Interview: Paper Tongues Guitarist Says Music Is a ‘Cry for Hope for the Masses’

Paper Tongues, Courtesy Photo

Paper Tongues Want To ‘Make a Difference in a Very Hopeful Way’

The story reads like a fairytale: Random guy sees producer Randy Jackson at a Los Angeles restaurant. The guy plugs his band, writes down his contact info and the band’s MySpace page and hands it to Jackson. Then, he walks away thinking he’ll never hear from Jackson again. Two hours later, Jackson calls the guy and ends up managing the band.

That’s exactly what happened with Aswan North and his group, Paper Tongues. The Charlotte, N.C.-based band was in L.A. to record a demo when they ran into the American Idol judge.

Guitarist Devin Forbes was star-struck when they got the call from Jackson.

“He basically said, ‘I’ll listen to the music. If I like the music, I’ll call you back,’” recalls the guitarist, on the way to a radio festival gig in Vermont. “Then, when he called, he was like, ‘Yo, dog. “Get Higher” is my song, dog.’ He just really liked that song.

“He invited us to his studios the next day. We went and talked for five hours.”

On top of managing, Jackson is executive producer of their self-titled album.

“He’s our friend; our uncle; our coach,” Forbes says. “Sure, he’s our manager. But he’s so much more.”

What did Jackson see in Paper Tongues? Possibly the message. Chatting with Forbes, the words “inspiration” and “hope” pop up a lot.

“We consider ourselves a band that’s trying to make a difference in a very hopeful way,” he says. “Not to say anything against other artists, because I believe there’s a time and place fore every kind of music and music is the best way to express whatever emotion you’re going through. But we’re trying to bring some hope back.

“We’re writing for people who need a break from negativity and want to listen to something that gives them hope.”

Paper Tongues have an aesthetic unlike any of its peers. Band members have backgrounds in everything from R&B to rock to soul, giving Paper Tongues a wider berth than many other bands. Merging hip-hop, country, alternative rock, big band and jazz into one sound, the diversity is what makes their music so appealing.

The lyrics always tell a story. Debut single, “Trinity,” is an anthem inspired by young people doing extraordinary things.

“‘Trinity’ is about having relief for the world,” Forbes says. “Inspiration was seeing the earthquake in Haiti happen and seeing all these high school and college students banding together and raising funds for the cause. The second verse is for young widows: young 18 or 19-year-old girls who had just gotten married and their guy went off to war in Iraq and didn’t come back.”

“It’s a cry for hope for the masses, with all of the struggles people are going through.”

Of course, another way to reach the masses is by playing rock shows. Paper Tongues have toured with Switchfoot and Flyleaf and appeared at Bonnaroo 2010.

Playing summer shows is a thrill.

“I love outdoor festivals,” Forbes says. “It’s sticky and hot, and everybody — including us — is gross and sweaty and dirty, and everybody is just there to have a good time and listen to music. You just have to experience it; you can’t compare it to anything.

“It’s one of the best experiences in the world: to play in front of people outside in the summer.”

Cat Badra
Posted by Cat Badra | Alternative, Features, Interviews, Music