PAPA’s back. There are few bands out there that sound like PAPA: their soulful, gritty, wholly masculine poetics set to rhythm-heavy rock and roll and delivered with raw purity and brutal honesty. In a music landscape where heavily synthesized pop now influences all genres (even those claiming to be alternative or indie), this sort of guttural approach is a relief, and maybe even more than that. Their new song "Hold On" is a loud return for singer/drummer Darren Weiss and bassist Danny Presant. It’s a total banger, a welcome in-your-face attack on the current musical climate, which – they state plainly in the song – will be a "soundtrack to your misery." Ahead of the band's November 27 show headlining at the Echoplex, we spoke with Darren about where things are at with PAPA.
"Hold On" is your first piece of new music in two years; it comes with some bold statements about other music out there and the way it affects us. Why was it important for you to say this? When we were growing up, there seemed to be more room for bands to stretch out. We came of age when things like indie radio actually provided an alternative to the sounds of your basic pop radio. I'm not delusional about it, I know there were also bands like Smashmouth and Sugar Ray, but they were being played alongside bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden. Even early in the 2000s you had a wide musical spectrum – The Shins, Queens of the Stone Age, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mars Volta. Even though all these bands were extremely singular, you could still feel like you were being represented within the wider pop culture. Now most everything coming out of whatever semblance we have left of a more largely recognized alternative or "indie" culture sounds like pop radio, just with worse songwriters. All these bands I see out there are working with songwriters and hitmaking producers, just trying to get that one crossover hit. Nobody seems to be saying much of anything out on the radio waves. Which isn't to say there aren't great artists working these days, but there is just no room for actual alternatives within the allotted alternative framework. If I were a kid growing up in 2015, I would feel very isolated and confused if I had to look to pop culture for a sense of being or community. The kids need somebody to be saying, "This shit here? This isn't for us. We make our own culture, so never mind all that noise." So, that's what "Hold On" is for.
You’ve known Danny a while now, right? How has your working relationship changed over time? Yeah Danny and I have known each other since we were 7, so about 20 years now, which is both fucked up and beautiful to think about. The dynamic has changed countless times. There are times when I need him to take the lead and set the tone, and other times when I need to grab the steering wheel from his hands. Either way, I think we both push the other to stray from repeating ourselves and try to help each other create a fuller, meatier version of the initial spark behind a song, and to keep it honest through all the iterations.
The face of L.A. is always changing. Do you long for anything specific from the city of your youth? Well we grew up in the Valley, which was sort of a quiet suburbia that felt basically like a rustic free for all. When I started playing shows here on the east side of town, there were way more DIY shows; there were illegal warehouse parties that we would play. That was before the gentrification really began, and now at the same location where I used to play secret warehouse shows sits a very popular and fancy restaurant that I can't afford to eat at. Maybe it was just my youthful resistance or oblivion, but there seems to be more money and therefore more systems in place for culture to exist within. My childhood neighborhood was lawless, as was the underground music scene that I came of age in, and neither exist anymore. No more freedom. But the coffee is better now.
You were born and raised in Los Angeles but spent some years living in New York. What brought you back? Well, simply put, we were broke, and there was work, and more importantly, a nourishing musical community back home. But we still love NYC way hard, and always look forward to dipping back into that mad, disgusting and euphoric pool of inspiration.