After a move from Los Angeles to New York and back, childhood friends Darren Weiss and Danny Presant found a way to make Papa cohesive band, creating an album full of captivating choruses and eccentric melodies.
Their sound is riddled with lo-fi influences that fall somewhere between the lines of Animal Collective, the Black Keys, the Beach Boys and Roy Orbison. Like riding a bike on a summer day through a haunted forest, they create an sound filled with chilling transformations.
We caught up with Darren Weiss (vocals/drums) while he was stuck stuck in traffic to talk about the band’s current and past influences, playing Washington’s Sasquatch Festival, and the differences between the West Coast and the East Coast.
Papa perform at the Independent on May 23.
You’ve been well received in San Francisco. How does it feel to work your way up to a headlining gig at the Independent?
It’s really exciting for us. We’ve always loved the city personally, but our fans in San Francisco are among our most passionate and fun fans anywhere in the world. I personally have a history with working with Girls (band) there, and so to play at the Independent, which I’ve played as an opener for years and years, we’re really excited. We’d be excited to play anywhere but it’s definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
After San Francisco, you head to the Sasquatch Festival in Washington with an amazing lineup featuring acts like Die Antwood, Outkast, Cold War Kids, and Queens of the Stone Age to name a few. Is there anyone in particular you’re hoping to run into?
We have some friends in Queens of the Stone Age, so we’re excited to hang with them. We’re good friends with High End but haven’t seen them play live in two years, so that will be fun. It’s the first bill we’ve shared since both our albums came out.
I obviously want to bump into Outkast. I want to be their drummer.
You moved from Los Angeles to New York, how did that move affect you musically and personally?
I wouldn’t say it was an awakening because we were already fully committed to a life of art and music and things of that nature, but it was the first time that my life felt like it was part of the art that I admired rather than being an outsider looking in.
It’s also a much more accepting place of the freak and the artist and the weirdo, and it lets those sides of individuality run around. Without feeling like a weirdo, you can be more true to being outspoken. I used to wear a turban in New York and no one looked at me but if I’m in Echo Park wearing a turban I get all kinds of stupid looks.
You’re influenced by bands like Murder City Devils and Fugazi and yet your music carries a more subdued and calculated feel. Are there other influences that affect your music more directly?
Of course, that was the music I loved as a kid. Our next record might reflect more of our earlier influences, but as much as we listen to those bands we also love a wide range of things like hip-hop Nas and A Tribe Called Quest and Outkast; and David Bowie and Talking Heads; and we also love Beyoncé.
We just write the way we feel and if the music doesn’t sound like what we listen to when were 15 its because that’s not what we feel at this moment. I think what we take more from those bands from this point is the ethos and the energy of it, which maybe doesn’t come across from the cold listener on the album, but it does in our live set.
Is there a particular drummer who sings that influenced you?
I feel like I should say the singing and drumming came about as a necessity because I was writing these songs in New York and I didn’t have a band so I was performing music like folk music and I was going out with a guitar and stomping out the rhythm with my boots. It became frustrating because it was at the time when the wave of Mumford and Sons came out and I didn’t want anything to do with that.
I was like “I wanna sound like the Clash.” And I was like fuck it, I don’t know any drummers I’m gonna have to do it myself. But if I was to say someone influenced me, it would be Levon Helm, the singing drummer of the Band. I studied him and practiced along to his records.
You just released a B-Side single. Does this mean you’re working on new material?
We’re working on it. We’re in the writing process but we’ll be playing new material at the concerts we’re doing. The songs are little more wild, darker and meaner. It reflects where we’re at, which is fun and exciting to put that energy out within our set.