Interview: Paper Aeroplanes

Paper Aeroplanes, made up of Sarah Howells and Richard Llewellyn, have spent much of 2011 providing the globe with magnificent, delicate music, either through numerous EP’s – We Are Ghosts and A Comfortable Sleep, or live as they circled Britain over and over, playing to many sold-out crowds.

Recently, we had the great fortune of catching up with the brilliant duo, to talk to them about life on the road, the music industry and future plans….

We absolutely loved your recently-released EP, A Comfortable Sleep…a stunning, simple and stripped-backed recording….are you pleased with the reaction it has achieved so far?

          Thank you! Yes we are really pleased. Jo Good chose the lead track Winter Never Comes as her single of the week on 6 Music, and we also launched a remix competition which has just come to a rather lovely end. We had entries from people all over the world. In the end it went to Foxymoron (otherwise known as Duncan Allan, from Sunderland). My favourite review of the EP said something like…’You’d have to be a Stalinist dictator not to find it moving!’… That’s always the response I hope for with our music, that it evokes emotion in people.

It was the second of two recordings released in 2011…was this down to an urge to reveal more of your work? And do the tracks represent any changes in feelings, emotions, influences, etc…compared to those on We Are Ghosts?

          A Comfortable Sleep definitely has the feel of a follow-up for me. It does have some of the same themes. Tuesday especially is like a continuation of a theme that runs through a few songs on WAG. I think it’s different though. All You Need and Winter Never Comes are quite different songs…to us anyway. I wanted it to be even more sparse production-wise. We purposely spent less time labouring over the recording of it.

You released your first album The Day We Ran Into The Sea back in 2009, but had been recording together for much longer in a previous outfit, Halflight. What were the reasons behind moving on and becoming the beloved Paper Aeroplanes?

                   We’d done lots of little EPs as Halflight but when we came to record The Day we Ran…despite the fact some of the songs were quite old and even from the Halflight live set, we felt like it was time for a change. Time to start anew with a full length album and a new outlook. I moved to London and we had a new team of people around us. It was just time for a fresh start.

You’ve just finished your UK tour this month! How did it go, and were you pleased with the audience numbers, reaction, etc?

          The tour was great! We were surprised by the numbers in some places, like Bristol, Birmingham, London. Everywhere else it was a good core of fans that we hope to build on. It’s brilliant being able to chat to fans on Facebook or Twitter etc, and then drive to Glasgow or Newcastle and meet them at your gig. It means a lot to us. It’s what our music is all about; that intimate, live setting.

Is there a stop on tour that the two of you are always excited about playing? UK or elsewhere?

          It can be a bit nerve-wrecking playing a random city that you’ve never been to and hoping people come along, but Birmingham has unexpectedly become a buzz town for us. It’s partly down to Brett at the Kitchen Garden Cafe where we usually play (and sell out) for promoting the shows there, but we seem to have found a pocket of people there who really get our music and want more of it!

Artists are constantly likened to others, almost immediately by the press…does being pigeon-holed become irritating, or do you pay this little attention?

          It’s not too bad with us. I do get annoyed when people have blatantly just picked another girl with a guitar to compare me to, but on the whole we’ve escaped that. Lazy reviews can be annoying. When you can tell people haven’t listened to the words or have formed an opinion on the band before listening to it. But criticism and comments are always interesting, good or bad.

Which of your many great songs are you most proud of? And is there a song (past or present) that you wish you had written!?

Personally I’m most proud of Lost. It just makes sense to me, musically and lyrically and there’s nothing I’d change about it. I also think Newport Beach is one of our best songs. A song I wish I’d written….. too many! Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade?! Oh you mean artistically! Street Spirit by Radiohead or Sea Change by Turin Brakes.

You’ve gone to great lengths and effort to get your music heard, without the needs of a record company etc, and artists like yourselves deserve a great deal of praise for your extremely hard work…do you believe that your successful self-promotion reflects the changes in the music industry? And what tips would you pass on to up and coming artists?

We do what we think is necessary I suppose. There is so much music out there that you do have to remind people frequently and try to reach new corners when getting playlisted on Radio One isn’t so easy. Mainly though, we like interacting with the people who listen to our music. It feels like a club more than a business! My tip to new artists is to start with great recordings that you’re happy with. People are a bit too eager to post the first thing they’ve ever recorded on Facebook without a few months of practise. Apart from that, get out there and play. Become a competent artist before telling the world what you’re up to. I believe that playing a good gig is still the best promotion you can give yourself.

What are the future plans of Paper Aeroplanes? And where would you like to see yourselves in the next 5 years?

It would be lovely to be the next Ed Sheeran, but failing that we’d like to continue playing to more and more people, and hopefully writing more and more songs that say everything just right.

In 5 years?  Selling out 5 nights in a row at the Kitchen Garden Cafe!