Paper Bird Takes Flight

Paper Bird takes the stage Wednesday, March 6 at Isis Restaurant and Music Hall.
Paper Bird takes the stage Wednesday, March 6 at Isis Restaurant and Music Hall.

by James Cassara

The eclectic Denver based collective known as Paper Bird is certainly soaring high these days.

Fresh off of a highly successful fall tour, including several dates with recent multiple Grammy winners The Lumineers, the band sees 2013 as their own breakout year. With a fourth album (tentatively titled Rooms) due out in late March, Paper Bird is determined to move their musical boundaries in an ever expanding direction.

Since forming in 2007 the seven piece band, Mark Anderson (drums), Sarah Anderson (voice, trumpet), Paul DeHaven (guitar), Esme Patterson (voice), Genevieve Patterson (voice), Caleb Summeril (banjo, guitar), and Macon Terry (bass), has delighted audiences – and sold out large venues in the process – with their exuberant blend of folk, roots, and Americana. Their distinctive sound is a combination of a dynamic and energetic rhythm section intertwined with seemingly effortless harmonies.

Every member of the band writes songs, giving them a backbone of craft not always heard in contemporary ragtag cooperatives. “None of us is the leader” is their creed and it’s one that works well for them. While wildly popular in their home state of Colorado the band continues to tour and develop a national voice and presence. This is their seventh cross country tour and while playing small venues doesn’t always pay the bills, they’re wise enough to know that in the long run establishing a presence will certainly pay off.

That rare commitment to the “big picture” has led them to be featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and Mountain Stage. They were voted in the Top 10 Best Underground Bands by the Denver Post three years in a row, as well as being named 2009’s top local band (no small feat given Denver’s size and scope).

Paper Bird has released two studio albums, Anything Nameless and Joymaking (2007) and When the River took Flight (2010), as well as a live album, 2011’s Carry On, a collaborative effort with Ballet Nouveau Colorado.

Rooms promises to build on a signature sound; the band was determined to make an album that was reasoned and truly represented where they are as musicians and people. They made a bold move by enlisting good friend and accomplished film composer Ryan Fritch, to produce it.

“Ryan sees music differently than all of us had before this recording process,” said drummer Mark Anderson. “He doesn’t look at a song as having different parts – verse, chorus, bridge – but instead as a collection of individual sounds. His music is not held together by only melody – although it’s beautifully melodic – but instead as a collage of disparate sounds and instrumentation. His input on our music opened our eyes to new ways of writing and experiencing sound, helping to create an atmosphere within the album that did not exist before.”

In addition, Paper Bird wanted to try and capture the same energy as their shows, so they made the decision to track live- a daunting task considering there were seven members recording in different rooms. At the same time, they added yet another wrinkle. “We incorporated a slew of new instruments, which haven’t appeared in our other albums, and will most definitely affect our live gigs,” said Anderson. “Our sound really evolved during this process.”

The album title stems from the simple premise that every song is like a different room in a house, each having a different feel and layout, something that is even more literal given that every band member contributes to the songwriting.

Summeril feels that in many ways Rooms is like a debut release. “It is our first studio album in over two years and the first with the band as it sounds today, with drums and more of an indie-folk sound than a traditional folk sound,” he said. “I think the songs will really translate well to a wider audience and I think this is our most accessible album thus far. It’s definitely our most mature sound yet, both in musicianship and recording quality.”

So while the band feels as if the time is right for them to soar to the next level, they also would not want to compromise the artistic integrity that has become their signature.

“I think we are definitely open and interested in any opportunities that come our way, but we are seasoned in our independence,” said Anderson. “But really, the labels we’d be interested in, and most likely that would be interested in us, are generally artist- driven and have adapted creatively to the changing climate of the music business.”

That’s as good a summary as any as to what makes this ensemble click: Fierce independence, artistic integrity, and a surplus of talent will win out every time. The band’s future is bright indeed, and catching this bird in flight seems like an opportunity not to be missed.

If You Go: Paper Bird at the newly opened (and very popular) ISIS Restaurant and Music Hall, 743 Haywood Rd. in West Asheville, on Wednesday, March 6. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 day of show for this 9 p.m., all ages, show. For more details visit