The Paranoid Style are a band that I don’t know a great deal about (writes Andy Wood) so here are a few facts first.
They are mainly Elizabeth Nelson Bracy and Timothy Bracy, formerly of the band The Mendoza Line, augmented with additional musicians. They are based in Washington D.C. They write and record lovely songs that are catchy and gorgeous, poppy but with a bittersweet edge. They are working on their debut album The Paranoid Style In American Pub Rock, the snippets of which I’ve heard sound utterly fantastic. They appear to have a fascination of sorts with our own Shakin’ Stevens (more about which later) and they are coming to play Scotland for the first time this week.
I put on my inquisitor’s hat and Elizabeth was gracious enough to answer my questions for your delectation.
AW – Who are The Paranoid Style? Can you introduce yourselves and tell us a little of how you came to be in a band?
ENB – The Paranoid Style is my husband Timothy and I, and a cohort of itinerant musicians with axes to grind and precious little to lose (what might have been lost, has, in fact, been lost). How did we come to be in a band? Well, everyone in America is in a band, more or less. I know, we are as surprised as you are – a few songs led to a few practices and those led to a few gigs, and the next thing you know, we’re stuck with this thing. The next step can only be global fame or permanent incarceration. Fortunately, everyone in American jail is also in a band. Seek ye Elvis Presley’s illustrative film on the subject, Jailhouse Rock.
AW – Where did the name The Paranoid Style originate from?
ENB – The great political scientist Richard Hofstadter wrote a fun treatise in 1964 called The Paranoid Style in American Politics. It was remarkably insightful and prescient and influenced a lot of the thinking that went on our upcoming record The Paranoid Style In American Pub Rock. For anyone wanting a credible insight into the mind of American intellectual politics, Hofstadter’s work is highly recommended and never more relevant than now.
AW – What are your influences, musical or otherwise?
ENB – As ever, there’s almost too many to mention, but certainly that company includes: T. Rex, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello, Morrissey, Devo and The Mekons, to name only a very few. Timothy and I both also like to watch a lot of television, which comes in abundant supply in our country. There is never a given moment at any point in any day where there is not something spasmodically entertaining on television or ‘telly’ as I suppose you call it where you are. Some of our favourite shows include Veep, Game Of Thrones, Curb Your Enthusiasm and other shows that are not aired on HBO.
AW – Will this be your first trip to Scotland as The Paranoid Style? Are you looking forward to it and what can audiences expect if they haven’t heard you before?
ENB – This will be our first trip anywhere as The Paranoid Style. And we sure are looking forward to it, but by virtue of our name we are naturally very afraid. Both of us have been to Scotland previously, but only as civilians and while we had a great time we still did not walk away with a full mastery of your customs. We’re incredibly grateful to be received by Scottish audiences and can only hope that our commitment to no-holds-barred, devil-may-care fun will translate. They should also expect us to only play for about twenty minutes. Were this a trip to the dentist’s chair and not a rock show, this would be considered mercilessly short. I can also do a couple of decent card tricks.
AW – What’s the best response you’ve ever had to The Paranoid Style?
ENB – ‘I’m not sure what this music is, but you can’t say they don’t have a point of view.’
AW – And the worst?
ENB – One time our friend, James Jackson Toth – who is one of music’s best known purveyors of avant gesture – deemed a CD we mailed to him ‘unlistenable’. (I am paraphrasing here). It turns out the CD was broken, but still.
AW – If time/mortality/finance were no barriers what would the ideal show be for The Paranoid Style?
ENB – Opening for Neil Diamond at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas in 1976.
AW – Along with recording and performing as The Paranoid Style you also run a record label and do some music writing. Can you tell me a bit about these extra-curricular activities?
ENB – We don’t really run a record label but we do occasionally write about music. This exercise is deliberate and creatively fertile from our perspective. It’s always been our belief that, just as the great filmmaker Francois Truffaut and his cohort wrote about movies in Cahiers du Cinema while simultaneously making movies of their own, we should be able to both turn a critical eye to contemporary music and also write and perform songs of our own. Jean-Luc Godard, another great French New Wave filmmaker once said, ‘The best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie.’ And the truth is, the best way to criticize an album is to make another album.
AW – Can you explain the appeal of Shakin’ Stevens please?
ENB – The honest answer is no, and not because Shakin’ Stevens doesn’t appeal to us, but because we were never aware of him before a vital heads-up from our good buddy in Sheffield and head of film culture for Creative England, Jay Arnold alerted us to a special resemblance of my husband, Timothy and the Man himself. If you want to fact-check this let me know – I can put you in contact with Jay. Having said that, he IS the Welsh Elvis, so.
AW – What does the future hold for The Paranoid Style?
ENB – The Paranoid Style prefers not to ponder the future, but rather dwell upon the indignities of the past. If there is indeed a future, The Paranoid Style certainly hopes it involves some good sandwiches, more robots and doing a killer ad campaign for Mallomars on Mars with David Bowie.
AW – Anything else you’d like to add?
ENB – We couldn’t be more excited to darken your doors. Scotland has always felt like a second creative home and it’s a unique privilege to get to visit and enjoy the company of like-minded folk.