At a time when many musicians have proclaimed the album dead and are focusing instead on releasing singles and EPs, local indie-pop rockers The Paperbacks are back with a double album.
Their first release since 2007’s An Illusion Against Death (and third full-length overall), Lit From Within is a sprawling 32-song collection released earlier this month on the band’s own Parliament of Trees imprint. They’ll celebrate the release with a show this Saturday, Jan. 23 at the West End Cultural Centre.
Over beers at the Lo Pub last week, singer-guitarist Doug McLean, 34, and bassist Jaret McNabb, 32, credited a wealth of material and their desire to work on a big project as two of the reasons for Lit From Within’s length.
Whether people like 100 per cent, or 50 per cent, or 1 per cent of it isn’t their concern.
“It has nothing to do with us at this point,” McNabb says. “We’re putting out a double album. We can’t expect everyone to like all 32 songs – but some people will like all 32 songs.”
Indeed, it’s hard to find a bad one in the bunch.
From slower, introspective tracks like opener Good Lives (For Bad Reasons) and the album’s title track; to punky rockers like Stars (For Claire Massey) and Make Art; to the gentle sweetness of songs like Slow Learners; to the darkness of tracks like Math Damage/Maggot Age; the band – rounded out by Kevin Andrechuk (guitars), Kevin McLean (keyboards) and Corey Biluk (drums) – covers a lot of sonic territory throughout the two CDs.
“It does free you up, knowing you can try different things on different songs,” McLean said. “You don’t have just one chance to say something.”
The band worked on Lit From Within from February 2008 until May 2009 at McNabb’s home studio. He produced, engineered and mixed the CDs himself.
Lyrically, An Illusion Against Death questioned the role of art in the life of the artist. McLean sees the songs on Lit From Within as a continuation of that theme, but explored from a more positive outlook. It examines the motivations behind art and activism, and the effect that both can have.
“It’s hard to equate the two things, but they have a similar impact on people,” McLean said. “It’s help. [Music] helps people.”
McLean’s thoughts on the matter come from hard questioning he and McNabb did about the future of the band when the line-up that recorded An Illusion Against Death dissolved shortly after that CD was completed. At that point, the pair – who formed the band together in 2001 – weren’t sure if they should go on.
Ultimately, they decided it was worth it to continue. Now, McLean and McNabb are excited to tour domestically and abroad in the spring, as well as release more new music. They have bits and pieces of an album’s worth of songs already recorded, and McLean has even more material written.
“Part of what made recording Lit From Within such a joy was getting to know and learn about each other,” McLean said of his bandmates.
“It’s super exciting. You know the accelerated output of the ‘70s when bands put out an album every year? It feels like we could do that for an eternity.”
Published in Volume 64, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 21, 2010)