One of the great things about music is the wonderful people you meet along the way.
A case in point was the recent evening where the four members of Yellow Paper Planes stopped by the office for a few cold beverages and to talk about the band and their new album, “Building a Building” (available 4/21/2017).
Ed. – Read our review of “Building a Building” HERE.
Comprised of Joshua James (vocals/guitar), Brandon Woods (drums/vocals), Peter Mendenhall (bass/vocals) and Jeremy Ebert (guitar/keyboards/vocals), the band are releasing their debut full-length album April 21, 2017 by celebrating with a show at Ace of Cups in Columbus.
“The four of us came together in June (2013),” said James. “Brandon and I played together for a number of years before that (in a different band). He filled-in for our bassist at times, whenever our bassist had a touring gig.”
“It’s was an old country trio (previously),” Woods said, “and we just wanted to rock a little harder.”
Making the jump from straight-forward Americana to a more rock-infused sound, James explains, “There were these songs that I was writing that I felt I couldn’t pull-off onstage by myself. Jeremy is a guy that the rest of the band has known for a long time. So, we picked him up to fill in some of the gaps of the basic three-piece. We had him on keys initially. But, super-quickly, we put together a set and started playing. We have always operated as an entity that road-tests the music as soon as we think it’s about ready. I feel that we learn more onstage than we do in practice.
“So, we quickly put a set together and went on a week-long tour in August (2013). It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“It landed us one of the best gigs ever,” Woods laughingly said, “a piano bar on the lower east side of Manhattan.”
“We showed up and played to the sound guy and one other person,” opined James. “Those are the knocks that you take.”
They added Ebert on keyboards to round out the band, while still attempting to stay true to the more rock-based direction in which they were heading.
“My dad is a jazz piano player and taught me piano from a young age,” said Ebert. “Then I learned to play guitar. With these guys, it was about getting comfortable and not worrying about where my fingers were on the keys. It was more just getting the ‘feel’ of it.
“With this band being rock-based, we’re trying to distance ourselves from the Americana feel. So, it’s not all clanky piano.”
Within a few months of the band forming and preparing for a trip into the studio to record new music, Woods broke his hand. Because of this, the recording session was put on hold.
“We were set to go into the studio that spring (2014),” James said.
They finally released their debut EP, “Feather’s Touch”, in 2015
“We had a record,” said Woods, “but backed-off it and arrived at the EP after abandoning some songs and deconstructing others. We reworked the songs that ended up on the EP so that they made a little more sense.”
This coincided with the band’s transition from the Americana sound they had been playing to the rock-infused sound they were striving for. But, why did they wait for two years to release their debut full-length after the EP?
“We continued to write songs,” said Woods, “play them and then drop them. To get to the twelve songs that are on the new album, we went through several that have come and gone. We finally got to the point where we thought we had a set of songs that were cohesive and good for the album.”
They finished recording the “Building a Building” album in June 2016, after utilizing three separate studios for the process.
“I think I would like to do every project in different studios from now on,” James said. “To some extent, there’s different equipment everywhere… it gets your juices flowing in a different way. The new album was recorded piecemeal because of schedules, but it’s something that I like a lot. It doesn’t get stale.
“Sometimes, if you book a long stretch of time in a studio and you’re going back in the morning after spending ten hours there the day before, you’re like ‘I don’t ever want to see this fucking place again,’ you know what I mean?”
The thing that really stands out of their full-length debut is the fact that they don’t adhere to typical song structure, opting to take the listener on sonic detours around expectations.
“I don’t think that we go out of our way to do that,” said James. “It’s probably more a function of the way that I write, in that I’m not a very good student of music. I’m self-taught, all the way around. I picked up the guitar only to start writing ideas. Songs just kind of come out of me in fits and starts, and then get assembled any way that they make sense. I very rarely approach writing a song with any formula in mind.”
“They’re fun to learn that way,” Mendenhall said, evoking laughter from the band.
There is something to be said for doing your music your way, and not trying to chase the latest trend in music. Yellow Paper Planes are doing just that, hoping you “get it” sooner rather than later.
“At the end of the day,” Woods concludes, “if we’re happy with it, it’s good for us.”
The band will play their release show for “Building a Building” at Ace of Cups on Friday, April 21, 2017.
Yellow Paper Planes – Bottle Up, Explode