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Paperplain - Interview

  by Lisa Torem

published: 13 / 2 / 2010

Paperplain - Interview


Lisa Torem talks to electronic bedroom artist Helen Page, who records music under the moniker of Paperplain, about her debut mini-album, 'Entering Pale Town'

The shrill ring of a telephone, references to tummy aches and moody layers of acoustic texture embrace melancholia and pleasure, almost within a singular phrase. They all serve as hallmarks of Helen Page (AKA ‘Paperplain’) and are delightfully presented on her debut mini-album ‘Entering Pale Town.’ The still teen-aged Page, from the UK, is a singer-songwriter who composed and recorded this lovely CD on a simple four-track in her college dormitory. She also designed the comical and bright artwork on the cover. What’ most engaging, though, is that ‘Entering Pale Town’ does what it promises; it provides a surreal journey that is somehow grounded. The vocals are gentle, not abrasive, and the production is simple, yet evocative. Page also pitches in as co-producer and her imagination is stamped brilliantly over all; from the colourful bird-houses with sad expressions that hang from stilts to the waves of gracious optimism reflected in the lyrics. Some covert philosophy seems to channel through the album’s content, as well. Right? In Paperplain’s Pennyblackmusic interview, she elaborates. PB: Hi, Helen. Let's talk about ‘Entering Pale Town.’ The title song ‘Pale Town’ begins with the shrill ringing of the telephone, chordal textures build and shortly thereafter you sing about the rain. There’s really a trilogy, here. It’s almost symphonic in form. Did this start out as several pieces or was it always one idea? HP: It was just one idea. I started with the piano, then the lyrics and added to it until I was happy with how it sounded. PB: The line "there’s so many sad faces that watch the colours of a Pale Town" stands out. ‘Entering Pale Town’ appears to be a study of contrasts. I say this because you designed the CD cover which depicts brightly coloured bird houses covered with faces wearing sad expressions. The tiny houses are standing up on stilts. On the inside panel, there is an outline of a simple house. Does it follow, then, that ‘Pale Town’ is this complex imaginary world? If so, does this world involve more than art and music? Is this album a study of contrasts? HP: 'Pale Town' is based upon a real place, but my imagined idea of that place. I suppose this album could be seen as a study of contrasts, although I didn’t write each song with that in mind. It’s more about feelings, perspective and wonderment. PB: Furthermore, is this a concept album or was each song individually tailored? HP: Each song was made individually. They were all, however, written at a similar time so certain themes run throughout. PB: On ‘The Trip’ your voice and guitar closely follow the same melodic line and then there’s that undeniable drone effect. I’m feeling some ‘Noah and The Whale’ connectedness. Is this group an influence? Which groups serve as inspirations for songwriting? HP: Although I’ve heard lots about Noah and the Whale, I’ve never actually sat and listened to them. Like most, I have an endless list of inspirations which is constantly expanding. Joanna Newsom, Sufjan Stevens and Elliott Smith stand out as big inspirations when I wrote these songs. If you’re talking about groups in particular though, the Concretes, Modest Mouse and the Red House Painters are another few. PB: In ‘Foreign Fingers’ you incorporate hand claps, harmonies and an irregular time signature, but steady rhythm. The arrangement is very well-balanced. The storyline is, however unsettling. "I know that your girlfriend is home on her own/But you’re not in the country, so nobody knows" sets the stage for seduction. Toward the end you sing, "but I’m not sure we’ll sleep great with a whole stream of lies." There’s some contradictions here. Who is the girl in this song and what’s her motivation? HP: There’s no particular girl or motivation. It’s based around getting caught up in a moment and temporarily forgetting the real world, and those who are already in it with you. PB: ‘Rescue Boat’ tells this story. "We have fallen off our horse and we aren’t coming back on boar/‘Cause this ship sank/We have rallied off our course, but that’s okay we all have flaws." Ultimately, those on the boat see the sun and all is well. Do you consider yourself an optimist? HP: I often tend to be a ‘glass half empty’ person. Although I like to think I’m positive around others! PB: ‘Spin Wheel’ has this sentiment -"You left your whole heart under the bench where we sat today." It is tinged with sadness. Why this choice for the finale? HP: It just seemed to fit well placed there. PB: I know you recorded the album in your college bedroom. Was this a challenge? HP: I didn’t find it challenging at all. It’s not like I was trying to make an album whilst studying. It was just a hobby that coincidently took place whilst I was at college. PB: At what point, Helen, did you go from writing one or two songs to feeling that you had the talent and discipline to complete a project like this? HP: Again, it remained a hobby. There was no progression from individual songs to a project as I was never writing with the intention of putting out an album. PB: Creating ‘Entering Pale Town’ required a great deal of your talents and energy. You wrote, performed, assisted with the mixing and designed the art work. For your next recording project, do you see yourself collaborating with others or remaining pretty much a “one-man band?” HP: I’d probably keep things the way they are. That said, I’d be interested in experimenting with male vocals and strings. PB: What are your plans for touring? HP: I have no plans yet, but there may be some dates later in the year. PB: Last question. Imagine that you’re stranded on a desert island. A rescue boat comes along with snacks and literature. What would you choose from both categories? HP: Are they saving me? If not, Some Chipsticks and a Ray Mears survival book; I don’t know how long I’ll be stuck there. PB: Thank you.

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Paperplain - Interview

Paperplain - Interview

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Entering Pale Town (2010)
Excellent lo-fi bedroom pop on debut mini-album from Paperplain, the project of nineteen year old British-based singer-songwriter, Helen Page

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