Paper Planets is a pop punk band from Tulsa, OK. The band has release a handful of EPs, the latest being a split with Ellewood, released June 2014.
This interview was conducted via email with guitarist Joseph Banuelos and bassist Ryan Higgins, April 23rd – May 2nd, 2015.
For more information on Paper Planets check out the band’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and BandCamp pages.
Dave: How did the band get together?
Joseph: After failing to start a band in 2010 with some friends, I was entering my sophomore year of high school and had some leftover ideas that I wanted to bring to reality. But since I couldn't (and nor did I want to) play everything myself, I asked two of my friends who were on my soccer team to join something I had going. After I got them on board I met Ryan at school and found out he played bass so I asked him to join as well. We started doing stuff in 2011 but it was more of a hobby at that point. I think we played like three shows total but had enough songs to record so we did an EP that winter. After that, everyone but Ryan and I split and we spent 2012 inactive until we started trying people out and revamping the band in the summer of 2013. We've had several line-up changes but Ryan and I are original members. The band now consists of:
Austin "Major League" Elkins-Guitar
Ryan: Joseph and I were the ones who started Paper Planets when we were in high school together. I remember actually being friends with his older brother, Bryan before I even knew Joseph. I would invite Bryan over to my house to unlock Xbox achievements for me in Guitar Hero because I wasn’t good enough to do it myself. Around this time, I began taking up bass guitar. I had thought about trying to learn an instrument for a while and was always drawn to the bass because I felt like everyone played guitar and I wanted to play something “different.” A little while later, I got a message from Joseph on MySpace, asking if I’d be interested in starting a band. I had never done anything like this, so I was very excited to try it out. After talking about it for a bit, we met up one weekend and started playing some music that he had written.
Dave: What’s the story behind the name Paper Planets?
Joseph: I dread telling this story because it sounds so made up, but in late 2010 when I had just about everyone together I had a dream where I spoke to King Kai (of Dragonball Z fame) where he told me three names. Paper Planets was the third name and I remember going to school the next day and seeing our drummer at the time in the hallway and told him about it. As soon as I said "Paper Planets" he was like "Yes! That's perfect!" and that's how it came about. Kind of uncanny but it worked out to match our sound and gave us a theme I suppose.
Dave: For those who have never heard the band, how do you describe your music?
Ryan: We all have pretty different music tastes from one another, but the music that we have on our Bandcamp can be described simply as pop punk, for the most part. A lot of it is very poppy and light, like the song “Hourglass,” while other songs like “Bold.” are more serious and dark-mannered. Then there’s songs like “Head Trip” that are more abstract and dreamy. I like the songs we’re currently writing so much more than pretty much everything we’ve ever written. Not that I don’t like our current music, but the new stuff is definitely more mature sounding and harder to put an exact genre on, which I love. If you are writing new music that you don’t think is better than your old stuff, you’re doing something wrong.
Dave: To date you have self-released two singles, an EP, and a split EP all through BandCamp. Why did you decide to go the self-release route instead of working with a traditional record label?
Joseph: It's never really crossed our minds to attempt to reach out to a label. On the other side, we've never been reached out to either. Due to the internet and social media, it's very easy to share our music and promote it ourselves locally and/or globally. We try to get our music out as quick as possible so calling the shots ourselves makes the big decisions an expedited, personal process as opposed to doing our thing and then having it filtered through a label, then reaching ears. It's not to say we wouldn't love being on a label but it just hasn't become a necessity at our level currently. Maybe one day.
Dave: Do you have plans to record a full-length record?
Joseph: No plans as of yet but we have talked about it. Due to all of us being motivated writers, we could each easily write a full length record by ourselves but then we wouldn't have everyone's input and the majority input is what makes us, us. Which also makes it difficult to complete a song because we all have a different expectation of how the songs turn out but we’ve learned to sacrifice and compromise with each other. Definitely, in the future but for what we're aiming for now, an EP is the most likely route for our next release.
Dave: Do you have any specific type of songwriting process?
Ryan: Usually when writing a new song, it begins with someone having an idea for a riff or drumbeat or whatever and they’ll present it to everyone during practice. After showing everyone the idea, we make suggestions on changing it a bit if we feel the need to do so, or we all build off of that idea by adding our own parts to it, and keep going from there. Our musical interests can vary quite a bit, so it’s interesting to see how the songs that we’re currently writing are coming together. I’m more into shoegaze and grunge music, while others like Nick are into the straight up pop punk genre. It can be difficult at times to make something that everyone’s happy with, but I think that keeps things interesting and adds a bunch of different elements to each song.
Dave: What are your thoughts on the music scene in Oklahoma?
Joseph: The music scene in Oklahoma is great. Although (on an underground level) we are known more for our hardcore scene, we do have hidden gems of every genre here from Tulsa to OKC and all around. Pop punk took a surge in 2013 but a lot of those bands have unfortunately split since then leaving us weirdly alienated in a way. The scene still supports us regardless though; it's not so much an exile as it is an outlier. We've been fortunate enough to travel a bit so we've seen other scenes that made us realize how good we have it here at home. It's still growing everyday so we're also thankful to be a part of that of that growth. I think as long as you show an honest effort people will support that.
Ryan: I think the music scene in Oklahoma is great. There are so many proactive people here that make the scene so easy to be a part of, whether you’re in a band or not. Venues close down on occasion, which is obviously unfortunate, but new venues open, as well. Just this past weekend, we played at a fairly new venue in Tulsa called Boulevard Trash, which was awesome. There is a good amount of diversity here when it comes to types of music. We’ve played shows where it was a bunch of hardcore bands and us, to shows where it was a bunch of hip-hop groups and us. I think the weirder and more diverse shows are, the better, because it will bring different types of people that wouldn’t necessarily go to certain types of shows
Dave: This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, television programs, books/authors?
Top 5 Bands:
Fall Out Boy
Four Year Strong
The Wonder Years
Fireworks - Gospel
Pierce The Veil - Collide With The Sky
Four Year Strong - Rise or Die Trying
The Devil Wears Prada - With Roots Above and Branches Below
The Wonder Years - The Upsides
Rush Hour 2
The King of Queens
Parks and Recreation
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
I think I’ve only read 2 books and they were Chuck Paulhniuk novels, Fight Club and Rant. I'd like to start reading more in my free time but I don't know how probable it is that I’ll actually start. Terrence McKenna is very interesting so I’d probably start there if I did.
Dave: What’s next for the band?
Joseph: Right now we've started to buckle down on writing new material. After losing a vocalist and the speedbump of having to find a new one, we had to hold back for a fat minute to focus on getting our new guy in the swing of things. He's all good now so we started meeting up between practices and we have actually surprised ourselves with how much we've finished in just two weeks. We’ve already begun studio hunting around our region. We will probably try and get some out of state shows this summer, if not a whole tour. We're on the verge of a lot of great things, it's just a matter of time now.
Dave: Any final thoughts?