By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
A Paper Cup Band exercise a strangely constructive form of destruction. On Detroit Vs. Farming, their recently released album, they break down simple bluegrass melodies into electronic oblivion and sing lyrics that seem to disintegrate upon the simplest level of analysis. When they try to perform in public, there's a likelihood that their show—for lack of zoning permits—will be shut down by the city government.
But really, it's all part of an effort to build something cohesive, whether it's a song, a story, or a community. Though their methodology may at first appear to be backward, upon closer examination one sees that it's all part of the reinvention process, which for them is tantamount to a reintegration process, be it combining musical genres or connecting neighborhoods.
City Pages: Your music is always music—it never turns into a messy pile of sound—but the contrasts between electric and acoustic are pretty distinct on many of the songs on Detroit Vs. Farming. What's the methodology behind this?
Andrew Jansen: The recording process for me is very much part of the creative process in writing a song. Most of the tracks started out as demos on my laptop. I had to make beats locked into a set BPM (beats per minute), and then we basically recorded over those demos—first with our voices and acoustic guitars, and then we added to it with different electronics, different drums sets, different voices. Then all of a sudden we looked back and went, "Damn, there's a fight going on: organic world versus digital world."
Kyle Sobcczek: It's important to follow your gut instinct as far as it can take you. The best ideas are the fresh, unintentional ones. But after the initial spark, it helps to analyze what direction we were subconsciously heading toward.
CP: Your lyrics follow the same sort of model, in that they're built upon standard themes and images—love, spite, heartbreak—but then modernized with ironic non-sequiturs. I've heard from a third source that Andrew readily admits he's obsessed with all things Beck. Is his stuff one of the main sources behind your own form lyricism?
Jansen: Beck's lyrics, to me, are a perfect example of how someone right now should write songs. I still don't know the all the lyrics to the song "New Pollution," but I've probably heard it more than a thousand times. That's how apparently random his lines are. But I still relate to what he is saying. Lyrics that merely allude to feelings and scenes sometimes hit me harder because there is room for interpretation.
CP: While your lyrics may at times be disjointed (though still cohesive!), as a group it seems like you strive for a definite sense of wholeness within your neighborhood and community.
Jansen: Our band really began to feel the community in Minneapolis once we started having shows at Two Pines (our house), next door to Arise! That's when A Paper Cup Band became a part of something that already existed: people taking their lives into their own hands, communities taking action, making things better.
Sobcczek: Belonging to a community of musicians has been vital to our livelihood. Oftentimes, house shows put you in contact with people who care more about awesome bands than two-dollar tallboys. Having a house venue is a good, direct way of supporting that culture.
CP: And then you tried to start another venue, which didn't end up so well...
Jansen: I'd been looking on Craigslist for spaces to rent, with the idea of starting a storefront for our record label, Anti-Civ, and a place to throw shows. We rented a huge, leaky-roofed warehouse by Powderhorn Park. We named it Future Pasture and started putting on shows. Unfortunately, our all-inclusive idea of letting anyone get involved bottomed out. Somehow our illegal venue was placed as a new venue right here in City Pages. The good old license director of Minneapolis caught wind and we had a cease-and-desist within seven months of opening. There will be new spaces opened but we will be a lot more cautious of the internet and, no offense, but we'll be wary of certain publications. It's not to keep people out; it is to keep people in.
A PAPER CUP BAND play with Dada Trash Collage, Camel of the Sea, and Nick Holmes on SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15, at BIG V'S; 651.645.8472