Pulsing just around the corner from the headlines that dominate the D.C. news cycle is an arts scene that’s agitated, inquisitive and highly collaborative. New music from native son Paperhaus feels right here, right now, both in big ways — such as themes exploring the conflict between reliance on technology and a yearning for nature — and smaller ones reflecting on poignant everyday collaborations.
Paperhaus — which comprises founding member Alex Tebeleff, Matt Dowling, Rick Irby and Danny Bentley — is an architect of the city’s DIY music scene. Its name reflects the physical structure that’s provided both a home for various incarnations of the band and fellow DIY travelers, and a performance space for Paperhaus and other local artists that’s been visited by ultimate autonomous beltway’ers Fugazi.
The band’s upcoming album Are These The Questions That We Need To Ask?, due October 6 via Misra Records, continues along its post-punk arc of guitar- and synth-driven psych, with influences ranging from Brian Eno to Kraftwerk (Tebeleff has fronted a legit Kraftwerk cover band). It also continues the band’s wont for long, immersive songs. Check out this Billboard-exclusive clip of first single “Go Cozy,” which clocks in at seven minutes.
The new project also takes Paperhaus down some less-traversed paths. Aside from the energy of new bandmates, “The album took on more focus on sound and timbre in the songwriting, rather than on melody and rhythm, as the primary driving musical force,” Tebeleff says. “There was a huge amount of different kinds of music we listened to, to inform that process… especially albums that create a sonic world of their own like D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, Can’s Future Days and Talking Heads’ Remain In Light.”
And it’s a coming of age of sorts, marking the first time the band is releasing with a label. Pittsburgh-based indie Misra is distributed by Redeye Worldwide, with licensing handled by Sub Pop. The move is a testament to the community vibe the band reveres, and a dose of reality that’s come knocking after 11 years of Paperhaus doing its own thing.
“There’s often a stigma in talking about the business end of music among more art-focused musicians. I think that’s been to the massive detriment of artists, though it’s understandable considering how painful the process is for most musicians who are devoted to making art and trying to navigate something resembling a sustainable path,” Tebeleff opines.
“Getting industry teammates is important if you want a path towards real sustainability in music in 2017,” he says. “We prefer the spirit of DIT — Do It Together — rather than DIY. The spirit of building good relationships and good community is what is most important to us.”