Interview: Jerry Paper on Self Discovery, Genre Exploration, and Hot Churros
Jerry Paper, a self described music lover, is all about taking what you think you know about life and challenging it. We sat down with the songwriter and producer before his show on a mosquito filled evening in Houston, Texas to talk about just that.
R: How was it getting into Houston? Do y’all do anything in particular to pass the time on the road?
Jerry Paper: There were definitely some long drives. Going from El Paso to Austin was brutal, but the shows have been great so far. We do lots of different things. Lately, our drummer, Teddy, has been writing entire Mad Libs and then we’ll go through them. We generally try to push the limits of what qualifies as a noun or adjective to keep it interesting and with that he’s created this long adventure that the five of us are on. We did it on the last U.S tour too, so it’s been a fun continuation.
R: Where did the name Jerry Paper come from? Your middle name isn’t Jerry or anything, is it?
Jerry Paper: I don’t know. It just kind of came to me. [laughs]
You know, you have these ideas about who you are and what you do, so as you get older it’s easy to just start deciding who you are. I think it’s important to try to get rid of that as much as possible. Be open to new things, the world, and different responses from yourself that might surprise you.
R: How did you first get into music?
Jerry Paper: Yea, so I kind of started making music because I grew up in L.A. and I didn’t have a lot of friends in my neighborhood. There also isn’t much of a way to get around when you don’t drive or have a car meaning I spent a lot of time alone. With that, I ended up recording music on cassettes and then progressed to my computer to entertain myself, but then it grew into something more.
R: You’ve been making music for a bit of time now and going through you history it almost seems like there isn’t a genre you haven’t dabbled in from psychedelic folk to comedy rock to free jazz. What made you want to be so experimental with the music you make?
Jerry Paper: When I moved out to New York, I started become more serious music about my music. I would go to lots of shows, see noise bands, and everything in between. The music scene there is pretty mashed up, so there’d be all kind of bands on the same bill. Nothing was separated so that led me to play shows with all kind of artists. I also simply just like music.
R: Please tell me a bit about comedy rock.
Jerry Paper: Oh, you know, it’s just goofy music.
R: You seem like someone who is very comfortable with themself and expressing it. How have you learned to do that and how would you say others could do the same?
Jerry Paper: I think a lot of that has to do with dismantling your ideas of yourself. You know, you have these constructs about who you are and what you do, so as you get older it’s easy to just start deciding who you are. I think its important to try to get rid of that as much as possible. Be open to new things, the world, and different responses from yourself that might surprise you. Be open to who you are in all its complicated and conflicting ways. Don’t shy away from conflict. You know, there’s a lot of praise for people who are pure in their beliefs. As in, everything they do totally lines up, but I feel like “real” people can be hypocritical.
R: Like a Baby, your latest album, is almost a year old now. How are you feeling about the album from a reflective standpoint?
Jerry Paper: I don’t know. It’s definitely been the most well received album. I don’t know though. I guess once I make the music and put it out there it’s not mine anymore, so I don’t really know how to think about it like that. One thing, is that it turned into something I didn’t expect with the final versions being much different from the demos, but art is always growing and changing. I was also able to work with my friends which was cool. I do hope people make meaning of what I create though. Recently, I’ve been working another record and my head is fully in that which has been a whole new challenge.
R: What made you want to, a year later, release a music video for “Everything Borrowed”?
Jerry Paper: Well, it started with Peanut Butter Wolf reaching out to say that he liked my videos and that he wanted to do another one. I love making videos, so I was like “let’s do it”. Then, I asked my friend Alan Resnick if wanted to take part i direct the video and it just came together.
R: What do you enjoy about making videos?
Jerry Paper: It’s just fun to provide a different context to experience the music. I also like seeing what people come up with. Like I’ll send them the music and they’ll come up with a few ideas. From there, I’m like “this one is cool” and we go with it. It’s so fun to have other work grow out of something you’ve already done.
R: I’ve seen you kind of talk about how music, in itself, is like a separate language. Can you elaborate on that?
Jerry Paper: I think that things said through music are things that just can’t be said flat out with words. When I was younger, I thought that meant it somehow transcended language. Now, I understand that music is its own kind of language with its own symbols and signifiers. Like, you know, all of the sounds, chords, rhythms, have a meaning.
R: Is there a song out there that you wish you made?
Jerry Paper: This song we’ve been covering on tour called “Say Goodbye” by Hiroshi Sato.
showing up to the party w/ 32 hot churros
— JERRY PAPER (@JerryPaperREAL) May 5, 2019
R: I saw your tweet from awhile ago about bringing 32 hot churros to a party. What’s the story behind that?
Jerry Paper: [laughs] Yea, this churro stand popped up in my neighborhood while I was on my way to a party, so I was like this is great and I bought 32 of them. It was a hit! I mean, a fresh hot churro? Come on!
R: Do you any other party tips?
Jerry Paper: Yes, go home while it’s still fun.
R: Earlier when you all first arrived to Houston, you posted on your Instagram story that you guys went to eat crawfish and pho. What are your thoughts on the city?
Jerry Paper: I really like Houston! I made sure we woke up early to drive in just so we could have that crawfish and pho for lunch. For me, the way to judge a city is by what kind of food you can get and Houston has everything so I love it.