When I'm late, it usually has a tendency to smack me in my sleepy head. Late for work - daily. Late going to bed - nightly. Late getting around to music I should have heard one, two or twenty-six years ago - it's quite common.
Enter Jason Quever and papercuts - I've been playing 'Mockingbird', his latest album, daily to try and make up time lost not hearing this album in 2004. Released late last year and only discovered by myself after seeing a brief Uncut review comparing Quever's release to Galaxie 500 and name-dropping Cass McCombs, I headed right for the sampling paradise known as the internet. One of two mp3's on the papercuts site was "Pan American Blues Pt. 2" - a swirling composition that set Quever's unique tone around a memorable percussion & organ front beat. Also captured within this mix is an acoustic guitar & an intelligent hint of violin creating a song that did just what a sampling should - I really wanted to hear more. Further searches revealed that Mockingbird was papercuts' second release, with 'Rejoicing Songs' being a lesser-known release on Owen Ashworth's (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, occasional papercuts drummer) label Cassingle USA from 2000.
Forward into the Fall of 2005, and we find a very kind Mister Quever busy at work on his third album at his home / analog recording space Pan American Recording Studio in San Francisco, California. If you have yet to hear papercuts - maybe our trivial discussion below can set you on your way.
"Pan American Blues Pt. 2" is taken from
the latest papercuts album Mockingbird that was released
Farm Records in October of 2004. The 'Part 2' was added after
the discovery of "Pan-American
Blues" - a traditional song from the 1920's said to be dedicated
to the Pan-American train service of the same era.
sctas }: How are you
(and for that, where are you located)?
I wouldn't have grouped you into the soul category (Curtis Mayfield, Staple Singers) initially, but now it makes sense going back and listening to a song like "Poor and Free". As for My Bloody Valentine - maybe you can shine an honest perspective on that legendary status (for I wholly respect your music). What is the major following with MBV and Loveless? I mean, that album (and this will forever be debated) has a few great songs ( "Blown A Wish" comes to mind) and production style - but how is it one of the greatest albums of all time?
Well to be honest, writing extensively about music isn't something
I understand. For the most part, music either moves people or it doesn't.
When people ask me if I like something and I don't - and I'm not sure
why - I often say "well it just doesn't work on me", like
some medicine or something. My Bloody Valentine and
Loveless in particular just moves me and gives me hope and
makes anything seem possible. But this goes way beyond production
style. I think those songs would be great with their 2 voices and
an acoustic guitar, the production is the icing on the cake so to
speak. It is a very aesthetic writing style, and it's hard to hear
the words, but unless they were really distracting I don't think it
would ruin it for me. They sound so sincere and inspired, they encapsulate
that feeling you get when things make sense for that split second,
like all good music. I sometimes think of music in this way: in modernist
painting, some writers critique artists based on how they use the
elements that are unique to their medium. In music these elements
are melody and rhythm. The melodies on Loveless are great,
a language unto itself, and if you want me to be specific they used
dissonance and major 7ths in a way that is usually hard on the ears
or sappy, but not there. Usually I will forgive good music with mediocre
lyrics but not the other way around. It's not an intellectual thing,
but looking back this seems true. As far as liking soul music, it's
not that what influences you should be recognizable in your own work,
but things like soul music are inspiring, and teach you what is valuable
in music, makes you want to keep doing it. When you hear Otis
Redding you don't want to sound like him, no one can, but
you see the value in making music and connecting with people. "Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa"
is a great lyric to me, in the context of the song. Cryptic stuff,
maybe interesting on paper in an logical way, "ah yes! how delightful,
I get it!" Maybe not in song. I like music, usually not poetry.
I bring that up because many reviews of Mockingbird mention his name like you and Cass might collaborate often, and I take the association as you playing a majority of instruments for him. Another reason I mention it is due to the fact that I think you should be in every player of any fan (minor or major) who digs Cass' sound - as in the "sound" may be you.. . if that makes any sense. I guess if any question is to arise out of my mess I've made here is: would you rather distance yourself from the Cass link and develop your own fanbase, or is the association welcome?
I just meant that he's got a new album ( PREfection ) that sounds great, and I had nothing to do with it. I recorded Not the Way and A and played most of the instruments on the first, and much on the second. He did play briefly with Papercuts a long time ago. I don't have any reason to distance myself from these things, they seem distant from me. If it gets people to check Papercuts out, that is good. The association makes sense in reference to those albums. A and Mockingbird were recorded on the same equipment, same place for much of it, same people on it (me, Matt Popieluch and Luke Top), roughly same time period, (same reverb box!), we were into the same records at the time. He's done things since then though.
You've also played with Andy Cabic [Vetiver] - most current to me on the ESOPUS 4 comp where you are credited with drums (maybe more?). Have you toured / recorded with Vetiver as well or was this just a friendly, one-off session?
Andy is one of the nicest guys, a friend, and our bands have played together a couple times. He had to do a song for the magazine pretty quickly, so I played drums (only) on it, we did it here at my studio. It was just a one time thing, it was all his own production, he knows his shit, I just set up the mics and smoked a doob (rhetorically speaking).
uncovered (bless the internet) that you have at times worked with
Duster, a band that I have been a follower and admirer of (see: Memphis
Sophisticate) . What did you work on with them?
Throwing things away? (at this point I am moved to tears and begin to weep behind my bewildered stare.. . .)
Well, I didn't mean that as a sad thing. That's just the way I seem to work best. Sometimes I write in styles that don't fit into my records. Some songs I just cant finish, it's like a puzzle I have set up for myself and I can't find the final piece. Sometimes it comes years later and things are recycled in new ways. The bottom line is I just don't have the luxury of releasing whatever I want. I've got to do it as good and concise as possible. I would like to ensure that I can keep making records that I don't have to pay for. There are certain people that have established themselves and people will listen to their long albums and search through the weeds for the best songs and it wont matter for them. I have always wanted to make a double album. In 2002 there was a 3 month period where I wrote about 50 songs ("Pan American Blues" was one of them, the oldest on mockingbird). All but 1 or 2 were discarded. I couldn't get arrested in this town then much less put out 40-50 songs.
Well, to the luxury of releasing anything you want - there are options, yes? What about limited run singles/EPs (handmade packaging.. cd-r) or iTunes?
That would involve some level of self promotion and businessman type effort that I don't enjoy at all. I think my new record is going to be so much better because I don't have to worry about if it's going to be released or not. I don't have to think about trivial things that are necessary to think about when putting out a record, even a demo. When I said recording is a mind set different than writing, well putting out your own cd requires a complete opposite state of mind, and I think it can be really damaging to the creative process. Being idealistic and hopeful are good for writing, bad for business. I think overall I can deal with songs getting left behind if I can keep looking ahead and keep writing, thinking "well maybe if this ones better someone will hear it".
To that - are you a fan / supporter of the digital bridge (iTunes, emusic.. .) that has come to save many small and/or "indie"artists and labels over the past 5 years?
Well I'm not exactly sure what that means, if that's true then that's
a great thing (I like vinyl though). But it's sort of a band aid on
a head wound. So if that helps some bands survive that is great, but
it would be better if they could not only survive but get out in the
world, so everyday people know that good music is not just a thing
of the past. In the back of my mind, I think of the digital thing
like this well known episode of the Twilight
Zone where the aliens land and are going to give us their
secrets of how to end world hunger, and in the end their plan was
to eat everybody. I hear that ominous music. And then there's things
like tape and film that are undeniably better looking and sounding
than digital, but it's dying because it's *thought of* as less convenient.
My one hope is that it will help vinyl survive, that if cds die -
people will either buy audio files or vinyl.
what makes Jason Quever happy?