by Katie Rankin
A couple of months ago, after seeing no money from their label, Paper Lions made the band’s last album 2010‘s Trophies available for free online. One day while breaking for lunch at practice, the guys checked the band’s website. “Usually we get 200 hits a day and we came up at lunch and there was like 800 hits and we were like, ‘What the hell is going on?’” says guitar player Colin Buchanan. Somehow the band’s story ended up on the front page of popular user-generated website Reddit, leading to about 10,000 downloads of Trophies.
“I think what it turned into was ‘Paper Lions gives label the middle finger,’” says lead singer and guitar player John MacPhee, “But in reality, we didn’t know what the sales were like, but we knew the sales weren’t crazy.” Instead of chasing a few thousand dollars through legal routes, the guys ended up getting their music out to more people through the dilemma. “It was the story that resonated with them,” says MacPhee.
The situation showed the band the real shift that’s happening in the music business. “We’ve been a touring band for eight years and played thousands of shows in front of a lot of people, but in that one afternoon we exposed our music to way more people than we had before and we didn’t even have to leave home for it,” says Buchanan. It reinforced the band’s belief that it can be successful while staying rooted on PEI. Buchanan and MacPhee, along with drummer David Cyrus MacDonald and bass player Rob MacPhee were always told they should move to Toronto or New York to make it big. “The channels of distribution have opened up, but ultimately you just need to write the best songs you can write,” says MacPhee.
Paper Lions are heading back into the studio this month, recording in Vancouver with producer Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, The New Pornographer, Mother Mother). “It’s a natural progression from Trophies. Lyrically it sort of explores a more specific time in our life. John and Rob and I growing up in Belfast, a lot of the songs are just about being a kid,” says Buchanan. It was a lot easier to write about these nostalgic, shared memories than the usual personal lyrics of one person. “We sit around and just laugh and remember funny things from when we were kids and then hopefully poetically put that to song,” says Buchanan.
To help pay for the cost of recording the guys started a campaign to raise money and filmed a funny video asking for support. “To call it donating is a bit misleading, it’s like a pre-order campaign, but rather than a couple months before the record comes out it’s before the record’s made,” says MacPhee. Basically people can donate and with the donation comes, at minimum, a download of the new album. See the hot tub video and help out Paper Lions at paperlions.com.