In the final preview for the first Cool Cat Club show of 2014 (next Thursday – 6th February), Andy Wood rounds up PAWS for a chat …
PAWS have came a long way in what seems like a very short time. Having only played their first gig in 2010 they built up a following by playing as many gigs as they could, initially playing around Glasgow but then venturing further afield, drawing in new fans attracted to their energetic performances and beautiful, catchy punk-pop songs. After releasing a self-produced cassette on singer Philip Taylor’s own Cath label they then achieved one of their major dreams – releasing a 7” single on Gerry Loves Records. The cassette release essentially collected all their songs to date together to date and while the recording has a rough edge to it the songs shone through highlighting the band’s raw potential.
In early 2012 the Brighton/Brooklyn based FatCat records, home of We Were Promised Jetpacks and Twilight Sad, signed PAWS and an incredibly productive year began with heaps of well received gigs, an E.P. Misled Youth before the fantastic debut album Cokefloat! was released in October. Tours of the U.K., Europe and the U.S. have followed as the band gigged relentlessly right through 2012 and 2013. Without any major label hype or big money promotion PAWS have built up an audience the old fashioned way with great songs and a live schedule that would have left lesser bands gasping for air.
This hard work and enthusiasm for performing live would be admirable in itself but even more admirable is the brilliant song writing and the fact that their first album was such a cracker.
The name Cokefloat! initially seems very apt. On first hearing, many of PAWS songs are, to put it simply, a sugar rush of gorgeous melodies, bruising riffs and a pure punk-pop rush of sheer joy. Listen closer though and the sheer quality of the songs and the words comes through. I can listen to PAWS and just want to jump around and bounce off the walls like a hyperactive kid. At other times I can immerse myself in the words and emotions. At times PAWS can feel a little bruising to listen to closely but this isn’t a darkness for darkness sake. Opening song ‘Catherine 1956’ is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in along time. Taking the tragically early death of a beloved parent it becomes a celebration and elegy for someone who was and continues to be an important influence on the life of a child now grown up and truly understanding that influence. It never once sounds self-pitying or morbid, just heartfelt, wise and incredibly moving.
Songs like ‘Jellyfish’, ‘Bloodline’ and ‘Sore Tummy’ sound like classic singles, the kind of catchy but with depth songs that always sound great blasting out of the radio, aural pearls shining through the sludge brightening up my day. Again though, under that seductive tune there is a haunting sadness and rare beauty, particularly ‘Bloodline’ which is utterly sublime.
Cokefloat! has a pretty punchy sound. PAWS aren’t polite or over-polished but certainly defy both the lo-fi or grunge revival tags that have occasionally been chucked their way in reviews. These are tags that don’t really apply in any way. The recordings capture the raw energy of the live show but let the songs and arrangements shine through and Cokefloat! is an album that I keep coming back to time and again. There is nothing revivalist either about PAWS. Sure there are some influences in the sound, what bands don’t have influences but it’s a sound that is defiantly very now and very much PAWS.
2014 looks like being another busy, brilliant year for PAWS. Kicking off with a jaunt around the U.K. they then release their second album in May and then look to gig as much as possible throughout the year. Having came such a distance in such a short time I for one hope their star shines brightly for a long time to come.
Ahead of their visit to The Cool Cat Club on the opening night of their forthcoming tour on February 6th, Phillip Taylor graciously answered some questions for us about touring, the forthcoming album and life in PAWS.
How are things with you ahead of your forthcoming tour?
Things are good thank you. We have just been sorting out the final little bits and pieces with our new record and booking tours for the rest of the year during this little bit of time off we’ve had.
How do you prepare for a tour? Do you ever get nervous beforehand?
Never get nervous no, only excited. I think that we all agree that touring is our favourite part of being in a band. Being out there as much as we can playing live and getting tighter as a band. Playing to people in as many places as we can etc. I guess we “prepare” by practicing a bunch and buying lots of socks. We go through a lot of socks. It’s hard to do laundry on tour…so smelly socks are not allowed in the van for long.
Do you still get as excited about touring now as you did when you first toured? How do you keep yourselves amused in between shows?
For sure. As I said earlier, it’s our favourite part of being in a band. We always have a great time talking in the van, listening to music and looking out the window. We are usually lucky enough to have some great people along with us. Our tour manager in the U.S, Brendan, is like a superhero. He always makes our tours as interesting and full of things to do as possible.
Can you please tell us a little bit about the recording of the new album? How exciting does it feel to have your second album due out soon given that one of your original aims was to make a single?
Recording the new album was really exciting and laid back. We headed out to Upstate New York to Adam Pierce’s home and lived with him and his dog Jake for the week. He runs the U.S side of FatCat and plays in some pretty great bands like Swirlies and Mice Parade. There’s a studio in his garden that he’s set up and it’s such a beautiful space out in the woods. It was fall when we were out there so it was so pretty. His friend Jeremy Backofen engineered the record for us as he knows the studio and gear well. He’s engineered on some records like Frightened Rabbit’s Midnight Organ Fight and he’s also produced the majority of The Felice Brothers’ work. We’re big fans of Felice Brothers so it was nice to work with someone that we knew had worked on some records we liked. He did some Gregory and The Hawk stuff too and she’s one of my favourite artists.
When we started out, we always said that we would roll with the punches and just take every opportunity to continue the band that came along. So, we feel really blessed that all of this has come so far. We just want to keep making music together.
Should your fans expect any major surprises, both live and on the new record?
Well, I hope it’s all a surprise because it would suck if they wanted the same thing as before. We really tried to broaden things out on this record because we are sick of people calling our first album “lo-fi”….when it really isn’t. Sure, the vocal has a slight distortion to it. But, where is the lo fi on that record? It was all recorded with really good gear!
On this record we were lucky to have Isabel Castelvi come up to the studio for a day and put some cello over three songs. They are probably my favourite songs on the record, she played so beautifully. We also added in some other instruments on another track just to try and fatten up certain hooks. We just wanted to make a pop record with the same punch that we’ve always tried to catch on record.
Do you feel you have changed a lot since the release of Cokefloat! in 2012, both as a band and as people?
For sure. A lot has changed in our lives personally and as a band. Matthew decided to move onto new pastures and become a producer so we recruited a new bass player in Ryan. We’ve changed just as much as any other person would in 2 years you know?
You’ve mentioned previously the ‘hand-to-mouth lifestyle of a touring band’. How difficult is it to hold a band together in the current climate?
You just need to commit to slogging it out. Never give in and try as hard as you can to keep touring to pay off your costs and build your fanbase as naturally as possible. Be true to yourself and what you are doing and stuff. It’s a big commitment thing that you have to feel 100% as a full group. But, I think it’s different for different bands really.
A number of your songs are incredibly emotionally raw. Do you ever feel they are difficult to sing on stage, particularly as PAWS gigs are very spirited, energetic affairs?
Not really, I find it hard to write about other subject matters as I can’t invest myself in it and express myself properly/honestly. Maybe that will change in time, I have felt pretty exposed at times and in hindsight maybe it wasn’t to clever to put myself out there like that. But, it was never a conscious decision. The songs just always came out. People have sent us letters and emails telling us that certain songs have helped them get through difficult times or what have you, so that makes it worth it. It’s just flattering. I don’t have much confidence in myself…or my songwriting really. So, for someone to express themselves back to me or relate makes me feel a little less alone or out there on the subject matter.
What is your favourite food and animal?
What are some of your highlights of being in PAWS?
There’s so much. Just travelling with my best friends and seeing the world doing something we care about more than anything. We’ve been so blessed to have shared stages with some amazing people and made so many friends all over the world. We got asked to play with The Breeders and hang out with them. They are my favourite band so that was really far out and trippy.
Any awkward moments or lowlights?
Only private things really.
If you could organise your own festival or gig, with time, location, money and mortality no obstruction, what would your ideal show be like?
I dunno really. There’s too many artists I wish I could’ve seen. Maybe like, a Nirvana show with Elliott Smith and Lori Goldstein opening up in New York somewhere.
What does 2014 hold for PAWS?
Touring. Second album. Touring.
Anything else that you would like to add?
Be good to one another and don’t believe everything you read (the hype).
Tickets for the show are available in Groucho’s in Dundee or online here.
Click here for more details of the show:
A video of one of the tunes on the first album:
And a reminder that the Cool Cat Club show is just the first in the band’s February UK tour:
Previous previews of this show on MPT:
Robot Doctors interview