Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
People go through rough times and every one of them is a little bit different than any other rough time had personally or rough time that's been heard about through the grapes or the grapevine. There's never much consolation or appreciation in explaining the tough stuff that you're dealing with and hearing from someone else, "Oh, I know exactly what that's like. Been there, done that. Not too fun is it?" Is there? That person has most assuredly not been there and also has most assuredly not done that.
They aren't little riddles to be figured out, nor are they always so clumsily cast off as proud battle wounds, scars that will bear fond remembrances of ones that so randomly and pleasantly got away or of the no chance in the world of working relationships. Nashville band Paper Route appears to have majored in these romantic flops or these flops that somehow became romantic in their post mortem states, respected for their difficulties and beloved for their mortality. They're memorialized in their deaths and the pains in the asses that they caused when they were still holding on are somehow fond mementos. Go figure. This is how people work sometimes and they will always work that way because there is nothing to make two interested people work any more efficiently or smarter. It is the dance that is textbook. People try and they try and they ultimately, more times than not, find new ways to fail or come up short.
Paper Route offer their foods for thoughts in the manner of songs that sound like chandeliers whispering and winking at each other through a hazy, dripping afternoon of off-and-on showers. Sometimes those chandeliers are better than flies on the wall because they hang in those forgotten rooms or the rooms for show, taking in people interacting when they need to be a certain way. It's great fodder and it's what will unfold when those people are found later in their quiet rooms, taking off those black socks and sitting on the edge of their bed in their underwear, like they do every night, and then there are the questions of love and infidelity, of waning passions and disintegrating care.
During my college years, I took on a paper route through the streets of Iowa City and there was something spiritual about all of the early-rising, being up and moving around when no one but the nurses and doctors and convenience store clerks were. All of the rampaging peers of mine were nestled in their fraternities and sororities, of which there were numerous on my particular route. There were some interesting residential residencies too, taking the college daily - homes where you'd see the mother and father turning on the kitchen lights for the first time in nine hours. Occasionally, you could smell the brewing coffee. There were homes that looked to be unlived in and there was this one stately home that had been converted into a bed and breakfast, resting still in the middle of a regular neighborhood. There was a side door where the guests were to enter and exit and every morning I was to throw three papers on that step. It was a beautiful house and the tiny parking lot in the rear always had one or two cars with out-of-town plates affixed to their bumpers.
B&Bs seem to always be places that happy couples check into and I always looked at that place with a sense that this - as pretty as it was - might be a place that a couple went for the last time they were going to be happy together. It was ending and this was the place where they were going to fake themselves through a last hurrah, the last waltz (maybe in the parlor) and the last halfway decent kiss. They would part from each other in the parking lot. In nearly every one of the ephemeral songs that Paper Route writes, there's a sense of intense foreboding - like someone's got a foot out of the door and there are outstretched arms reaching to reverse the momentum carrying them away. It's enough of a reminder that we'll always be amateur lovers.