The Paper Jets are quite the entertaining band. Not only are they very talented musicians, but they exude good vibes and have an attitude that doesn’t take itself too seriously while still putting across a musical landscape that has brought them to some of the top venues in the region. They’ve graced stages at the Trocadero in Philadelphia, The Bitter End in New York, The Saint in Asbury Park, the Heritage Festival in Trenton, and the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., where they performed in front of the Washington Monument.
Lead vocalist and guitarist Brian E is joined in the band by bassist Scottie Maloney and drummer Frank Lettieri. They’ve just released a new single, “Cooking Up An Accident,” which is available on iTunes. They will also be releasing the full album, We Are All Strange Friends, by the end of the year. I caught up with the group to find out what makes the Paper Jets take flight.
How did the band get together?
Brian E: In 2005, Frank and I, at Rider University at the time, were assigned an independent study to record as professional-sounding an album as possible using only consumer grade equipment. Meanwhile, I was pressed to put a backing band together for an upcoming show and ended up recruiting Frank to play drums. And thus, The Paper Jets were formed.
How would you describe the music that you do?
BE: Our sound generally falls into the indie/alt-rock category, but it changes from one album to the next. Sometimes from one song to the next. We have recordings that feature a horn section; others showcase lots of harmony. We try to keep things very melodic. The songs are hummable. Most of them are also malleable. We can arrange them acoustically, we can arrange them for a solo performance, or we can stretch them out if we have additional musicians sitting in with us.
How does the writing process work for you?
BE: When it comes time to start writing a new album, I’ll set the theme and tone of the record. Then I’ll bring about 70 percent of a song to the group and the other two guys will give their input, musically and lyrically. Frank and Scottie have become excellent “closers.” The band also allows some input from their manager, Bill Greenwood, as well as musician friends and even one or two former members. The Paper Jets are very transparent when we’re up to something new.
Who are the band’s musical influences?
BE: The influences among the individual members are very different. It’s a place where Pearl Jam, Norah Jones, and Serge Gainsbourg all exist on the same continuum. But in general, you can hear a lot of Big Star in the group’s sound and style, that’s probably the biggest. There’s also a little-known cult band from North Carolina called The Semantics who have had a pretty heavy influence on our sound. Sharp power pop; very hooky. But ultimately, the band pulls from lots of sources. I have seen Michael McDonald live. Just saying.
Where does the name of the band come from?
BE: I tossed the name out during a brainstorming session with some of the group. Rejected names include: The Sly Figurines, The Effuse, At The Laundromat, Peter Buck’s Air Rage, and Ballscraper.
In the time you’ve been together, you’ve toured extensively and developed a strong reputation as a live band. You must have had some great experiences thus far.
BE: I was playing at a VFW hall, one of my solo gigs, actually. The pinnacle of the evening came when a woman about 30 years my senior, and 100 percent drunker, jumped on stage, wrapped her arms around me, and started singing “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” It didn’t help that I was singing “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.”
Scottie Maloney: We were playing in North Carolina two years ago and this group of Marines loved us! One of them came up to me, placed his hands on my hips, and started screaming, “I want to be you, I want to be you!” right in my face. They had some girl with them that looked like she was in worse shape than Jennifer Jason Leigh at the end of Single White Female. Anyway, this Marine was all up in my face, completely violating the sanctity of the stage. One of his buddies came up from behind me and started flapping his arms. Then he started screaming, “You’ve got an angel with you, right now!” It was pretty bizarre. They moved on to Brian and, apparently, cracked his tooth with a microphone.
Frank Lettieri: The band has almost been robbed quite a few times. Brian got chased down outside a club in Asbury Park a few years back. He jumped into his car before the guy could get to him, though. Also, we were in Trenton a few months ago and some guy just starts grabbing my drums, telling me he wants to help. I tell him, “No thanks,” and he offers me crystal meth instead.
BE: Scottie has performed with Norah Jones. Like, on stage together. For real. He’s modest, so I have to let it out. He won’t be the one to tell you, but he’ll confirm its accuracy.
FL: The studio where we recorded the bulk of the new album also houses three goats, a Cockatiel named Cocoa, and a parrot named Bruce. There are always animals around. Incidentally, each of the three band members owns a cat.
What’s in the future for The Paper Jets?
BE: We hope to continue making interesting records where we master different sounds and feels. No two records are to ever sound the same. Professionally, we will continue to play bigger and better shows and attract more fans. Ultimately, the goal is to make The Paper Jets a full-time experience.
For more information, check out thepaperjets.com and facebook.com/thepaperjets.