4 To Watch: Paper Route

Music Reviews Paper Route

Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.

Members [L-R]: JT Daly (vocal, keyboards, drums/percussion); Andy Smith: (vocals, guitars, harmonica); Chad Howat (programming, piano, bass)

Fun fact: Howat posed as a Belmont University student so he could sneak into the school’s music labs to record piano parts for the group’s self-titled EP.

Why They’re worth watching: The group produces a refreshing mix of the organic and the electronic, with quality songwriting to match.
For fans of: The Postal Service, Air, The Album Leaf

Stereotypical early-morning Nashville: Music Row marquees slowly ?icker out as Western-shirt-wearing troubadours carry battered Martins down side streets as the last echoes of steel guitar dissipate into the fading night. But there’s another side to Music City, a side where Chad Howat battles insomnia with his laptop and programmed beats.

The sound of Howat’s semi-electronic trio, Paper Route, is caught between the tired excesses of this saturated music town and a sleep that just won’t come. Think of a less computerized Postal Service—more organic, fewer ones and zeroes. The members of Paper Route moved to Nashville from the Midwest as part of a more traditional rock band, but when that group dissolved, there was a desire for something new. “I was depressed because I wasn’t playing music,” Howat says, “so I bought a laptop, and I had fallen in love with Björk at the time, and wanted to get into the production side.”

Excited by the new music he was working on, he called former bandmates JT Daly and Andy Smith to put together songs for a project, which resulted in Paper Route’s self-titled EP. The record’s six tracks create a mood more reminiscent of the band’s Midwestern roots than its current Tennessee home; more snow falling on a sprawling landscape than rote twang.

Some lyrics reference cold and lonely winters and some just re?ect the cold and the lonely. The starkness in these songs is striking; the hurt palpable—electronic or not. “We try to write songs that could stand on their own on piano and guitar,” Howat says, “but we also like to have it where you can listen to the music on its own, too.”

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