[Interview] Meeting New Friends at Papadosio
My best friend just turned 21 so we decided to celebrate by going to see Papadosio on the first night of their two-night stay at Variety Playhouse. I lost track of how many times we said, “Wow, everyone here is so nice!”
Whether it was my photographer remarking at how accommodating the near-sellout crowd was or my friend and I being passed wax pens and free beer; everyone seemed to be making a concerted effort to make a great impression on three newcomers to the live jam scene.
Upon our arrival, my friend yelled at me from across the lobby where he had already formed an opinion of the first opening act, “Dude, it’s a trio. And they’re fuckin’ sick!”
That fuckin’ sick trio turned out to be progressive-electronic-rock group Skydyed. If I had to use one word to describe their performance, it would be "drums." The drummer, Shane Eagen, absolutely blew us away with his fills, grooves, technique, and overall musicianship. Combining efforts with his bandmates, Max Doucette (guitar/keys) and Andrew Slattery (bass synths/bass guitar), they created a stellar atmosphere that was filled with exceptional music.
The second band was Jaw Gems. Stepping it up to a whopping four members, this band kept the night rolling with a similarly synth-filled sound that brought the crowd in from the merch booth and smoker’s alley. In part to dance along to the Maine-based quartet, but also in preparation for Papadosio’s set, which was soon to come.
After using the brief intermission to have a few drinks and make friends with the interesting people around us, Papadosio began a non-stop, two-hour set. For two hours there were no political messages, no sing-a-longs or frontman antics, and hardly any vocals to speak of. Just a room full of music and the simple desire to enjoy the night. The energy radiating throughout the crowd was palpable as we were engulfed in wave upon wave of the lush melodies.
Two hours rushed by all too fast, and despite having to finally leave the insulated bliss to enter a world full of politics, division, and deadlines, the people I met and the experiences we shared give me plenty to smile about in the days ahead.
Papadosio is comprised of Mike Healy, Sam Brouse, Rob McConnell, Anthony Thogmartin and Billy Brouse. Billy, Sam, and Anthony took time to talk about touring, influences, and their creative processes both live and in the studio.
What’re some of your favorite cities to play in on every tour?
It’s kind of a fun adventure playing new places. Sometimes you play places too much and you know what to expect and you play a certain way in front of a certain kind of crowd and tonight we don’t have any idea what to expect, so we’re excited.
Where are you guys originally from?
We’re from all over Ohio, but now we live in Asheville, NC. It’ll have been seven years this summer.
How many members are in the band and who does what?
There are two keyboard players, that’s me (Sam Brouse) and my brother (Billy Brouse), and we both play a little bit of guitar as well. There’s Anthony [Thogmartin] who sings and plays guitar and does synth stuff too. So a bunch of synths and a bunch of guitars and then a bass player and a drummer (Rob McConnell and Mike Healy).
How did you guys first get together?
We all met at a bar in Athens, and there was a little jam sitting we used to do every Tuesday night and it was an improvisational jam thing that was unique cause everyone else was doing an open stage with mics and there was a stack order and you had to sign up and wait around until you had the stage. And this one was more where we would fit as many people as we could on stage, and there were no vocals and it was all improv. So one day a few of us decided to get together outside of that and write some songs and then that was it.
What was the catalyst to become a band rather than just jamming in the bar?
I think we all just realized that, “Hey this is something special when we get together at this place, maybe we should try and write some songs.”
And we had a big, great network of friends that really encouraged us, too.
Who are some of y'all's musical influences?
Being five different people we have really different tastes. Of course, we share a lot, though, like we share Radiohead, NIN, Aphex Twin. And then REM and all the stuff from the 90s, but the jam stuff didn’t come into my life until kinda later on. I went through a Grateful Dead phase in ninth grade for a little bit until one day I was like, “Oh hey, Pink Floyd!”
Then there’s Tool, Nine Inch nails, Phish, and if I took any real deep influence from anything, as far as jam stuff goes, it would be Medeski, Martin, & Wood because we would go to their shows and just be floored because they knew how to make a compelling show without writing most of it.
Speaking of compelling and unscripted live show, how much of your own performances are scripted vs. unplanned jams?
It varies from show to show and also year to year. I think right now we’re doing a lot of improv but some nights you’ll be like “Oh my God, my brain” and do a little less of it. We’re fly by the seat of our pants dudes with the setlist before the show and like to just see what happens
How much of the “Fly by the seat of your pants” mentality carries over into the studio?
In the studio, it’s all fairly calculated for the most part. This past album we did a little bit of that where we said, “Let's just record all sorts of stuff and subtract from there or fuck around with it and see if we can make it work.”
But a lot of the time the studio is mostly calculated, but that’s just the nature of the studio, really.
What’s the Papadosio songwriting process generally like?
We write things individually a lot to varying degrees of completion. Historically it’s been where shit will be mostly done and everyone will just kind of add their flavors onto it. But like we were saying earlier on this past album it was more like putting the pieces together, where like two people would work together and then two more people would work together, and then three people, and it was more of a hodge podge. Whereas historically we’ve stayed in our own respective spaces and tried to come up with something cool and then bring it to bring to everybody else.
Aside from your normal studio releases, you guys just released a live improv album, right? Tell us about that.
Yea, we did a couple live shows recently where we improv’d the entire set, and we released one of our favorite ones from a show in Columbus [Ohio] that was really fun. Sometimes those sets go very well and sometimes they go very not so well. Our fans tend to think that the ones that we don’t think went very well went great, and the ones we think went great don’t go over so well. It’s hilarious. But whatever one we really liked recently we decided to make a bigger stink out of. We release every show, though. Like every single show is available for download.
We actually have this thing called the back lounge which is, I think, unique to us. If you go on our Bandcamp page (HERE), for $10 a month you can get access to everything we release. If we’re on tour especially, we’ll release as many as 20 shows in a month, and sometimes it’s obviously less than that, but you get access to our studio albums and everything we have out for $10 a month. You can also stream off the app so you can listen to anything you want without having to download it to your phone. People have been enjoying that and have been giving us a lot of good feedback on that, too.
Papadosio's current spring tour will run through April. For a full list of tour dates, click HERE.
Photos by Sidney Spear for Bullet Music