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Interview with Colin Buchanan from Paper Lions

Canadian indie-rockers are coming to Australia soon to showcase their latest album Full Color and celebrate Australian Music Week. In this interview with AMNplify, Colin discusses touring Australia, recording in their own studio, creating a music video and more!

So, what have you been up to lately?

Lately we’ve just been on the island – we live on a small island on the east coast of Canada called Prince Edward Island, which is really beautiful in the summers so mostly we’ve been chilling out over the summer, writing a bit of new material and just working in the studio a bit with a couple of shows here and there and just gearing up to come down to Australia.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing in Australia?

Well, from a purely selfish point of view, we’re looking to escape the cold that’s basically overtaken the east coast of Canada right now, it should be really nice and warm in Australia as it kind of always is so we’re excited to get away from the weather and we’re really excited to- this time we’re going back to some venues we played last time we toured there, a couple of years ago so it’ll be nice to go back to a few venues that we’re familiar with, as well as play the Australian Music Week, which is happening in Cronulla

Have you been listening to any Australian artists recently?

Lately, I have not- unless maybe they are Australian and I didn’t even realise but actually, when I was putting together some opening acts for this tour, I was researching the difference in areas and asking the venue owners if they had any suggestions for tour openers. There’s a band in Adelaide that I came across just this morning that I asked if they will open up for us, they’re called Sleepy Lizard and they’re from Adelaide and they’re just kind of a freaky, sort of funk electro mixture of a bunch of different things. I think they’re a pretty young band and I was grooving out to them this morning, so Sleepy Lizard I guess are a great band from Adelaide

Paper Lions have been around for a while now and you would’ve seen the rise of social media. Do you think that having an online presence is important?

Oh, absolutely. For us it’s been such an interesting point of view because, when we were first getting started, social media was really just beginning. We had a MySpace page and then we basically just followed it along to where it’s the cornerstone of everything we do now is social media driven. In fact, we probably wouldn’t be touring Australia if it weren’t for stuff like Facebook and Instagram and- when we first did a tour in Australia a couple of years ago, we just went on our Facebook page and we just said “hey, we’ve always wanted to tour Australia, we don’t really know anybody there but we know we have some fans there from our Facebook page. To any of our fans in Australia, where should we play? Are there good venues?” and it was a pretty huge outpouring of fans from Australia just saying “oh, you know, I have a friend who books this venue, I could hook you up” and “my friends band would love to open” and, you know, just making connections that way. So, we certainly wouldn’t be touring places like Australia and Europe and all these different markets that we just weren’t available to until the last 10 years ago.

Pull Me In is one of my most played songs ever so could you just tell me a bit about that song and how you wrote it?

Well, that song was- whenever we were working on the album My Friends, we kind of had that little riff that was like [sings riff] and we used to always jam that little riff out for a long time, just because we thought that part was cool. So it really just started with that little pre-chorus riff and then we went backwards and reverse engineered it where we wrote the verse. We only had two sections of that song for a long time until we actually hunkered down and we said “we’ve gotta write a chorus for this song or it’s not gonna be a song” so, after we had that chorus idea in mind, I think we listened to a lot of Phoenix at the time and they do a lot of really dry guitar – pIucky, intricate guitar parts that work off of each other and we were really inspired by that sound at the time and that’s where we got the idea to break things down in the chorus and have two really plucky acoustic guitars that play in and out of each other. But, lyrically, we wrote that song as a group as well, just workshopping different lyrics. I think it’s the only love song on the record My Friends. That record is mostly about our childhood and our upbringing in rural PEI, but we knew we had to have at least one love song on the record and that was something that we put together, wanting to have a sweet love song in the mix.

Could you tell me a bit about your recording process for Full Color?

Sure, yeah, we have the great benefit of having a studio in our backyard. I’m actually there right now, I work out of the studio by our friend Adam Glant, it’s called the Hillsound Studio and i work with other bands, producing, engineering and mixing. When it came time to begin the writing process for Full Color, it was right at the beginning of when I was really getting into studio production. Since we had this great studio in our backyard, we kind of though that rather than going into a jam space to write, we would just go into the studio and demo ideas. So, often we’d just have these scraps of songs, maybe a minute or a minute and a half long ideas that we documented over going into the studio for over a year. From there we decided that we would choose 15 of those one, one and a half minute songs and do fleshed out, full versions of those songs and then we eventually whittled those songs down to a 10-song package that is Full Color. So, it was a really different process for us, very different from going into a jam space and just guys standing around in a circle playing instruments. It was very much built in the studio which was super fun for us and we had the time to really sculpt different sounds and it was the right time to do an album like Full Color for us. We really got to play with the boundaries of the studio and we were forward at the time of really getting creative in a space where you’re normally, as a rock band, really stressed about time and getting the right takes so you don’t spend too much money, so for us it was a really beautiful.


Full Colour (artwork by Cohen MacDonald)


What would you say has been a career highlight for you?

There’s been a lot of different highlights but I guess a moment where it actually came full circle, and this is by no means pandering to an Australian media outlet, but I remember whenever we first started I was 17 years old and I remember we had gone to a local bar and we were celebrating our song going to number 1 on the local radio station and I remember we all had like, I’d gotten served a beer when I was still underage and it all felt exciting and rebellious and I remember the engineer who had done our record – that single that had gotten to number 1 – we were joking around and saying “John, whenever we go on our Australian tour, we’ll bring you along” because it just seemed like the craziest thing we could think of at the time, you know, to do a tour in Australia. It was a joke at that time and then a few years later we actually played an Australian tour and had a moment of being down there and being like “yeah, remember that time we were sharing that beer, celebrating our song being played on local radio and joking about touring the world and there we were on the other side of the world playing our music and it was a really surreal moment and definitely a career highlight.

I really like the music video for Don’t Wanna Dance, could you tell me a bit about that?

That was the brain child of a local director from PEI, where we live, it’s a really small place and there’s thankfully a really thriving art scene, and that goes for music and visual arts and film as well. There was a really young, talented guy named Dane Cutcliffe who we had hired to do some video work for us in the past, just for Facebook and stuff like that, and he had an idea to do a proper music video for us and he was still in grade 12 whenever he did that and he organised the whole shoot and we actually filmed that video in his high school, in this crazy light box that his dad made. His dad is the carpenter teacher at the high school and Dane just really put blood, sweat and tears in that video and it was really a stepping stone in his career. He’s now doing film full-time and even for us it was really fun to see this young guy who was just really starting to get into the industry, being able to make his first sill-blown music video with us. It was really exciting to see him step up to the plate.

Since you’ve been together for so long and have toured lots of places, what would you say is a place you want to tour but haven’t been able to yet?

We’ve actually never played the UK before, it’s something that we’ve talked about, there’s been opportunities where we could’ve gone over and we kind of worked on a tour but it ended up falling through because it never seemed like the right time to go or it’s expensive to go over and, I mean, I’ve never gone to the UK before so I’d love to go over and also some of the band members have some family members over there so maybe in the next year or two we’l get over to the UK, that would be really fun for me personally.

You’ve got a pretty packed Australian tour, you’re playing two shows in one day. Does it ever get exhausting playing so much?

Yeah, it can for sure. We definitely are pretty mindful these days about when we’re on the road, making those days count. It’s not as much like when we were younger, we could take a few days off and almost treat it like a vacation a little bit more. Some of the other guys in the band have kids and stuff so when we go out on tour, although it is fun and great to play music and share it with other people around the world but sometimes it is a little bit more of a job and you have to cram it all into a short amount of time to work with family duties back home. So yeah, it’s pretty packed this Australian tour in particular, it’s especially crammed so I think we’ll be pretty damn exhausted by the end of it considering the time change and the packed schedule.

What else do you have planned for the rest of 2017?

2017, basically once we come home we’ll have a bit of writing before Christmas and we always love Christmas on the island and we’ll probably do a a Christmas song in the studio for fun. And then in February we hit the road again and we’re going over to Austria and Germany so first time over there and we’re really excited for that

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