Ten years ago, Paper Bird, a six-piece indie band from Denver burst onto the Colorado music scene—riding the rapidly growing local sound waves along with bands like Nathaniel Ratliff and the Night Sweats, and the Lumineers—out past the state lines and on to the national stage. In the past decade, the band has released four full-length albums, countless EPs, and have toured the country—spreading their unique sound of heavy harmonies blended mostly with acoustic instrumentals to an always-growing fan base that has stayed with the band—even through changes to the group’s longtime line-up. But change proved to be just what Paper Bird needed to release their latest full-length album and the self-proclaimed strongest representation of the band’s evolving sound since their inception all of those years ago.
On September 9, Paper Bird released their fifth full-length album—a self-titled album co-produced by the legendary John Oates, a fellow Colorado resident and record label-mate who was more than willing to help the band refine their sound. The album is composed of eleven songs that showcase the powerful blend of vocals from the band’s three female singers and songwriting that serves as both a statement to the band’s past and future. The lyrics are uplifting and catchy. The beats are driven by an electric guitar and a hard-working drum kit, but the band’s greatest instrument continues to be the harmonies they create with a variety of vocals that piece themselves together to form one musically complete puzzle. Paper Bird marks the groups’s first new music released in three years, and the first created with newest band member, singer Carleigh Aikins. Like original members and the two other lead vocalists of the group, Sarah Anderson and Genevieve Patterson, Carleigh’s vocals are vintage—a throwback to some of the iconic female rock vocalists from the 60s and 70s—moving from strong and raspy to sweet and sultry all in the same breath. With the 2013 departure of perhaps the band’s most notable member, Esmé Patterson, Paper Bird took their time filling the space left in the group—taking time to revisit their sound in the process. With the addition of Aikins voice and songwriting, and the introduction of new life in the band, Paper Bird set forth in writing and recording new music, music they felt confident represented the sound and songs that defined the new line-up and the group’s original passion.
“The process around making this record was a process of defining ourselves in a lot of ways,” said Genny Patterson, Paper Bird vocalist and the band’s keyboard player. “We let go of what we thought we had to do, and went in a direction that we thought was the best.”
That direction, Patterson says, is more rock but with a continued focus on songwriting—a task performed by every member of the group.
Spiraling momentum from the band’s beginnings quickly set Paper Bird on a course that the group worked to reroute back to their roots with the release of their latest album, noting the addition of Aikins as a big inspiration in the process.
“Carleigh brought her amazing sounds and she has such a unique singing style. It’s really great and it’s crazy that she fits in this band. We’re a bunch of weirdos and she just jumped right in from day one.”
This fall, Paper Bird will spread their new sound on a national tour with stops in Nashville for Americana Fest, and in Denver for a Colorado album release party at the Bluebird Theater on November 25.
And what’s next for the band past that? Patterson doesn’t know, but the excitement of the band’s revival and future lace her every word.
“We’re just excited to put the record out, we want people to have this music,” she says—reflecting on the past as she thinks about the future. “We don’t know what’s over the next ridge, but I feel like we’re finally getting to the top of it.”