Papa vs. Pretty
It’s a mysterious thing, this music-making.
A group of people enter a strange space - walls covered in carpet, metal boxes everywhere, swathes of buttons and cords and leads and blinking lights and bewildering space-age machinery - and weeks later emerge, blinking, from the darkness, album in hand.
What exactly happens within the hallowed walls of the recording studio? Who knows; we can be but content to listen to the fruits of the secret labours of those who understand things like which end of a guitar to plug into an amplifier. Fortunately, Papa vs Pretty’s new album, White Deer Park unfolds some of the mysteries of this musical alchemy.
“We decided the best way to go about all of this was to source some drums and lots of other instruments and put microphones in front of them while we played them,” the band explained en masse. Okay, okay, there’s more to it than that, and here’s the technical explanation: lots and lots of metal boxes. Thomas Rawle, lead singer and songwriter, said he was thrilled with the use of the metal boxes, “Yes the wizards here have really laid out the purple carpet for us,” said Thom. “When I felt that metal in my hand I knew we were making a big record. Those metal boxes are actually really heavy!”
It wasn’t only the metal boxes that stepped up to the plate for the recording of White Dear Park: the band, now a four-piece thanks to the addition of Luke Liang’s guitar and keyboard wizardry, really aced their sound through a long and prolific period of songwriting. "For many years, Gus and I made music together using our respective instruments,” Luke explains. “Gus was also making music with Tom and Thom, using their respective instruments. The combination of the four of us, all using our instruments simultaneously to make music, just - made too much sense to ignore".
You can hear that magic at work on soaring single My Life Is Yours, which caps off an album that represents the cream skimmed from the top of years’ worth of experimentation.
“We wrote over 80 songs and the culling process was intense!” Thom recalls, only slightly wearily. “I started writing My Life Is Yours before I first went to L.A. to write and finished when I got back. Going to L.A. was a total life changing experience and it set the tone for what followed.”
The City of Angels brought the band together with producer Dave Trumfio, too. “He came all the way from America to help us do this album. He said he'd done it before for Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and Grandaddy and that it worked for them so we figured he knew what he was doing,” he recalls.
“I think at times we all had moments where we didn't really know what we were doing or why we were doing it,” bassist Gus Gardiner recalls, before giving away the secret of the album’s creation: “Sometimes the instruments don't sound the way you want them to and that can be frustrating both for you and for everyone else in the band. But we found, over time, that most instruments sound great when you play them just right."
And play them right is precisely what the band has done all the way through White Deer Park. That’s the magic and the mystery of music, people.