Paper Tigers

Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know, and The Paper Chase is one of the best bands in Dallas, both onstage and off

The band has kept their focus broad, only playing a handful of times in Dallas this summer. Weaver spent time traveling in Russia. Congleton has been hard at work in the studio, which is right where he belongs. "I hear things in my head all the time and I know exactly how I want them recorded," he says. Weaver sighs with relief that the band doesn't have to deal with by-the-hour studio guys. "We don't have to go into the studio and have some yahoo rip our shit up."

"We did once," Dalton clarifies. "We walked out."

"One point I like to make is that The Paper Chase and my job are so separate, but we wouldn't be able to make this album if I didn't do this already," Congleton says with no reticence. After all, technical recording stuff isn't in the plan for most who set out to make a record. "We made this album for a little under three grand. I mean, the only thing we didn't have to pay for is an engineer, but we knew what we were doing." Congleton's almost dismissive of the voice and guitar elements that are most essential to everyone else. "I went in and, I think, I did all the guitars on the CD in five hours."

The Paper Chase are better on stage and in the studio than they are in front of the camera, if you could get them in front of a camera that is. They are -- from left, sort of -- Bobby Weaver, Aaron Dalton, and part of John Congleton's guitar.
The Paper Chase are better on stage and in the studio than they are in front of the camera, if you could get them in front of a camera that is. They are -- from left, sort of -- Bobby Weaver, Aaron Dalton, and part of John Congleton's guitar.

Young Bodies is, as the band implies, almost a straight feed from Congleton's head. Beginning with a 45-second tinkering melody on the piano, it's a story about destruction that clocks in at just over 50 minutes. "The concept isn't that deep," Congleton assures. "All the things that could happen to you, all that feeling--if you could contain that in one song, would it kill you? The first song on the CD, 'This May Be The Last Song You Ever Hear,' that's the idea. It was rolling around in my head about how we're all kinda living life, and after horrible things happen...." He trails off. "It's divided into five parts--they all touch on different aspects of bad things happening." The record is a mock documentary: Standing in front of the vocals-guitar-bass-drums backing is a constant stream of effective sampling, from two-second, unrecognizable phrases, placed repeatedly throughout the album, to clips from the television show Unsolved Mysteries, to an unsettling two-minute recording of a breakup via telephone. It could be so easy for this to be another post-Nine Inch Nails pile of Fragile detritus, but the saving grace lies in the songwriting, musicianship, and the solid construction of the whole thing. "Apple Pies and Alibis" and "Off With Their Heads" are good examples of rock songs rode hard and buried under a wreck. "When (And If) the Big One Hits, I Will Meet You There," the closing track, is almost a ballad--stark, quiet, and hysterical, but undeniably lovely.

Congleton adds, as a footnote, "It's ambitious to think that people are going to get that much out of this, but if a handful do, it's worth it; it's cool." Speaking like a sound engineer--he's worked with Baboon and Kid Chaos, among others--Congleton definitely has an opinion about less innovative music. "I'm so tired of CDs I hear where it's three-minute punk-rock song, two-second pause, three-minute punk-rock song, two-second pause," he says, making a distinction between eight or more songs on a compact disc, and an album of the sort, he says, The Paper Chase has put together. "All three of us enjoy those albums that are commitments."

"If your live show can be contained to a 5-inch piece of plastic, then there's something wrong with your music," Congleton says, doing away with the notion that The Paper Chase is just a studio band. "I mean, AC/DC can record an album of their songs, and it's just as good. Do they really want just the songs? We're not AC/DC." Although the piano and the mixer won't adapt to the stage, The Paper Chase's live show incorporates the samples, and allows for improvisation and creativity that Congleton knows is key. "That's what we love about this band," Congletion says. "Lots of things come out live that we never could have thought up." Method of attack is unimportant: "You could cut off my arms and I could play a show. I'm so moving away from guitar rock."

The band has been tossing around the idea of adding a fourth member to add to the sound, but so far, no one's come along to make that a possibility. "This isn't, like, an ad," interjects Dalton.

"But whoever it would be would have to get in the flow," Congleton continues. "The ideas are already there, I'm not looking for someone with a vision."

Weaver adds that that's the way to make good music. "Nirvana, Pink Floyd, those were bands that were one guy with a couple of others helping out," he says. "The Beatles, even, were just two guys. The other guys were pretty crappy."

Recalling formative experiences seeing bands in Dallas, he talks about what led him away from straightforward, conventional music making. "I, personally, was very inspired by the Denton noise rock scene around seven or eight years ago," Congleton says. "Whitman Maneuver, Baboon--all those bands inspired me to do something interesting." Weaver continues: "Baboon's a band that really helped us get shows, and just get stuff done." As they and their friends start to come into their own, is there a Dallas scene right now that people will look back on?

"There are more good bands than there have been in a long time," Congleton says. Weaver finishes the thought: "There are a lot of people that I know in Dallas that are doing what they want now, and people are responding to it."

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