Nashville is known for its history in country, jazz and Christian pop music, but it doesn’t leave much room for an alternative rock band to stand up and be heard. Named “Music City USA,” it is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry, the CMA Music Festival, and a band called Paper Rival. It’s easy to tell which of these four doesn’t fit.
Paper Rival, formerly known as Keating, are breaking away from the dominant country sound of Nashville and instead going for a youthful pop rock approach. Straying from the traditional over-the-top local scene, they opt for a sound that is light and gentle and it has garnered them attention from coast to coast.
Members Cody McCall (bassist), Brent Coleman (guitarist), Patrick Damphier (guitarist/drummer) and Jacob Rolleson (singer) were in two separate bands when they discovered they could complement each other’s flaws, and thus united into what is now Paper Rival. The band has been touring continuously since their outset, and now, after releasing their current EP, the foursome or fivesome (they just can’t decide) are gearing up to go out on the road once again, leaving no state unturned.
I caught up with guitarist Patrick Damphier at home, where he and the rest of the band are enjoying the break between tours with their families, and talked about southern cliches, band chemistry and the “paper rival” they had to overcome.
I know you guys used to be in two different bands. What made you decide to leave those and join forces?
Well the band that Jake was in, I actually produced their record that they released locally. I was impressed by him and we became friends that way. I was actually the singer in the band that I was in at that time, but I didn’t really want to be the singer anymore. I wanted to be more of the behind the scenes producer type. So we discussed it and Jake wasn’t overly happy with the band situation he was in, so we figured that by him quitting that band and coming along with us, and me not being a front man anymore, that we would be hiding each other’s weak spots, and make for a better band.
How did you know the chemistry was right between you and that this band was going to work as opposed to your old bands?
We didn’t know at first, we just wanted to give it a try. We released an EP before we ever had a record deal, and our band actually had a different name at that time. We took two songs from Jake’s band that he had left, that he had written, and then we took two songs from my band that I had written, and then we co-wrote one song really quickly and just threw it together before we even had the set band lineup. That EP ended up not sounding anything like the way we sound now, it was just to get something out and get started. As soon as we secured the lineup that we have now, we started playing live shows, and that’s when we knew it was going to work out fine.
What was it like remaking songs you already were familiar with, with new people?
It was really weird. It worked though. We needed to get used to his [Jake] songs and he needed to get used to mine. But as soon as we rehearsed them and started playing them, it took a little while to get used to, but it ended up being fine. People seemed to like it, but it was definitely a little strange.
How long were you together before you got signed, and how did that happen?
Before we actually signed a deal, we were a band almost two years. We caught the attention of Matt Galle, the president of our label, before we ever even played a show. I found his name in the liner notes of a CD as a booking agent, and I was bored one day and just sent him an e-mail saying ‘Check out my music on MySpace, we’re looking to tour,’ thinking that he would never ever respond to it. And it was sort of a shot in the dark, but he actually called me back on my phone and said that he had listened to our music and that he really liked it and wanted to see us live.
So he flew to what I think was the second show we had ever played. We picked him up at the airport, and he really liked what he heard and saw and took us out to dinner and said that he wanted to start working with us. So he booked us with no record deal for a good six or seven months, and then we started getting some label attention and we eventually decided to go with Matt’s label.
He didn’t even really have the label going when he found us, but he knew he had that in the works. So I think that he had us in mind for his label the whole time and that’s why he was booking us, and it turned out to be a good decision. But we didn’t actually sign the deal for a while, we were working with him, just playing shows, and he was booking us and then it finally developed into a record deal.