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Brothers In Arms: PAWS Talk 'No Grace' And Communication Through Music

Tuesday, 28 June 2016 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Rock 'n' roll has always been the preserve of the young, for obvious reasons. We get more of a kick from music that is wild and energetic than our parents’ generation currently do, just as they once did. And so on. What’s less readily acknowledged is that bands recognise this and shape their writing accordingly.

Yung, for example, recently put out ‘A Youthful Dream’, an album praised here for its “intoxicating snapshots of joyous abandon that reflect youthful experience”. The fact that a huge number of bands, from the Who to Blink 182, have explored the concept before, is irrelevant. Ironically, age as a theme is timeless.

Maybe that’s one reason why Glasgow trio PAWS’ own ode to youth, ‘Youth Culture Forever’, chimed with so many people. The fuzzy pop-rockers’ sophomore record was praised by stateside publications for its unbridled enthusiasm and charged lyrics, with Pitchfork’s Jeremy Gordon noting the band's “recounting the well-worn experiences of being young” while pointing out the fact that “they also push aside foolish things in favour of sober observations”.

Self-awareness goes a long way. It’s what makes PAWS’ guitarist Phillip Taylor’s accounts of his own experiences fascinating and endearing rather than frivolous. The band’s new record, ‘No Grace’, is inevitably more mature than its predecessor, while maintaining the essence of what made them popular in the first place. Their songs are still fast, furious and packed with hooks, but the lyrical focus is broader this time around.

“This record is more about our brotherhood,” Taylor says. “It’s the stuff we’ve come against and experienced together as a unit. It’s about our band rather than just my own point of view. There’s personal stuff, but it’s a little bit more camouflaged.

“I do tend to write from a personal place because life is a really short thing. If I’m going to do this crazy band thing and dedicate my life to it even when it’s difficult, I’m going to do it as honestly as I can.

“I wanted things to be less cut and dry. On previous records we’d present time, place, people. You can take what you want on this one a little more. I want people to paint their own picture. We see music as direct, universal communication.”

Taylor is a sharp thinker and that comes through keenly in his songwriting. He’s not afraid to be either blunt or obscure, vivid or impressionistic, but there’s no posturing or pretentiousness. The band have also beefed up their instrumentation and cleaned up their production since their debut LP, ‘Cokefloat’ and on ‘No Grace’ they recruited the legendary Blink 182 vocalist Mark Hoppus as producer.

The band initially developed a friendship with Hoppus after chatting on Twitter. They were shocked when he signalled that he was immediately up for recording them when they asked last year. The result is a record that has punch and professionalism without sacrificing the band’s punk vigour.

“Do I still listen to pop punk?” Taylor asks. “Absolutely. Mark Hoppus remains a hero – he was in the first band I ever saw play. I never thought we’d ever meet the guy, let alone ask him to record our record.

“He was like the fourth member of the band, always there to guide us and push us in the right direction. It took a bit of faith on his part because he’d never seen us live and only heard four or five demos. But it was refreshing going in, playing him all these tracks and then building a structure.

“It was a random meeting, but we’re luckily a magnet for this kind of stuff and often find ourselves chatting to these incredible people that have inspired us. I believe it does come from positive energy, being honest and playing shows.”

PAWS have done a lot of the latter in their short career, recently finishing a tour that saw them play in Italy and Scandinavia for the first time. Taylor’s favourite show of the tour was at the Italian Mi Casa festival, where 300 people screamed his lyrics back at him. This isn’t surprising, given the band's catchy tracks and universal themes, but Taylor is still surprised when reminded of the buzz in Glasgow ahead of the album’s arrival earlier this month.

“It’s overwhelming that people are even talking about us,” he says. “I’m still a bag of nerves every time I go on stage. It’s all perception. I mean, we love the Glasgow scene and know several bands that have developed something through constantly playing alongside peers etc.

“We’ve never been a part of anything like that, though. The first bands we played with were American, and so while I love the spirit here in Glasgow we’ve always felt like outsiders.

“When I say ‘outsiders’, I don’t mean to sound edgy or anything. Maybe that sounds like some bullshit word to sound cool. We’re not cool in the slightest - I’m from Tain in the highlands. But from day one we’ve tried to branch out.”

Whether PAWS are cool are not isn’t really relevant to their appeal. They’re a band that speaks honestly and without resorting to clichés, while their songs are fun but never disposable. ‘No Grace’ is an album that makes the listener feel part of something unique and tangible even though it’s something that affects us all.

They’re still happily promoting their own idea of youth culture, but this time around we’re encouraged to celebrate our own too. As Taylor puts it: “Youth culture is forever but not just for young people.”

'No Grace' is out now on FatCat Records.

PAWS Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue June 28 2016 - LEICESTER Musician
Wed June 29 2016 - MANCHESTER Soup Kitchen
Thu June 30 2016 - LEEDS Headrow House
Fri July 01 2016 - BRISTOL Start The Bus
Sat July 02 2016 - LONDON Moth Club
Sun July 03 2016 - BRIGHTON Hope and Ruin
Mon July 04 2016 - BIRMINGHAM Hare and Hounds

Click here to compare & buy PAWS Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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