INTERVIEW: Paper Aeroplanes | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Known for producing hypnotic, dreamy indie-folk, Paper Aeroplanes – aka duo Sarah Howells and Richard Llewellyn – are adepts at producing upbeat, nostalgic tunes and honest ballads. They’re about to release their new album Joy, and are supporting it with a massive European tour.

Ahead of their gig at Newcastle’s Think Tank this week, I caught up with them to ask them about their current European tour, their new album and their plans for the future.

Hi guys, thanks for setting a few minutes of your hectic European touring schedule aside to talk to us. How’s the road been treating you so far?

It’s been wonderful. We played Paris and had a day off there when the temperature was 24 degrees. Sold out a couple of our German dates….doesn’t get much better than that. Our brilliant tour manager Nina did us proud on the autobahn.

Your latest album, Joy, has been out for just over two weeks now. How has the reaction been on tour?

People seems to be very keen to hear the new songs and responding really well to our live versions. Really looking forward to starting the full-band leg of the UK tour and playing a few more of the Joy tracks.

What would you say sets this album apart from the others?

Well it definitely has a more electronic feel. It’s more produced and for me more exciting sonically than the previous ones. It also has an optimism that we’ve never really demonstrated in our lyrics before. There’s plenty of darkness there though too.

Reviews from the album have come back extremely positive, with Sarah’s unique vocals receiving a wide range of acclaim. Do reviews play a role in the evolution and confidence of the band, or are you a band that tends to ignore them?

I’d love to say that we ignore them and if I disagree with them I tend to… ha… obviously if they all criticised the same thing we’d possibly take note. But yes, it’s lovely to get good reviews. I think if you’re truly happy with what you’ve made then someone else’s opinion is just that, an opinion rather than a fact.

You had a lot of success in Germany with Joy. How shows usually go down there, and has it influenced future touring plans?

Our German audiences are amazing! So attentive and enthusiastic! We also get treated very well by the venues so it’s definitely encouraged us to venture into other countries.

You played to over 800 people at Union Chapel at the end of last year; how does this rank in your career achievements to date?

This was definitely our biggest headline show and probably the most memorable. It went past in a bit of a dream. The venue is just so spectacular, especially at night and with their awesome lighting director Chloe on the desk. It felt like we gathered together some of our most amazing fans and celebrated the last few years that we’ve been a journey together.

Folk has taken on a whole new generation of fans over the last few years, with the genre with really expanding. How would you say this has helped Paper Aeroplanes in their development?

I guess so. It’s hard to say what helps a band progress. The industry like to put you in a pigeon hole and so it’s great that folk has become such a broad church. People seem to like our music and maybe that’s because we fit into a genre that’s become popular again in the last five years. A lot of my earlier musical obsessions were American female singers that didn’t really fit into any genre except maybe “singer-songwriter.” I think that songs from the heart with acoustic guitars will always find an audience.

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“The industry like to put you in a pigeon hole and so it’s great that folk has become such a broad church”

Like all great folk artists, you seem to have those romantic ties to the road. Despite the romanticism of writing on the road, how difficult is it for you guys to pen an album while on tour?

It’s not something I can do really. The most I manage is noodling a new guitar part in a soundcheck that sometimes turns into a song. It should be easier as there’s sometimes a lot of downtime but for some reason I’m not as able to focus. Rich does it a lot more than I do.

While on tour, artists regularly speak of their personal go to albums, albums that help both sooth and influence. Have you guys any records that really help your through the tougher moments on tour?

Personally I like to have that kind of record in my headphones – I’ve been listening to the Staves new album this time – but something big, fun and cheesy on the car stereo. We bought a Sugababes album at a service station once.

This tour sees you make another steady step in the size of venues you are playing, where do you see the band going from here?

I hope it continues to grow. It tends to be a bit of Cha Cha unless you get a massive Radio 1 playlisted hit so we’re happy to keep making music that means something to us and comes from the heart and let it fiilter into the public domain gradually and organically. We have some amazing fans who really love to spread the word.

Paper Aeroplanes play at Think Tank, Newcastle on Thursday 7th May.

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