They Love It When You Call Them PAPA



PAPA is part Springsteen, part rock-‘n’-roll, with the poetry of early folk, the groove of soul, and an Americana flair. Their songs have West Coast dreamy melodies while evoking a crisp and raw New York attitude. The group was formed in the Big Apple by Los Angeles native Darren Weiss along with childhood friend Danny Presant, brother Evan Weiss, and newly added keyboardist Alex Fischel; and they have just released their first EP, A Good Woman is Hard to Find.

While recording the EP and scheduling and playing dates with PAPA, Weiss simultaneously recorded on the San Francisco band Girls’ current album, Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Weiss now has a double workload: playing live not only with PAPA but also with their current tourmates, Girls. He’s maneuvered the complications of playing in two bands with the most ideal solution: both bands are on tour togther. All this is paying off quickly for PAPA; a full-length album is scheduled to begin recording at the end of the year, and before that, a tour with Girls in Japan and Europe. Weiss is undeniably exhausted—however, his complaints are minimal. We caught up with him on his way from Portland to San Francisco.

VERA NEYKOV: How has tour been going?

DARREN WEISS: Tour has been really really awesome; we have been out for a month now. The timing for this has been really great, with us finishing the EP, and the tour… I couldn’t ask for a better scenario.

NEYKOV: Was this album recorded all at once? Where did you record it?

WEISS: Like all recordings with PAPA, it was done over an extended period of time because we never had everyone in the same place. It wasn’t like the record company approached us and said, “We want to put out an EP of yours, so let’s get in the studio.” We had these songs and we had to figure out a way to record them. So I think every song on this recording has line-up changes and was recorded in different places.

However, most of it was done at Black Iris studio in Los Angeles, except for the song “Let’s Make You Pregnant,” which was done in San Francisco. JR [White, from Girls] rents out a recording studio where they have certain allotted days in the month to do whatever they want. JR called me up, and the plan was to work on more Girls recordings, but I said, “I have these songs that I’m working on and want to record.” I sent a couple of demos. Me, my brother, and my oldest friend Zach Dawes went up to the recording studio with JR, and we had 24 hours to record the song.

While we were recording it, we were making great time; and as we got to the heat of the vocals, which is of course the most delicate and intricate process of recording (for us at least), the power goes out in the studio! What was so frustrating is that it was just our side of the street, so we could see out the window and see the lights on, and we were waiting until it eventually became clear that it was out for the night. However, we just had that one night to record! So we had to wake up early the next morning, which is of course the worst time I could imagine singing, and rushed back to the studio and record the vocals.

NEYKOV: You’re in a unique and fortunate position where you have to go between both of these bands. How do you make time for it all?

WEISS: It’s a matter of putting your head down, focusing, and getting through it. At the end, all of these things are really exciting, and they don’t feel much like work. For instance, when Girls was recording, PAPA had their residency in Echo Park with my brother’s band Slang Chickens, so I would only be in LA for two days a week: fly in, rehearse, play the show on Monday, and fly out Tuesday to get back to San Francisco and keep working on the Girls record. So obviously things like that take up your time, and there are sacrifices. That’s, again, why I saw this as the most ideal scenario. My time is spread pretty thin between the two bands, but since we are both in the places together, it makes it easier. Which I love, because that was something that I found disagreeable about touring: so much time spent sitting in a van waiting to play, then playing for half an hour, and it would be a completely unequal amount of time spent playing music on something that is supposed to be your life dedicated to playing music. So even though there have been times that I’ve been exhausted and burnt out, I wish every tour could be this busy.

NEYKOV: Where did PAPA form, and how long have you been together?

WEISS: I’m the only person who has been in it since the beginning. It started being PAPA when I began playing drums and singing. Before that, it was Darren Weiss, and I was playing acoustically. I would just have my guitar and stomp with my boots and that was sort of the show. And when I would make recordings, it would be a fuller band. I decided that I really wanted to put a band together to perform the kind of music I wanted to, which was not folk music. I was coming across as folk music because I was by myself. I think PAPA became the thing that it is when Danny joined. He was living in Boston and came back to New York, and I was also in school there. His melodic sensibility and my musical background made sense, and what he was doing on his own matched up to what I wanted to do. Having him in the band definitely pushed it to where it is now.

NEYKOV: You’re also a writer, as well as an artist, right?

WEISS: I feel like an asshole talking about it, because I don’t think I’m any good at it. I studied literature in school and do a lot of writing that isn’t lyrics. In school, my senior thesis was a work of fiction that I’ve been working on since. I also take painting classes when I’m back in Los Angeles, but I would definitely not call myself a writer or painter with my level of talent for each.