"The Paper Tongues play NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race." - Interview

It’s so rare in the music industry that you see a band come around like Paper Tongues. They have seven members, which by itself is enough to make them stand out, but it’s their sound that truly makes them one of the more original bands out there blending rock, funk, rap, and soul into one amazing sound. Recently we go a chance to sit down and talk with guitarist/back up vocalist Devin Forbes about the band and their new album which is out now.

Q - Most bands have 3 to 5 members. You guys have 7. How difficult is it for all 7 egos to be fed?

A - There is really a piece of everybody in every song, and we have worked very hard to make sure we're not stepping on each others toes with different parts musically and vocally. It is hard with 7 members, especially when all 7 are songwriters individually, but it can be done. Everybody has played a vital role in the writing and recording of these songs and especially the live show. We're getting to a place where we are flowing as a unit more now than 7 individuals playing music.

Q - How did the band come together?

A - We all met in Charlotte, NC playing at an inprov event in the center of uptown. Musicians from all over the city would come out the first 3 Saturday nights of every month to hop the session and play. There usually weren't any preformed songs, they would just come from an idea, a piece of music, a rhythm, a melody, and form into groove that would go until somebody went somewhere else with the music. It was a great time musically. We all met in that moment and it wasn't until about 5 years after all of us meeting that we decided to make a band out of it.

Q - Based on your band’s bio all seven of you grew up with different musical influences and interests. How hard is it to blend those interests?

A - It seems like that would be extremely difficult and I don't pretend to understand it, but the songs have almost come together of their own accord sometimes. Granted, we have worked for a very long time with many different producers to make them work, but it still doesn't make sense to me that they should work. It's one of those magical connections that you only find once in a while where people from different backgrounds come together and blend together naturally. We are also forever indebted to our producers who heard the potential of every song and saw the beauty of where it would end up. They really helped our differences come together to become what is Paper Tongues.

Q - Tell us a little bit about your album. How would you describe it?

A - It's this crazy mix between hip hop, rock n roll, funk, soul, country, and pop. There are songs that soar like a Journey or Queen ballad, and songs that bump like you're in a club. There are songs that make you want to scream along with the lyrics and ones that make you play air guitar. It's all over, but it all has the consistent quality of Aswan's lead vocal which is always inspiring to me. It's a record that instills hope and action in the ears of the listener. It's a record that will make you get up and do something.

Q - You guys have a handful of big gigs coming up, 98 Rockfest with Alice in Chains, Live X Fest with Papa Roach, and Bonnaroo. What is the festival process like?

A - Festivals are really fun because even if you're not one of the main acts, you still get to share a bill with some of the legends. You get to play for a crowd so much greater in number than normal which is purely there to experience live music. The excitement is infectious at festivals with so many people just waiting to get their ears ripped off. The crowd is always what makes or breaks a show for me, so festivals are some of my favorites.

Q - You're also playing the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Could you tell us a little bit about that? How did it come about?

A - Some months back, we got connected with the family that runs the speedway out here in NC through some business partners. They have been early supporters of our music and now that things are starting to take off a bit with the album being out, they are giving us the opportunity to play at a race. It's such a huge honor to be able to do this and we are all extremely excited about it. It will certainly be the biggest crowd we've played for yet.

Q - Who are some of your musical influences?

A - I personally grew up listening to country radio. My first cassette tape was Brooks and Dunn. From there though, I grew more into rock n roll, then hip hop, etc. You would be hard pressed to find something in the world of music that I especially don't like. Some of my all time favorites, though, are Talking Heads, Tears for Fears, Wilco, Spoon, D'angelo, The Roots, Beck, and Jeff Buckley.

Q – How do you incorporate your musical influences in your own music but still maintain your individuality?

A - Paper Tongues for me isn't about individuality, it's about brotherhood and unity. It's about taking your individuality and donating it to the greater cause. I definitely have my own musical style, but if I tried to push every song in the direction I wanted it to go, I would be faced with huge opposition and the music would not be Paper Tongues, it would be Devin Forbes. This is a true band in that we all have a say and we all have an influence, but every member is ready to lay down their own ideas for a song in order to see what the next person has to offer it. In the end, it's just whatever ends up sounding best for the song and you have to get over it if your idea gets vetoed.

Q - What would you say is the toughest thing about being a musician in today’s musical landscape?

A - There is so much music out there that it is hard to actually stand out. If you think you've created a new sound, chances are that somebody has been doing it for 10 years already and doing it better than you. There are already amazing bands that have been doing things we want to be doing for years and doing it very well, so we want to join into the movement and help it along. We don't claim to be anything new, we just want to take the work that great bands have done before us and go further with it. And there will be bands that take what we do and go further with it.

Q – Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Is there anything else you want to add?

A - With the album out now, we won't be seeing home for a while. We're going to be touring nonstop to make a face connection with as many people as possible. The live show is truly what we are passionate about, so come out and see us this summer. Bonnaroo, Banboozle, etc, we can't wait to see you guys out at a show.

Check out The Paper Tongues at http://papertongues.ning.com.


Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.

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