Paint Where We Are Today interview with Robb Johannes by Patrick Finch of the Kitchener Waterloo Record

Paint return with Where We Are Today

by Patrick Finch
March 22, 2012

Toronto power-pop quartet, Paint, is returning to Kitchener-Waterloo to debut their newest record, Where We Are Today, at Maxwell's Music House. It is fitting that a K-W audience will be among the first to hear Paint's new record, since it was just a year ago that they holed up with local producer Ian Smith at his Whitehouse studio for an intensive couple of weeks of writing and recording. It was a deeply rewarding experience for singer-guitarist Robb Johannes, who could not be more pleased with the experience, or the results.

"Working with Ian Smith was, hands-down, the most satisfying, rewarding, and creatively stimulating experience of my life," Johannes enthuses. "Ian and I share a very obsessive and extensive audiophile's taste in music and love a lot of the same bands, so we didn't have to spend a lot of time addressing questions like ‘What are we trying to achieve with this record?' It was more a matter of how to capture the sounds and moods we were going for. Moving into his studio for a few weeks to do the record with complete focus and attention brought everything to life.

"I've never been able to sing so confidently or so freely. He really helped me find my voice and get in touch with what a lot of the songs are really about. That was an intense experience because the album deals with some heavy subject matter, which, as a lyricist, you never truly realize until it's time to record the song and get into the mindset of the character you're speaking as."

This total immersion in his work was an easy adjustment for the ambitious Johannes and his band. To date, Paint has played over one hundred and fifty shows across Canada, and has recently gained distribution through Universal. Their tireless work ethic and strict professionalism has set them apart from legions of bands who would love to be in their position. For Johannes, that hard work and attention to detail is simply the price of success.

"The internet has become so over-saturated with bands recording demos in the their parents' basements that you're almost an anomaly to be a physical entity that tours, meets people, and socializes with their audience," he explains. "That's what really separates the poseurs from the real thing. It's exciting in a way. It takes music back to a very grass-roots model; building pockets of audiences in different parts of the country and letting them bubble and gestate the more times you come through. I love touring. It's probably one of my favourite parts of being a musician. The people you meet along the way; the kindness of strangers; getting to see old friends. All of these things are so rewarding."

While their grass-roots touring philosophy has helped them achieve a sustainable career, it is probably their shrewd embrace of modern technology and social networking that has paid the biggest dividends. Paint's website (www.paintband.com) hosts a slew of videos that range from proper music videos, to interviews and live clips, to a regularly updated (and surprisingly thoughtful) blog. All of these tools have served to keep their fans well-informed and have helped to establish an intimate relationship between the band and their followers. Johannes appreciates the opportunities these modern amenities provide, but is wary of overdoing it.

"We struggle constantly with finding that balance between being accessible and facilitating a personal relationship with our audience, and knowing when to back off and let their imaginations tell the story," he says. "And with knowing where to draw our own personal boundaries. It's not just about being a band. It's about being a human being and expecting a degree of privacy on things that aren't really relevant to your music.

"The problem with social media is that a lot of so-called ‘artists' are letting their personalities be more prevalent than their music. It's very self-indulgent and it bothers me quite a bit. Bands like Led Zeppelin were so legendary because they created a mystique, no one knew who they were or what they were about and that made them more desirable. You'll never see us tweeting photos of our food at restaurants or how we lost our cell phones in toilets. (We try to do) what we feel is right, and what we as fans of music would like to see. You really just need to trust your guts in this business these days, maybe more so than ever. "

The original text of this article can be found at The Waterloo Record.

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