The music business can be a harsh mistress. Just ask Prince Edward Island pop band Paper Lions. While the group is currently riding a wave of notoriety thanks to their latest record My Friends (released in August), things weren’t always so cut and dry for the group.
Even though giving away music is becoming more and more commonplace these days, it was a different set of circumstances that led Paper Lions down this path. In early 2012, after not having seen any royalties from the sales of their 2010 releaseTrophies, Paper Lions — who play the Tide & Boar in Moncton Saturday night — took the somewhat unusual step of giving away the record to anyone who wanted it.
Much to their surprise, the group’s story found its way onto social networking and news site Reddit. In the 24 hours that followed the Reddit post, the Paper Lions website would receive approximately 150,000 hits with upwards of 13,000 people electing to download Trophies.
While the surge in website visits and album downloads certainly didn’t hurt the Paper Lions’ morale, band vocalist-guitarist John MacPhee acknowledges that the situation may have been blown a little out of proportion.
“I think that some of the people who checked out the Reddit article enjoyed chewing on how bands can be abused by their record labels,” MacPhee says. “It wasn’t necessarily the greatest situation for us to have had to resort to. There was definitely a few conspiracy theories floating around that our record label at the time had staged this whole thing in effort to spur sales. It was a year and a half after the album had come out, however. I don’t think any company would throw themselves under the bus like that.”
Fortunately for the group, their situation with their former label (to whom they had licensed the record for release) was eventually resolved. Despite people’s attention spans appearing to get increasingly shorter, MacPhee says that they continue to meet fans who first heard of the band because of the Reddit post. Could this be a silver lining, perhaps?
“Almost two years later, we still have people approach us at our shows to say that they discovered us thanks to the Reddit post. In a roundabout kind of way, that campaign of giving away our record translated into success for the group.”
MacPhee says that while the group had previously toyed with the idea of giving away their music, Trophies ended up providing them the push they were looking for to confirm that the idea could work. The band subsequently ended up offering their 2012 release At Long Creek as a free download.
When it came to following up the primarily acoustic-based At Long Creek, Paper Lions decided to reach for the stars. The group ended up selecting producer Howard Redekopp (Tegan & Sara, The New Pornographers) to help bring the songs on My Friends to life at Redekopp’s studio in Vancouver.
“It ended up being a wise idea for us to travel to Vancouver to make the record as opposed to Howard coming to the Island,” MacPhee says. “These songs definitely had elements of upbeat pop to them that I think would have been lost had we tried to make the record at home in February or March. The album almost certainly would have taken on a darker tone whereas we got to Vancouver and the birds are chirping and the sun was shining. It had a more positive effect on the final product.”
Asked what interested the group in working with Howard for their newest record, MacPhee says that it was a combination of Redekopp’s track record as well as his talent behind the mixing console.
“Howard has worked with some of our favourite bands but even deeper than that, Howard is a real sound guru. He is incredibly great behind the board in terms of getting tones. Going into this record, we knew that we wanted to make a big sounding pop record that could go toe to toe with anything that the major labels are putting out.”
What: Paper Lions
When: Saturday Nov. 2, 9:00 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Gastropub, 700 Main Street, Moncton
Article published in the November 1, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript