In conversation with Paper Ladies

A two-man band with a washy sound

Thomas Draper (bottom) and Joe Kenny (top) having a good time.
Credit: 
Supplied by Paper Ladies

The Journal met up with up-and-coming rockers and long-time friends, Paper Ladies, to talk about their washy sound, musical idols, and future aspirations, which may include a food truck.

Founded in 2015, Paper Ladies is an Indie rock and psychedelic band, comprised of once “mortal enemies”, Thomas Draper (vocals, guitar, synth) and Joe Kenny, ArtSci ‘19 (drums, vocals). The duo came together in hopes of bringing the Queen’s and Kingston crowds “tasty licks and slick grooves.”

The band is set to open for Hollerado at this year’s QPOP festival.

How did the Paper Ladies come to be?

Joe: This one actually goes back a ways. We met when we were five or six-ish, like kindergarten. We went to the same small elementary school and didn’t really like each other for a long time. When we were in grade eight, we decided we should start making music together, us and two other friends of ours.

Thomas: We were the only dudes who played music in school. 

Joe: Yeah, to the extent that we do. There are a lot of people who learn ‘Wonderwall’ on guitar and stuff — I was guilty of that for a little. But yeah, we did that band all throughout high school. Then it sort of just fell apart on its own. Different people go to different places and want to do different things. But, we were still kicking around so we decided just to do us two and see what came of it.

Thomas: Joe was originally on bass, but he had to switch over.

What’s your song writing process like? Is it easier in regards to your group dynamic?

Thomas: It’s just easy writing songs when it’s just the two of us.

Joe: We’ve been doing this together for so long we kind of already know where the other one is going before they’re there, musically. It’s easy to see where [Thomas] wants to go with this stuff.

Thomas: Either one of us will come up with a guitar idea and we’ll kind of just rip off of it together.

Joe: We just hash it out. Try changing chords here and there, adding parts.

Thomas: I often have no idea what I’m doing. I’m like “Can you take my guitar for a moment and figure this out for me?”

Why name the band Paper Ladies? And, who came up with it?

Thomas: It was the both of us because we were trying to figure out a new name of the band because we didn’t have anything.

Joe: We started off with Paper Planes because we were big fans of the M.I.A. song. We thought that would be a cool band name, but then that was taken. Then we did Paper Kites, which is another band, so that was taken. I have a little sister who use to play with these dolls called Paper Janes.

Thomas: And I was like, “we should probably not do that because that’s already a company.” Every single one of these names there were a million variations, like with spaces, vowels everything.

Joe: So then Thomas asked me what a Paper Jane was and I said it was a paper lady. We searched it, Google, Bing, all of it, and we know there’s not another band named Paper Ladies. 

How do you guys feel about the Kingston music scene, it’s known to be a hub for underground talent — what are your thoughts on this?

Thomas: There are a lot of hidden gems. You probably know Lost Cousins — they’re absolutely phenomenal. P.S. I Love You is also a huge influence on our music as well.

Joe: We rip everything we do off that band!

Do you have any pre-concert/show rituals or meals?

Thomas: I do really stupid lip rolls to warm up my voice. I actually don’t eat anything, because anything I do eat will in some way mess up my voice.

Joe: Depending where we are and what the venue’s veggie burgers are looking like, I might get one of those. So far, my favourite is The Toucan. [Our pre show routine] is nothing insane; we’re not so superstitious. Actually, Thomas kind of is.

Thomas: Yeah, that’s why I do the “Brrrrrrrrr” for hours before we play. Back in the day it would always happen that during the set my voice would just absolutely give and be super crackly, so I kind of want to avoid that. 

Which musicians or artists inspire your sound and musical growth as a band?

Thomas: Well, we love PS I Love You.

Joe: We really pull from all over. We’re really big Mac DeMarco fans, The Strokes…

Thomas: I really like Tame Impala — any sort of low vibe music as well.

Joe: Right now, I’m on a bit of an electronic music kick. I like that repetitive, but still evolving sound.

Describe your sound.

Joe: I think we sound really washy, like if you put a rock record in a washing machine. If that makes any sense… We like to have a very reverbed kind of sound. We don’t like dead noise. We like a wall of sound going. Thomas is playing like the droney bass and I’m playing the crashy beats. What sets us apart is that there is no dead noise.

Do you plan on making music your career?

Thomas: I really would like to. Regardless of what I do, I still want to make music. I’m going to school (St. Lawrence College) for sound engineering, so I want to include that into my life. And, if the band’s part of it, that would be amazing.

Joe: If the band doesn’t work out, we’ll just start a dad rock band or open a food truck around Queen’s.

Thomas: It would be like mid-forties, we have no money — that sort of idea. 

QPOP is a week away and you’re set to open for Hollerado. How do you feel playing QPOP for your first time?

Joe: We’re really excited. I sent in an email around July saying, ‘Hey, we heard the festival was cool, we’d love to play.’ Then they emailed us while I was at work. Thomas sent me a text and I got really excited. We’re big fans of Hollerado.

Thomas: I can’t help but be nervous, it’s a pretty big show.

Joe: I tend not to get nervous when it comes to just playing our stuff. I have fun doing it, so I’m just more excited to be playing in [QPOP]. We’re huge fans of Hollerado, and just to be opening up for them, especially at Grant Hall — I didn’t even know it was possible.

If you were stranded on an Island and only had one album you could take with you, what would it be?

Thomas: There’s this one band called Young Rival that I’m really into. I would take their album called Interior Light.

Joe: I was raised really heavily on Bruce Springsteen, so I would take Darkness on the Edge of Town. What isn’t there about Bruce that I don’t like?! A story my dad likes to tell is when I was younger, he used to bring me into his office or study to watch a Bruce Springsteen concert and then after that I was in love with it. I’ve seen him in concert about six times. I love him so much, which is weird because we play the music we do.

Thomas: He gets sheepish when he talks about Bruce Springsteen. 

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