A Conversation with Paper Lights

I recently got to talk with Dan Snyder, a founding member of the indie post-rock group Paper Lights.  We talked about their new album We Are Arrows, the off-stage dynamics of being in a band, and ways people – artists and commissioners – can support good music.  Read on…

Paper Lights Promo copy

EJ: How did you meet the rest of the band, and why did you all decide to play together?

DS: Our band has been and remains a revolving door of friends. We’ve all worked together and known each other from playing around Atlanta. I’m really proud that Paper Lights has been somewhat of a catalyst for some of our friends to figure out exactly what they do musically.

EJ: What drew you to the post-rock style?

DS: I don’t know. We just began writing and not for any specific genre. Personally I’m always torn between post-rock, folk and pop.

EJ: Who or what have been some of the biggest inspirations for you and the band?

DS: I think everyone would have a different answer. For me travel always provides the most inspiration. When I’m writing I’ve learned to post pictures from previous trips around. It really helps the process to go back there and remember how it felt sitting in that space. Not unlike scoring a film.

EJ: Do you have any humorous stories to share from touring or recording?

DS: I feel like we’ve had plenty of funny things happen. We laughed non-stop on tour but I guess it was mostly because of quirky personalities. On tour some of the guys did decide to jump off a three story cliff into a shallow pool of water. I discouraged it earning myself the nickname “dad”.  They jumped anyway.

EJ: You recently launched a side project, Buffalo Souls. Please tell us a little bit about that.

DS: Well Buffalo Souls is just the name of the solo record I’m working on. It’s something I’m really excited about. Occasionally I get to create music for commercials and film and that whole process can leave you with a lot of unused material. I just decided to compile some of it into a record. The record became sort of a post soundtrack to an epic trip I got to take out west last summer.

EJ: Since you have had experience creating individually and collaboratively, what are the pros and cons of those approaches?

DS: Great question. Bands are great because of camaraderie and collaboration. There’s nothing better than creating something with your friends. It’s a healthy challenge of sacrificing some of your own ideas and trusting those of your band mates. It’s also really difficult because they are a lot like your family. We don’t get to choose our family, sometimes we just have to put up with them. Creating individually is great because you can work faster alone and don’t have to be a social worker for your artificial family. The negative of that is that you’re limited to your own ideas instead of an entire group’s.

EJ: Odd question: besides anything caffeinated, what food or drink seems to help you create better?

DS: I love hot tea but I guess that’s caffeinated. Can you have decaffeinated tea?

EJ: What was the hardest song to create on your new album, We Are Arrows? What made this song so difficult?

DS: Oddly enough it was We Are Arrows. The chorus had been finished for a long time but we didn’t have a melody or lyrics for the verses. I decided on a day it had to be finished and spent the entire day flushing out lyrics for the first verse. After that it all started coming together. It went from a song we were going to scrap to the title track of the record. I’m pretty happy with it now.

EJ: Will the band be touring in support of the new album?

DS: We just had to postpone a tour we had planned for March but yes possibly. I love touring and haven’t experienced anything more rewarding than the last one Paper Lights did together. Right now a couple of us are trying to work on and finish up our own solo projects but I would like to plan it again soon.

EJ: Vinyl in general: yes or no, and why?

DS: Yes, I have a vinyl collection that I listen to on crappy speakers and still prefer it. I’m not even sure why. I would really like to do a double sided vinyl with Caverns and We Are Arrows on the same disc.

EJ: What have been some seemingly unlikely influences in your music, particularly in We Are Arrows?

DS: I’ve been listening to a lot of composers like Nico Muhly and Thomas Newman. As far as the other band members I’m not sure. I think Melanie likes Ke$ha but I can’t hear any of that in her writing. Tim listens to a lot of artists that we’ve never heard of and it seems to be a good source of originality for him.

EJ: From any of your experiences as a creator, what has been the most valuable lesson that you have learned?

DS: Oh, there have been so many lessons. The one that sticks out the most though is that you can’t afford to only be an artist anymore. You have to be smart and learn things that have nothing to do with your love of music. That means you might need to hold your own at marketing, social media and publicity on top of balancing the skills to create a quality album. The days of being “discovered” are rare if not gone so an artist has to build their own career and not be lazy about it.

EJ: Is there anything that you’d like to say in closing about the new album, We Are Arrows?

DS: It will be available everywhere on Feb 23rd and please consider buying 8 songs a month instead of subscribing to Spotify. That will go a long way to support artists!

WE\ARE\MIRRORS would like to thank Dan and Paper Lights for doing this interview.  Be sure to check them out on their website and social media and be watching for our release-day review of We Are Arrows.


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