Paper Beat Scissors builds on inspiration

Given the rise of groups like Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver, it should be little surprise that Halifax-via–United-Kingdom’s Paper Beat Scissors is finding an audience for their music. Though Paper Beat Scissors sound is not quite as orchestral as Bon Iver, the group’s use of brass instrumentation helps weave an intricate tapestry of folk-inspired indie pop on their self-titled debut effort.

Paper Beat Scissors perform at Café Aberdeen, located inside the Aberdeen Cultural Centre on Botsford Street tonight.

Having originally landed in Halifax to pursue a master’s degree in International Development Studies at Dalhousie University, Paper Beat Scissors founder Tim Crabtree had not originally anticipated making Halifax his home. He says that he anticipated staying two years at most but after being “hooked in” by the city, decided to stay.

Crabtree’s life in music began with piano lessons at the age of five. While he says that he dabbled in saxophone and double bass as a child, he picked up at the age of 13 and was completely enamoured with the instrument and has been playing live in one form or the other since that time.

Paper Beat Scissors began to take shape towards the end of 2007 although Crabtree says that they didn’t begin regularly performing until almost a full year later.

“Paper Beat Scissors is more of a project than a band,” he explains. “At the heart of it, the songs are Paper Beat Scissors and whether it is me playing them on an acoustic guitar or me playing the songs with a 10-piece ensemble with strings, horns and electronic processing, it is all Paper Beat Scissors in my mind.”

Crabtree says that despite fans picking up on hearing the influence that other acts have had upon Crabtree in his music, he went into the studio to make the record with no specific sound in mind.

“There was no conscious attempt to reference other artists but I do believe that what we create is always something that has been done by others, consumed, digested and reformed with our own particular slant,” he says. “In terms of arrangements though, touchstones would be The National and Radiohead. While I was making the record, I was listening to a lot of Mark Kozelek and hope that the music I am creating can elicit a similar emotional response in others that I have experienced listening to Mark’s music.

“There is a German band called Notwist that were inspirational for me in terms of considering approaches to combining rock instrumentation with orchestral instrumentation and incorporating the musical potential of sounds from non-musical instruments.”

Even though Paper Beat Scissors is only Crabtree’s second album, the guest list of performers including folk artists Rose Cousins and Tanya Davis stands as a testament to the power of his music.

Co-produced by Mike Feuerstack (aka Snailhouse), Paper Beat Scissors album was mixed by Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara in his Montreal kitchen.

Asked what Feuerstack brought to the table when it came to recording his latest record, Crabtree says that his experience and the fact that he was a fan of Feuerstack’s music helped cement Crabtree’s decision to work with him.

“From the very beginning I was looking for a producer to really shepherd the process. My first release, Flicker, was all recorded at home, and while I’m really pleased with the results, I was finding it hard to focus on things in the home-recording set-up.

“I had met Mike a couple of times before we worked together and had just gotten a really good vibe from him. I was a fan of his music and just had this intuition that he would be a great person for the job.”

Crabtree says that being able to leverage Feuerstack’s experience in the studio and as a songwriter were key components of the Paper Beat Scissors’ record taking the shape and direction that it did.

“Mike was primarily interested in helping me realize my own creative vision, as opposed to needing to put his stamp on things. Though the songs were mostly fully formed when he came into the process, he definitely helped trim some fat, and to shape the rehearsals and the initial tracking of drums, guitar, bass and vocals. He helped keep things under control in addition to helping engineered half of the record. When we moved the recording process to his house in Montreal, Mike put down some beautiful guitar parts that helped really define songs like Folds and Rest Your Bones.

“Perhaps most importantly though, Mike made me salads every day.”

 Article published in June 15, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript