Phoenix, along with the surrounding cities, is a collection of interesting, smart, and talented people. At times, these people are able to come together to create, and what they create becomes entirely unique to our part of the world. Bands who do live to play, find their voice, and the band “Paper Foxes” is speaking in a clear concise tone, that is uniquely their own. Paper Foxes is comprised of CJ Jacobson (Vocals, Guitar), Patro Gaston (Synths), Uche Ujania (Bass, Vocals), Oliver Lemke (Guitar) and Jahlani Ujania (Drums). Paper Foxes have been around for about five years, with CJ being the only Arizona born member, and it is shocking that I haven’t heard more of this band or their far reaching sound. With everyone else bringing their sound as well as influence from everywhere except Arizona. That sound conjures Frank Zappa, Interpol, and Animal Collective with 80’s flare but with modern sensibilities. Their debut album Popular Confessions hit the scene in September, and it has musical peaks as well as lyrical lessons that will resonate with you when humming the tunes.
The band met through the Phoenix music scene, and their band, like others, gained strength with the mutual interests and struggles of this town. As Paper Foxes grew, and grew together, they found momentum to make music with one another. Listening to Popular Confessions, I recognize many of the themes, and the stories told in the songs. I greatly enjoyed Strawberry Lashes as it conjures feelings of nostalgia, and I would recommend Not the Right Time to anyone who has lived in Tempe while going through changes. Paper Foxes might be able to catch the feelings of those living here, and better express the transitions of life than we are able. I only know that their album will be in rotation and I will keep listening for what calls to me. The opportunity to ask questions, and better understand what drives this band has been exciting as there were many questions about their music. I would hope that you give Popular Confessions a listen, and try to see Paper Foxes at a venue here in town soon!
Is everyone from Arizona?
Nope! CJ is the only one from AZ. Patro is from Tennessee and Uche and Jahlani are from the Bay Area. Oliver is oddly somehow both from Canada and Texas.
What influences does everyone bring?
Everyone listens to a wide array of stuff and it really shows. Jahlani typically digs older goth bands like The Chameleons or Roxy Music as well as A LOT of Japanese music (Spartan Locals, Mariya Takeuchi). Patro is all about cool experimental bands like The Mars Volta or De Statt but also really digs psychedelic pop like Mini Mansions and Of Montreal. Ollie’s taste is more geared towards college rock/indie rock like The Posies and Bloc Party and a little bit of everything in between. CJ will listen to a little bit of everything, lately he’s been really inspired by Phillip Glass, Fine Young Cannibals and Tera Melos.
How have you all grown from playing music together?
We are a very eclectic group with a lot of different backgrounds. Everyone brings something different and inspiring to the table. As musicians overall, we grow the most by listening to what each other is playing, then making our parts more simple or necessary.
Honestly I met Uche and Jahlani at a friends music video shoot. We were talking about how there aren’t any cool post punk bands anymore like bloc party or tv on the radio. Eventually we ended up jamming with one another and our style started growing from there.
Is the music written or does it start with an idea that is then jammed out?
Both. We love jamming and we’ve been lucky enough to create some really cool stuff out of it, but for the most part our songs come as an idea from a member of the band that we end up working on together.
Playing in a band together can really strengthen your abilities and sound as you grow together, do you feel you all have grown as musicians since starting the band?
Yes. To be perfectly honest, we’re not exactly classically trained musicians. Most of our knowledge comes from playing and listening closely to how things sound, as well as just watching different ways they are played. CJ used to struggle to sing and play guitar at the same time. These days he can knock out a demo in three hours with drums, bass, guitars, synths and vocals. It’s not a finished recording but it gets the idea across well enough for the rest of the band to pick up where it started.
You recently released your debut album, what is it called, and what can you say to new listeners about it?
Our debut album is called “Popular Confessions.” It is full of dark and lovely lyrics as well as a handful of polished pop hooks. It took us over a year to make a reality and we’re extremely proud of it. We worked with world class producer Bob Hoag on it and he really brought out the best in us.
Where was the record made, and how was the writing process?
The record was recorded at flying blanket studios in Mesa AZ by Bob Hoag. The writing process back then was chaotic and unorganized. The songs work well together but some were written years apart by different writers. We recorded the album on four, separate 3 or 4 day sessions, with a few months scattered in between. It has been crazy because a few of those songs were written days before they were recorded and others like Strawberry Lashes and Pop Confessions were written a year or two ago.
What was the drive behind the debut album, and what sort of response has it gotten?
We wanted to push ourselves to the next level. We had a few EPs out and we’ve been doing this for a few years now, but honestly we were starting to get a little wary of doing the same small stuff over and over. The idea behind the album is go BIGGER. Make sure everyone in Phoenix knows we’re out here. The response has been overwhelming and amazing. The love and support we get from friends and fans is incredible and it really breathed life back into music for us. We’ve been really fortunate and closed a few licensing deals with some pretty prestigious networks as well. If you had told us that this is where we would be over a year ago, I would have never believed it.
What sort of feelings or themes can we find in the music, and does that come from personal experience?
Our themes or feelings about our music tend to be dark but hopeful with a dash of melancholy. The title track of our album Pop Confessions has a theme that goes something like “yeah it’s 2019 and it feels like the world is ending, but hey, that’s okay, lets just fall in love instead” which I quite literally did with my fiancé Mikayla who that tune is about.
Paper Foxes has good word of mouth as several bands and musicians I know have seen Paper Foxes live and encouraged me to collaborate with you guys, do you see your music or style as maybe a band for bands? Making music for musicians?
That is an interesting question because recently I’ve had that thought myself. I’m not saying that we don’t get a response from “non-musicians” (is that the proper term?), but it seems like we always get a lot of excitement from other bands which is always really encouraging. Artists’ encouraging each other are important, and it’s one of the reasons Phoenix has an amazing scene.
Any friends or bands to shout out?
Bob Hoag, Martin Shaeffer, Soft Deadlines, Zodiac Bash, Mr.Uu, Celebration guns, MRCH, Bogan Via, the Woodworks.
How has the response to the debut material been?
Amazing, The love and support from everyone has broken us being lethargic, and has driven us to create and write again!
Have you played any memorable shows or performances?
There have been a lot of incredible shows; some of the more memorable ones would be opening for Hunny at pub rock a few years ago before our west coast tour. Sharing the stage with Poptone at the marquee was incredible, we were giggling like kids while they were sound checking. Our last EP release was super memorable as well but I’d have to say my favorite show we ever played was The Fox and Peacock Festival. It was really cool to be invited to that and get a chance to close the night out. Everyone just stood there and watched everything we did, despite it being freezing out.
I could see people gaining insight and hope from your music, is that intentional? Does the band hope to have a positive influence on your listeners?
Yes! I (CJ) struggled with depression and a lot of other issues in my life, I create art to uplift and share my experiences!
One of my favorite wisdoms is that music can express emotions that we cannot put into words; do you believe that to be true?
Yes I absolutely do. Do you ever hear a song that smacks you with nostalgia so hard you feel like you didn’t get a date to the Sadie Hawkins? I first realized this when I started going to shows in high school and every time bands would play my favorite part I could feel chills on the back of my neck.
How has music helped you to express yourself when you were otherwise unable?
I constantly write songs and then listen back to them and go “Oh shit, guess I’m sad about that.” There was a period in college when a close friend and I would swap songs weekly and we were basically arguing with each other even though we always acted like everything was cool.
We are a cannabis lifestyle magazine, is anyone in the band a patient who medicates with cannabis?
I (CJ) am a patient and a DA!
Does it help with creativity, emotions, or overall attitude to keep making music?
Yes! I’m bipolar and I use cannabis to stabilize my mood. To push myself in a creative zone I tend to use edibles to balance out the mania.
Any strains, products, or dispensary to shout out?
Strains: northern lights, Do-si-dos, Blackwater OG, Wedding Cake Gelato.
Products: Drip and Aeriz concentrates are amazing as are Kiva, Green Halo and Good Things Coming edibles.
Sol Flower and TruMed are the spots!
Anybody have any favorites that they’d recommend to readers?
Aeriz GMO THC-A sauce, and the papaya baller jar from drip 🙂
Does anyone have thoughts about how music and cannabis have evolved together, and really helped to shape culture, for better or worse?
Yeah we pretty much all have A LOT to say about that one but honestly music would have probably stayed rigid or boring without the introduction of cannabis. Jazz musicians would smoke before improv sets together and they said the cannabis let them turn their brain off and let the music flow. There is definitely a balance every individual has to find with cannabis and creativity but personally it unlocked a lot of creative potential for us and let us take risks at things we normally couldn’t do. That’s a bit long winded but we think cannabis has evolved music and culture for the better.
Does anyone have any good recommendations for books, movies, or art?
Movies: Us, The Green Room, Midsomer, Whiplash, Stuck in Love, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Biker Boyz, Brink Books: Still Life with Woodpecker, Survivor, IQ84 Artists: Yayoi Kusama, Yoko Honda, Blu, Ashely Macias Composers: Philip Glass, Danny Elfman
Any music or albums that people should be listening to?
Moon Ensemble: Natsu Hanni El Khatib: Savage Times Turnover: altogether Memory Bells: Dangerous Now Sports: People can’t stop chillin Inner Wave: WYA Future Islands: Singles
Any unique gear or favorite instruments that anyone would like to shout out?
Patro just got a new synthesizer, it’s a Korg Kross 2 and its AWESOME! I also love my pedal board it was handmade at SoCal Pedalboards!
What do you guys have going on, any announcements or upcoming shows, and where can people see/hear more of you?
We just signed licensing agreements with Netflix, ETV!, MTV and USA so look out for our music on those networks in 2020! We will be at VALLEY BAR on 12/19, the REBEL LOUNGE on 12/27, San Diego on 12/28, and the RHYTHM ROOM on 1/3. We have a lot of cool things happening in 2020, keep up to date with us at www.paperfoxesband.com