You Sing, I Write: Q&A with Jacob Rolleston of Paper Rival

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Q&A with Jacob Rolleston of Paper Rival

I chatted with frontman Jacob Rolleston the day after Paper Rival’s Bamboozle performance at Giant's Stadium in New Jersey. He filled me in on how the band began, their debut full-length album due in stores June 3, and the stories behind some of his songs, one of which came from a box of old letters between his great grandparents when his great grandfather was stationed in Germany during WWII. Read on for more of the interview and check back in a few days for the audio format of the interview. Be sure to check out Paper Rival on MySpace and if you like what you hear, go pick up a copy of their album Tuesday!

Tell me a little bit about Paper Rival. I read that you guys started as two separate bands at first.

Yeah. The guitar players, Patrick and Brent were in a band together in Nashville, a prominent local band, and I was in a band in Chattanooga. My band from Chattanooga went to Nashville and Patrick actually recorded my former band’s C.D. We just weren’t super happy with what we were doing and the timing just worked and Patrick and Brent came to where I worked with our old drummer and said, “Hey, do you maybe want to start a project.” And I said, “Yeah.” And that’s pretty much it. It wasn’t really too out of the ordinary from a lot of band’s experiences, just taking members from several bands and kind of adding.

And you guys have a new record coming out soon.
Yes we do. Dialog, June 3.

How was it recording Dialog? Did you go into the studio having a concept for it?
You know, there wasn’t really a concept, necessarily. It was actually everything but that. We learned that we had to change our band name as we went into the studio last year in March. We actually went into the studio in February and started recording and then we did South by Southwest in ’07 and we had to change our band name there. When we came back we got a lot more focused and were thinking that by changing our band name it would make it easier for us to change the style of music and our writing. It actually made us a lot happier, so recording was anything but a concept. We just we went in and luckily everything came to be how it is and we’re really excited about it.

What was the whole thing with your name change? Did some other band have it?
Yeah, there was a Canadian band that had the name. They weren’t jerks to us really. We would get mixed up in press and they made it to iTunes first and that’s such a huge market that we couldn’t really afford to not be on iTunes. It was just kind of like, “Let’s just change our name now. We don’t have a full length out; we can afford to do it right now.” It was a decision on our part and to make it a little easier for everybody.

I read that “The Kettle Black” was based on letters from your grandparents. How did you go about finding those and writing that song?
Yeah. They were letters from my great grandfather to my great grandmother from World War II when he was stationed in Germany. He was in the air force. I was looking for inspiration. A long time ago, when I was 11 or 12 and my great grandmother was getting older, I kind of knew she was going to be put into a nursing home. I understood, I guess, that families fight about certain things they want from their great grandmother’s house, like family heirlooms and things like that. So I just took everything I thought that I would want in the future, that my family would want. A shoebox of letters was one of the things.

I was looking for inspiration and the whole theme of the album was building around this family/friends type of vibe, the lyrics I was writing anyway. I just kind of went into that old shoebox full of letters and was amazed at how the problems that they had when he was gone in a war, which I can’t even imagine, are some of the same problems that I’m having today. He’s in a war and he understands what he’s doing and I’m out touring and I understand what I’m doing, but none of my family and friends really. They’re like, “Why are you doing this? Come home, hang out, get a job.” And it’s the same. My great grandmother is saying then, “Come home. Why are you over there, fighting all the time?” It’s all the same problems, just having to deal with it while you’re gone. It’s kind of that mentality.

Did you write all the lyrics on the album or is it a group effort?
Pretty much. There are a couple of songs where Patrick had guitar and lyrics to and there were some that just fit and I didn’t want to change. Sometimes you’ll get a singer that’s kind of selfish and wants to write all his own words and I tried to fight that because I think anyone is really partial to what they’re saying all the time. You kind of feel like you want to be the only lyric writer, so I just fight that because I know that a lot of times what somebody is saying is sometimes better than how I can say it. So I try to see it that way. So sometimes Patrick will write something and I may write a little bit or change it to make it sound like it’s from me and sometimes I’ll have words and Patrick will say, “That doesn’t sound like you” and change it.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?
My personal favorite is probably “Bluebird.” I like the arrangement and the old music in the song is really good. I like the way the song came about, how randomly the song came about. In my opinion it’s the most beautiful song on the record.

I really like the lyrics and musical accompaniment in “An Easy Belief.” What was the inspiration behind that song?
I know in my family, there’s a lot of self medicating on both sides. On my dad’s side there’s this whole thing about living forever and wanting to go into some type of heaven forever, an eternity. On my mom’s side, she just self medicates and doesn’t necessarily believe she’s going to live forever. Why do we as humans do tons of the bad things we do and think we deserve to live forever? There’s so many other species on the planet that deserve to live longer than we do and it’s basically saying that.

How would you describe your music to someone that’s never heard it before?
I heard Patrick say in another interview that it’s like 90’s alternative rock indie music with a folk twist. There’s definitely an organic element about it that isn’t just rock and isn’t just indie or isn’t just alternative music that keeps the music grounded.

What are your hopes for the next few years?
Personally, I’d love to take small steps. I like that we’re on a label and we’re surrounded by people that believe in us and people that understand that it takes time if you really want to do what you’re doing and do what you love. Sometimes it just takes time to get there and that’s better. We want to really have a nice fan base and care about our fans and care about people who come to see us. We want to take small steps towards hopefully a big future and a long future and a long career. That’s my hope, just to continue doing what we’re doing.

I read that “Keep Us In” was inspired by an election in Nashville on the gay rights/marriage issue. Obviously it affected you a lot.
It’s just like, what year is it? I think for all of us in the band, and tons of people in the city and surrounding areas, a lot of people felt the same way. Its 2007, you know? Now it’s 2008, but it happened in 2007. It’s totally people who are living based on what their grandparents and great grandparents thought and not living and creating their own opinions and how embarrassed I am of people like that, just on any subject. Be a progressive thinker, don’t just sit and muddle in your old grandparents opinions, just closed-minded opinions. That’s kind of where that song came from. The core of it was definitely was that, but it’s more universal, just about people in general, self-centered, and close-minded people.

How do you feel Paper Rival is different than the other upcoming bands out there? What will make people want to come and see you?
Well, that’s what we are. We’re just people. We’re not doing anything, we’re playing the music that we want to play and that, I think, is different. There are bands that play the music they want to play and love what they do and there are bands that don’t play the music they want to play and love what they do. I think we’re different in the way that we’re the same person before we get on the stage as we are when we get on the stage and after we’re off the stage. We love being in the crowd and talking to people and really, all of us, love engaging the crowd and people that like our music.

For more on Paper Rival check them out on MySpace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow awesome job. I'm a more recent fan of these guys but want to get more of their stuff. Keep up the good work, I'll be checking back for sure.


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