Paint Can You Hear Me? interview and performance on Melodies in Mind, CJSF 90.1 FM Vancouver
Paint – Melodies in Mind – CJSF 90.1 fm
September 16, 2008, 8:00 p.m. PST
Ryan Fletcher: Host
Robb Johannes: Vocals/guitar
Paula McGlynn: Guitar/vocals
* * * *
Ryan: And we have Paint. Welcome back.
Paula: Thank you.
Robb: Yes, thank you. There’s only two of us this time. Normally we’re in a big mound of bodies.
Ryan: Yes, normally.
Paula: Yes. We’ve divided by two.
Ryan: I’m used to having a lot more colours in the rainbow.
Robb: Well, I’ve got extra colours on my arm today, so it’s all good.
Robb: It’s still healing, I don’t know if you can see that.
Paula: It’s a little textured.
Robb: I got more tattooing less than a week ago.
Ryan: Yeah, I don’t remember that, so that is new, isn’t it?
Robb: It’s not supposed to look scabby like that.
Ryan: Okay, so we’ve got Paint and I guess you listeners are wondering what Paint sounds like. Have you ever listened to your Paint before?
Paula: I have.
Robb: Have we ever listened to paint before? It kinda sounded like the inside of a seashell.
Paula: I know I always have a good time listening to the paint dry.
Ryan: People usually aren’t too excited about watching it dry, but listening to it dry might be different.
Robb: Or listening to it melt is kind of our new philosophy. Put the heat drier on the paint and let it melt.
Ryan: How about a song to get things going?
Robb: We are fervently writing new material still for a show that we have this Friday at the Railway Club, and this is one of those songs. It’s called “After.” Fitting that we’re playing it before everything else.
Ryan: There’s some fine movements in that song.
Robb: You mean musically or what we were doing with our bodies?
Paula: It’s quite interesting because I’m in open-“D” and Robb’s in open-“G”. It was fun writing it.
Robb: We’re really experimenting with open tunings and different things. So the songs sound simple but instrumentally they’re quite complicated. But open tunings are quite easy to play in. Because you can just (chord) – that’s standard tuning, and it doesn’t sound so attractive if you hit all the strings open at once.
Ryan: He’s not touching anything, in case listeners aren’t aware.
Robb: They’re like “eeewwwww!”
Paula: It’s actually way better than it looks.
Robb: I’ve changed instruments now. I’ve got a rack of guitars here. This one is called “A Gentle Art” and it’s also very new.
SONG: “A Gentle Art”
Ryan: Really nice. Yeah. I like the soft ending. It makes me think of one band called The Memory Band that I’ve listened to while reviewing CDs that were doing that quite a bit. I really loved it. Cool.
Robb: Right on. These are all very loud electric songs (laughs). So the quiet ending there is actually a squeal of feedback in the regular version.
Ryan: Normally, yeah.
Robb: Which is kind of the beauty of playing things acoustically. I always thought that was the mark of a great song: when you could strip it down to its most basic elements and have it still translate well. Then you kinda know you’re onto something. That’s sort of the approach that we’re taking with this new material is being very simple with it.
Ryan: It’s interesting because I was having a conversation about that just on Sunday night after a show at the Vaka that AC Fields was at. And we were talking after the show about that very thing because a couple of the other performers were people that normally play rock. And one guy was hard metal. But to hear them just acoustically, it’s interesting.
Robb: Our whole background has been very varied with this band. It kinda feels like a brand new band – in fact, we’re maybe on the search for a new name because it feels like an entirely different unit now with Paula also on guitar, and Matt playing drums it’s such a very stripped down, basic rock band now. Which is cool but we still have that kind of folk influence in terms of the lyrics; there’s still a story to be told there and something to be said. We’re not just singing “Hey hey baby, let’s go out tonight and get ripped.” We do that after shows because we’ve got to live up to our rock band status.
Ryan: Yes, that’s compulsory for rock bands.
Paula: Especially me.
Robb: Especially Paula.
Paula: I’m the worst for that.
Robb: Paula has the biggest penis of us all.
Paula: Can you say that on air?
Robb: Of course! It’s CJSF!
Paula: I think I’m more famous than I actually am.
Robb: That’s her complex. And this is actually an old song that has been completely reworked and rewritten. So it is out there somewhere in a different format but I think it’s better now. It’s called “Madonna.”
Paula: Of course it’s better now.
Ryan: So what’s your process with the songwriting? I want to get technical here. Do you start with the lyric, or what do you normally do?
Robb: How does Paint write songs…
Paula: Mostly for all the new stuff that’s come up, one of us brings in a guitar part and we usually just build off of that. It might be a couple of guitar parts we put together or just an idea. And then we get drums and then we get lyrics, and we’re still looking for bass.
Robb: Well, we have a bass player, we just don’t have one that’s permanent. So we’re kinda just borrowing friends. It’s funny how sometimes though, that first song we played, “After,” I had this guitar part in open-“G” for a really long time and I didn’t know what to do with it. And Paula came in with this thing in open-“D” and she started playing it, and I was like, “Hey, these actually work if we play them at the same time!” We freak ourselves sometimes like that; that ideas that are so disparate or that we come up with individually end up becoming one song together. We’re fully collaborating now and that’s another reason why the sound has changed so much. We’re feeling this really fresh energy. I think for he first time in seven years that Paint’s been around now it’s really a band; it’s not just me writing songs anymore. And I like that. It takes pressure off of me.
Ryan: (laughs) Yes!
Robb: But it also makes it harder because then I’m having to write lyrics for songs that aren’t just written by me.
Robb: …I have to somehow capture the emotion that comes from all of us through the song.
Ryan: Does there need to be, as a player, a certain kind of idea, do you have to have the same sorts of ideas or feelings as it’s being written?
Paula: Well, Robb usually just writes the lyrics by himself and I find that whatever he writes usually is very fitting, so I don’t have a problem with it.
Ryan: But it possible to be playing and thinking, “Well, I don’t agree with these lyrics at all!”?
Robb: Yeah, “You make a political statement here that’s a little too far left for me!”
Robb: I don’t know. I’m kinda lucky in the sense that the rest of the band, Paula and Matt and everyone have been very good with giving me that space to write lyrics. It’s a really personal process for me, especially these new songs; they’re just a reflection of what’s been going on over the last while. Or just a reflection of how I see things. So we’ll bounce ideas for vocal melodies off of each other for what to sing. But in terms of the actual words themselves, it still kinda tends to fall with me, and I’m hoping it can keep going. Sometimes I think I’m done and I’m out of ideas and then a line will just come to me, or someone will say something to me, or I’ll overhear something, maybe see some graffiti on a wall, and I’ll be like, “Oh! There’s a line!”
Ryan: Genius! Genius!
Robb: And then a song becomes built around it. We do get some work done! A rehearsal for us kinda like three hours of us sitting around cracking jokes but somewhere in there we manage to write songs, so it’s important to be able to do that.
Paula: We did pretty well this summer. We did seven songs in two months. We kinda blitzed it.
Robb: Yeah, the show on Friday at the Railway is gonna be all new songs which have never been performed before. A lot of these songs are being played for the first time right now. So it’s exciting. It was nerve-wracking because we said after the last show in July, which was also at the Railway, wasn’t it?
Robb: …we said, “Next gig is gonna be all new songs.”
Ryan: Were they starting to be created at that point?
Robb: Some of them, but not really.
Paula: A couple of ideas were being thrown around but nothing concrete.
Robb: So it’s a little nerve-wracking, but I kinda like having a deadline to work towards for finishing new songs. It makes you actually sit down and have to clack it out. I remember the night before rehearsals or gigs I would be sitting there at the typewriter hammering out lyrics, and trying to discretely hide my notes on stage!
Paula: We work well under pressure.
Ryan: Came up with a lot of lyrics that were like, “Oh no! Oh no!”
Robb: Yeah, when all else fails – what was that thing we talked about a while ago on this show, that if you forget the words just start yelling “Happy, happy!” and you’ll be able to stumble through it.
Paula: “And then she said… and then he said…”
Robb: Are we in tune here?
Paula: So we’ll get into the next one.
Robb: Yes, this one is called “Can You Hear Me?”
Robb: That wasn’t a question, that was the title of the song.
SONG: “Can You Hear Me?"
Ryan: Well thank you for sharing some songs with us in the first half hour. This has been Paint, and you’ll be getting some more Paint in the second hour along with the song circle.