By Ian GormelyAfter dropping a number of releases and finding modest success on the East Coast as the Chucky Danger Band, this Prince Edward Island quartet decided to change names just as they were releasing their last full-length three years ago. Trophies can be seen as a new beginning as much as a honing of Paper Lions' considerable talent. Either way, its six songs are all loud and fun indie rock teeming with great riffs and sing-along choruses. "Lost the War," which has already made its way onto MuchMusic and Aux rotation, is the clear standout, but the rest of the EP measures up quite well. "Sweat it Out" is a herky-jerk, mid-tempo rocker with off-kilter drums that emphasize the chaos. But John and Rob MacPhee are able to ground the track with a great melody, a trick that's prevalent in all the band's work. The East Coast pumps out rock bands of such a high calibre, relative to its population, that it takes a lot to stand out from the pack. Somehow, Paper Lions are able to carve out their niche without abandoning the elements of the genre that drew us to them in the first place. Yes, you've heard this all before, but it's hard to argue when it's done this well.
This is the band's first release in three years. What was the hold up? Guitarist Colin Buchanan: It all coincided with not only changing our name, but a reappraisal of everything. We'd been on the road so much early on in our career; we were the epitome of the touring band. Being on the road for three months at a time, we lost sight of where we wanted to be going musically and aesthetically. We took a little bit of time off to hunker down in PEI, relax with family and friends and just write as much as we could. And that's what we did. For that whole winter of 2009, we hit the basement every second day and wrote all these different songs in different styles, putting every aspect of who we were musically under a microscope. We wanted a really focused offering. One thing that we found in the past was it was hard to define what our style was. We wanted one concise statement of "this is who we are now." And we found the best thing to do was crank out a live-off-the-floor six songs with tight pop arrangements that were sitting around in the same place.
With all the songs you wrote, is there an album in the works? We'll probably do another album; we have a lot of songs written. We wrote a bunch this summer as well. We do have a lot of material for our next record, but we have a lot of songs in different styles that were demoed a couple of years ago. It's fun to pull them out and pick out certain aspects that might be able to work in a different song. There's lots of material to pull from, whether it be completely finished songs or scraps and ideas from those demos.
Where was the band heading that made you uncomfortable? We started the band when we were really young. Rob and John are brothers and I was their neighbour growing up. We taught each other how to play music and always had these shitty bands together, whatever the flavour of the year was, whether it be a shitty pop punk band or a metal-ish band. When we started this band, it was just seen as another project that we assumed would fall through. When we started picking up steam, we were pretty naïve. We'd gotten a couple small breaks on the grand scale, but for us at the time, when you're 17 or 18, it seems like a big deal and you kind of get caught up. All these people are starting to suggest different things that you might be uncomfortable with, but you end up coming around to whether you like it or not. There was a three-year period where we were just on the road all the time; we had to take a step back from that to see who we were. We were all maturing musically and individually, so we decided to take some time off.
What kind of offers were you questioning? We had an offer from Sony/BMG a little while ago that just seemed to come out of the blue; it was a really rushed process. They flew down to PEI and wined us and dined us for a couple of days, then we went up to their office in Toronto and they gave us some free CDs and stuff. But at the end of the day, it was just a really awful 360 record deal that was not the opportunity we were waiting for, so we passed on that.
After that time off how would you describe the band today? Definitely happier. As a band, we're really hitting our stride. Everybody always says that their first band or two that they have when they're younger, you make your mistakes business-wise and musically as well. We're finally ready to be the band that we've always wanted; we're really finding our musical voice. The bare bones of what the band have always been ― the harmonies and pop sensibility ― have always been there. But production-wise… on record we've been burned in the past with producers who didn't have us in their best interests, musically, and didn't really allow us a lot of say, production-wise. And that's a product of us being young and naïve. But now that we've taken a lot of the production into our hands, mixing and just putting every aspect under a microscope, we want these focused, really punchy pop rock songs that hopefully resonate with people. The bigger the chorus, the hookier the guitar riff and the cooler the drums, that's cool with us.