it was just him on his turntables and me on a vocal mic, but I’m a live performer.
“I need live drums, I need the live band to be live, I need to interact with band members. So we’ve started adding more and more, anything that can help us achieve the depth of the sound and have a really great show. There are so many textures you can have in this kind of music, but the main objective is that it’s a live band, and I always want it to be that.”