by Katie Gile
With effervescent flair under-wing, Denver band “Paper Bird” flitted into Downtown Jacksonville alongside “Canary in the Coalmine,” “Shakey Graves,” and headliner “He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister” at Burro Bar March 3.
As Paper Bird played a few songs from their upcoming album “Rooms” and many from their previous albums, its seven members whipped the mellow Sunday crowd into a frenzy with their sweet vocal harmonies and upbeat melodies.
A self-stated leaderless group, Paper Bird’s many talents delighted as each member had the spotlight from time to time, but truly captivated as a team. In front were Sarah Anderson (voice, trumpet), Esme Patterson (voice), and Genevieve Patterson (voice). Paul DeHaven (guitar) and Caleb Summeril (banjo, guitar) rocked together behind them, while Macon Terry (bass) and Mark Anderson made for an exceptional rhythm section.
Channeling everything from the sway of a beachy scene to the ethereal lilts of Celtic songs, Paper Bird’s sound is up for interpretation but is almost always in the “genre of joyful,” said Mark Anderson.
He said the band’s sound is a combination of the diverse tastes of its members and morphs regularly.
“We all grew up playing music,” Mark Anderson said. “Some of us come from choir and music lessons, while others learned on their own. It’s all over the place.”
“We ate at an Irish pub beforehand. Maybe that came out in the music,” DeHaven joked about the Celtic influence observed that night.
In the cozy confines of Paper Bird’s tour bus –or 8-bedroom apartment as they call it — the band nestles closely and moves easily together, a dynamic that carries over onto the stage.
“Being part of the band has really taught me the necessity of a large family. We’re like a bunch of kids and no parents,” DeHaven said. “It’s taught me so much about how to communicate and how not to assert my ego onto other peoples’ lives. Being in the band has really made me a better person.”
History is a major part of what holds this musical family together and provides their personal and performance chemistry.
“We were friends and family first,” Mark Anderson said. “We’re people who grew up together but also have a band, so we know inherently how to be sensitive to one another.”
This inherent sensitivity proves to both beneficial and sometimes anxiety-inducing when new material comes to the table.
“It’s not uncommon for someone to come forth with a new song and all of us will immediately know what it’s about,” Mark Anderson said.
Although, in such an intimate environment, maintaining mystery or privacy in new material can be difficult, DeHaven said.
But as the band works together to create a full piece, each band mate adds an element that makes the story personal to them as well, said Sarah Anderson.
Paper Bird’s songwriting inspirations come from all over, lending to a sound that is emotionally powerful whether in triumph or melancholy. They say a majority of their writing is heartfelt, their songs about relationships, life and home.
“A lot of our roots came from Denver,” Mark Anderson said. “We’re tucked right against the Rockies, but the plains are just east. So the juxtaposition of the mountains and the plains holds that feeling of an ocean. It comes across in our music. It’s a very poetic sight.”
Paper Bird continues its national tour with concert dates posted through September 14, ever vigilant in the improvement of their performance.
“Playing on a big stage, you’ve gotta bring it,” Mark Anderson said. “It’s such a balancing act of being true to our style, but being able to translate in every venue. Our songs are changing as we’re doing them. It’s already happening and we’re continuously doing better, bigger shows.
The band takes a brief break from the tour bus March 24 through April 1, when they’ll be happily close to home to celebrate the release of their new album “Doors” on March 26. After three full-length albums, the latest of which (“Carry On” 2011) was a live recording in collaboration with the Ballet Nouveau Colorado, Paper Bird ventured back in the studio for another round.
“When you listen to our first album, then to this next one, there’s no comparison,” Mark Anderson said. “It’s all very evolutionary.”
Like proud parents, the members of Paper Bird beam as they discuss their soon-to-be hatchling.
“After all this time and work, this is the album that’s really us,” said Sarah Anderson. “We’re just so excited to have an album that we can call our sound.”
by Katie Gile