[AltWire Interview] JT Daly of Paper Route

Paper Route

paper_route_-_real_emotion_official_album_coverReleased earlier this summer, and featured on the FIFA 17 soundtrack, the fast and furious single “Chariots” by indie rock group Paper Route is one of the hottest tracks we here at AltWire have heard all year.

Released to promote the band’s third record Real Emotion, “Chariots” tells a tale of a relationship gone wrong, and the emotions of the protagonist as he struggles to cope with the realities of a failing relationship that’s on its way to a fiery end.

We couldn’t get enough of the track, and after hearing the other wonderful 15 tracks on Real Emotion, we feel confident enough to recommend it as one of our top albums of the fall.

Recently we sat down with lead vocalist JT Daly to discuss a slew of topics focusing on the album’s creation and the band’s experiences leading up to it. Read what JT had to say below.

AW: Congrats on getting onto the FIFA 17 soundtrack! That’s a pretty massive achievement. How does it feel to land a spot on that soundtrack, and how did the opportunity come about?

JT Daly / Paper Route: It’s so surreal, for multiple reasons. The first is that I’m grossly out of touch with video game culture, yet still so strangely aware of it. Because Nick our guitarist is a gamer of sorts, and my brothers are really into it. I’m sort of surrounded by people who are into the medium, but as a whole, it’s not my thing, let’s just say that.

But I have so much respect for them because there’s so much art and craft put into them, and I love the fact that no one’s figured out a way to steal them, whereas many other mediums are suffering through whatever the internet has done to all of us. Whether it is people just streaming music and streaming movies etc, video games still have held their currency. And I love that about them, there’s still something sacred to them. People still wait in line and pay top dollar for some of them. They still sell out. I’m just fascinated by it as a whole.

So to be a part of something that is so huge and so relevant, and such a massive game it was a dream and yet still slightly surreal because I don’t even understand it.

We had done a show in LA I believe, and someone from EA Sports was there and he just kind of became a fan of the band. And we’re a fan of human beings so we just spoke with them afterward and it just kind of clicked and one of our songs made sense and it happened.

AW: Is anyone in the band fans of any international football teams? If so who do you support?

JT Daly / Paper Route: Yeah! You know, we are huge huge sports fans in general but not so much international football to be honest. I actually do a ton of songs for the Cleveland Browns stadium and I’m a huge Cleveland sports fan. Everyone in our band is in a fantasy football league and basketball is just massive this year with the Cavs winning the championship. Interestingly as I age, I’m getting more and more into sports because it really has just become my only hobby. Everything else has turned into a career for me.

But you know I’m definitely not going to go out and drain a three or intercept a ball at any point in my life [laughs] so I’m so detached from it, but sports are the truest form of entertainment for me. I can’t critique it, I just root for my team and that’s it.

AW: Chariots is a song that I’ve legitimately been unable to take off repeat since I’ve first heard it, it’s definitely one of my picks for ‘Best of Summer’ and perhaps 2016. It’s infectious and it’s powerful. Could you tell me some background of how that song came about?

JT Daly / Paper Route: Chad Howat, the other multi-instrumentalist guy in the band – I don’t know how you even wanna word that, maybe even Chad ‘The Reason Why  The Band Exists’ Howat – had started this song when we were in New Zealand because we had a layover in Fiji and he saw a bottle of water with Golden Pash written on it. He thought that’s an awesome name, an awesome brand name and I need to write a song that sort of reflects that name.

So we had this demo started that was very 90’s Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, sort of in that vein. If he has anything that’s in that world, he knows it’s a bullseye for me every single time. He played it for me and I was like ‘this is perfect, let me start writing to it’ and it proved to be very complicated to put melodies to it. Because honestly, it was just best as an instrumental. It probably took about four or five months of me trying different things. We brought in – we’ve always made jokes about him, we call him the fourth Paper Route band member even though he’s not an official band member – Nate Campany and worked on some melodies with him. We finally landed something that became a part of that melody, and then the lyrics were the last hurdle.

It had to be something very visceral because the song to me was still always best as an instrumental. In fact, I’ve never even admitted this to anyone up until now, but pretty much up until the album went to go mixed I was still fighting for the song just to be an instrumental. I felt like my voice was the weakest part of it. I feel like everyone is probably super critical of themselves but there was almost something too sweet about my voice, and that bothered me.

So I knew with that melody and that sort of a track that lyrically it had to be perfect. So the juxtaposition was that I wanted to find a word that you could just say and someone could go ‘oh have you heard that Chariots song’? It’s just a word that you haven’t really heard that much, but everyone knows what it is.

When I came up with chariots that was when I was like ‘okay I think I’ve got it’. So I pitched it to Chad and was like ‘man, what if we had a love song that was about chariots battling over fidelity?’ and he was like ‘I’m in’. Wrote all the lines, I sang it, and I think it was at the very end that I finally just realized that the vocals needed the music, and the music needed the vocals. Because together they kind of balance each other out and I felt good about it. We never thought it would be a single, we thought it was just going to be a deep cut and just be one of our favorites on the album. But people connected to it and it got released as a single.

AW: For the album cover and album release party, you and your friend Micah Bell created a gorgeous art installation inspired by the songs on Real Emotion. Now that the release party is over, are there any plans to keep the installation up somewhere? Exhibit it for fans to come admire?

JT Daly / Paper Route: You know, we have a whole bunch of plans for that. I think my buzzkill answer for you though is that we can’t really reveal any of that, or it’ll kind of give away the punch. But I will say that one of two things is going to happen. It’s either going to be seen again or it’s going to be held again, and that’s how I’m going to answer that question.

AW: As a visual artist, doing both physical and digital-based art, who are some of your biggest inspirations visually?

JT Daly / Paper Route: Oh my gosh there’s not enough time! This is one of those questions where as soon as I hang up the phone I’m going to be punching myself for not saying who I absolutely adore. So I’m just going to go with my gut right now. I mean I grew up on Warhol, my great uncle actually dated Andy Warhol so he was just this hero in my mind. My uncle John Terrence Kelly, the architect, is one of my favorite artists of all time. Sagmeister…Stefan Sagmeister. There’s a guy called JC Summerville, and he used to go by Arcade Death, and it’s always been one of my dreams to own some of his stuff. Let me think, that might be a good list, but I just want to make sure I’ve covered all my bases here [pause].

I mean…M/M Paris was huge to me, in just the way that they worked with typography, and print, and still show their work, and still have installations and sculptures. I’m really, really inspired by them. I think honestly I’m just like the poor man’s farm version of M/M Paris. I’m you know, always playing catch up. And honestly, I’m obviously a huge fan of Micah. That’s why I’ve worked with him so long.

And then can I give you one more name and then I swear I’m done? Todd Greene is a painter in Nashville and I love his work. He has this series where his grandfather was a pastor but he couldn’t read. So his wife would read the bible and he would draw symbols almost in moleskin type book and then go and preach the gospel according to the symbols he had drawn from his wife reading. Todd took those journals and recreated them in these huge paintings, and they’re basically his grandfather’s sermons, and they’re so gorgeous. It’s phenomenal.

AW: Prior to the release of Real Emotion, the band went through two major lineup changes, with your longtime touring guitarist Nick Aranda becoming an official band member, and your former drummer Gavin leaving the band. How did these lineup changes impact the writing and recording process for Real Emotion in comparison to earlier records?

JT Daly / Paper Route: It was massive. When Gavin left we were devastated because we had always said (Chad and I), we’ve been doing it for so long, we had gone through so many weird friendship things as they collide with art, and to be honest, we weren’t really willing to endure much more of that in life. I think we were both ready to pretty much ‘call it’ and Chad called me up and I went over to his house, and his wife had made this list of all these bands that had lost their drummers and kept on going.

We’re there talking and we’re just like ‘well what do we do?’ We still have something to say, but how do we go about this? You know, three people are a band, two people are a duo. That’s just kind of our perspective, and it didn’t really feel like a band. We kind of just let that ache wear off. Because it’s never good to know you were second place to someone, and I think it just hurts to lose a band member to another band.

When things settled down I think we were able to realize that the band has always been Chad and I. That’s how it started, and it’s why we’ve had a remotely consistent sound, as we’ve produced them and we write these songs. So really not much was going to change, and Chad’s a programmer, and I’m a programmer, and I drum because I love drums. Most of the people who have played with us just play the drums we wrote anyways. It was this human being aspect, this ‘we’re in this together’ that we needed. The art was going to survive, or at least we thought at that point was going to survive.

Nick was the most effortless transition that I think should’ve ever happened. He’s a blinding light of positivity. He gets frustrated at the most hilarious small things, but besides that he’s just always positive, always willing to work and he’s very talented. He would not get discouraged by anything that we were throwing at him and it just felt like we had this sort of rebirth. I think that any person when they sort of lose everything, I think it’s natural to just kind of evolve and come back stronger than you were before. It doesn’t always mean the band comes back stronger, but I think it’s natural that you fight back and that you’re ‘twice as something’. How do I word this better…

AW: You’re twice the man you used to be?

JT Daly / Paper Route: Yeah! But it’s not quite so Stone Temple Pilots [laughs]. It’s part of human nature. You come back and you’ve changed. There’s no way to undo that, and I think in this instance we had changed for the better in a lot of ways, and the album just started coming together. It felt like everything was working, and I think that was the beginning of this ‘tending to the mind’ road we started to go down. Because this album is very much about mental health. Getting healthy again in general.

AW: In a conversation with one of your author friends, you actually talked about how Real Emotion pretty much dealt with mental health and the real emotions that people show or are sometimes afraid to show. Do you feel like Real Emotion was kind of a response to the hurt you were feeling after Gavin left and the rebuilding you had as a band?

JT Daly / Paper Route: Well the experiences we had are all over the album, but specifically the drummer situation isn’t really on it. I think that played into one song, but really, I’ll say this: the arts are a weird thing. They’re one of the only things where it’s not celebrated to repeat what history has already done. In so many other parts of life, it’s respected to do what’s already been done. Or just in general it’s not frowned upon.

In the arts, all you want to do is be unique. That’s the only thing a majority of artists are really trying to do. So in the year 2016 we are one of likely millions of bands. Why would anyone ever want to listen to us?

To me the only reason anyone would like to listen to us is because of our honesty. Because of specific things we’ve gone through. No one else has gone through them. That stuff is specific to us. People can relate, and I think that’s why people do like our band because they can relate to some things, but if I don’t sing about specifically what has happened to me, and Chad isn’t writing from that perspective, and neither is Nick, then we’ve lost our only edge. We’ve lost our only shot of being unique because it’s unique to us. It’s only our life. So yeah our experiences and the things we’ve been going through are absolutely all over this album.

AW: You’re about to head out on tour, are there any places coming up on this run that you’re really excited about?

JT Daly / Paper Route: Saint Louis and Chicago were two of the first cities to really adopt us, back when we were touring very inefficiently and it’s always incredible to go back there and see some familiar faces. I think Chicago is the first place we ever sold out at, outside of our hometown. It just feels right going back there, because we know that we have family there.  

Paper Route – “Chariots”:

Paper Route - Chariots (Lyric Video)

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