Hey Matan, Mikhail and Torben from 987 here. And boy do we have questions…
How did you come up with the name Paper Idol?
The name comes from a song I wrote – it’s about worshiping a person or a thing that turns out to be weaker or more flawed than you originally thought. In our culture, founded on market capitalism, people primarily worship things. You know when you impulse buy a sweet button-down Hawaiian t-shirt from an Instagram ad, but when it arrives all the buttons fall off and it looks less cool than the picture? That’s a paper idol. Or maybe I just have bad luck shopping on Instagram.
Where do you record? Basement? Professional studio?
I mostly record in my small production studio in East LA. It’s in a studio complex near the Mariachi District, so there’s tons of good food and cool music stuff happening around there. My bandmate Adam has a studio only a few minutes away, so sometimes we’ll work at his place. But given that everything happens on my laptop, I can really produce anywhere. Most of “Seen This All Before” was produced at a Starbucks in New York City. Right now, I’m at my childhood home sitting on a picnic-table-turned-music-studio where I’ll be producing material for the next EP.
What instruments do you play, and which digital audio workstations do you use?
I play guitar, bass, drumset, and sing. Adam’s got the synth and piano chops. We both use Ableton Live.
What brings you more joy, writing the lyrics or the music?
The music. It’s what comes naturally. Writing lyrics can be extremely difficult. Sometimes I’ll flow with it and come up with cool lyrics… other times I’m tearing my hair out. If I sit with the song long enough, the words come eventually. Usually.
Regarding “Seen This All Before,” were you trying to recreate the feeling of boredom with your tone and lyrics? Can you say a bit about repetition and boredom?
I’m really glad you caught onto that – most people ask about the anger of the song. The song isn’t angry, it’s lethargic and jaded. Clearly, the character in the song can’t reckon with his emotions and puts on this bored, confident front to protect himself. Or maybe his perspective is warranted? I wrote the song during a relatively bad nervous breakdown; I was feeling things very strongly at the time. But my anxiety is repetitive in nature, there’s an obsessional component that makes it all seems familiar and boring after a while. On top of that, the rest of the world is experiencing the same problems as me, and so have my ancestors, and so will my decedents. The result: my problems are just not that interesting. That’s the absurdity of “Seen This All Before”.
What emotion do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
That feeling when you’re at a party and have a random epiphany about aliens, or a new business idea, which then makes you have way more fun at the party.
And also, how do you feel, or want to feel, when you’re making it?
When I’m deep in a production, I’m meditating. My mind is turned off, I’m not thinking about the time or my headache or my rent payments – I’m focused on the specific track I’m working on. Ableton and I have a great relationship. It took us six long years to get there, but I’m at the point where my ideas can translate pretty fluidly into music. It feels good to make stuff. And Adam is basically a musical extension of myself, we have the same deep understanding of where we want this project to go and what it should sound like. Luckily, we don’t have the exact same taste in music, so he brings some jazz chops and a jam-band mentality to the table. Overall, we’re a happy team.
Regarding the song “Clouds,” is it a love song, a breakup song, or neither?
“Clouds” is about a relationship where my girlfriend broke up with me, then insisted on getting back together, then left me again three weeks later. It’s a love song and a breakup song!
Are you eager to get back to live concerts, or have you been happy doing live streams in the digital space? Do you foresee hybrid concerts in your future, such as your recent EP release party?
Adam and I can’t wait to play live again. We had a few local LA shows in October and are looking to tour soon. I think the hybrid concert model would be great to continue, especially with everything going on. In addition, our fanbase is international, so until our world tour it’s cool to stream the shows online!
What inspired the switch in direction from med school to musician?
Medicine is a family business – both my parents and my sister are doctors, my grandfather was a pharmacist, and my aunts and uncles are in medicine. Growing up, I figured I’d join them. I used to dress up as a doctor for Halloween. I went so far as finishing a pre-med curriculum at Wesleyan University and taking a medical technology job following graduation. Sitting at my desk job, I kept hearing this inner voice that said, “Go!” I ignored it for many months. Then I spent a weekend in LA on business, and met up with buddies from Wesleyan who encouraged me to move there and make music. I figured that’s where “Go!” was telling me to go. So, like many Midwestern hopefuls before me, I quit my job and drove down to LA with lots of music gear and no plan whatsoever.
You describe your music as “Delusional Pop” – did you coin that or was it already established industry jargon?
Adam actually came up with that one! Sums it up good huh?
Does the colour yellow mean something to you, or does it just happen to be your fave?
Neither, actually. After writing “Clouds,” I spent some time thinking about the visual aesthetic, and the first thing that popped in my head was the yellow umbrella. From there, I came up with the album art, and Mania Days became the yellow EP. Something about yellow is dreamy and “open,” it was the perfect color for Mania Days. Paper Idol has always stuck to the three primary colors for the art, so we might choose a new one for the next project…
Will your new Bond movie be called:
James Bond: Paper Never Dies
James Bond: Octopaper
James Bond: GoldenEyedol?
Oh my goodness these are great – I vote Octopaper.
Bud Light Limes or craft beer?
Craft beer. Too many bad high-school hangovers with Bud Light.
Thanks for chatting!
Interview: Mikhail Din + Torben Robertson
Photos provided by: Paper Idol
Sifat and Samprit are Broun, a dynamic new band out of Jakarta and Toronto, with their roots in Dhaka. After the release of their first single, “Escape the Feeling,” 987’s Mikhail and Torben sat virtually down to talk to Broun about their style, experiences, influences, what gets them outta bed in the morning, and whether they like bud light lime better than craft beer. Read below the results of the experiment.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Hello Broun! Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us… virtually. Can you talk about your musical backgrounds? Do you have any formal training? Did you teach yourselves everything you know?
[Sifat:] My mom was a pop singer in the 80s and as kids, my sister and I were encouraged to learn eastern classical music. I respected it, but never really vibed with it. Fast forward a few years “Everybody” by Backstreet Boys came out. My sister and I were allowed to purchase the cassette and we could sing every song on the album by heart. I always knew I wanted to be a singer, but then I saw a concert by Linkin Park in 2000 on MTV and was mesmerized by Mike Shinoda playing multiple instruments whilst singing and rapping and all my teenage hormones wanted was to be in a band.
[Samprit:] I wanted to play guitar since I heard Eddie Van Halen’s [rip] solo in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” on cassette in the early 90s. In 2004, I finally got a guitar and over the years, took guitar lessons on and off from several capable guitar teachers until about 2009. After a 6 year hiatus from music, in late 2016 I took an interest in electronic music and started to teach myself producing from YouTube tutorials and forums.
[Sifat:] Samprit and I went to the same middle school and were two of the only rock n’ roll kids in a school dominated by hip-hop lovers. We bought the same Ibanez electric guitars, went to the same guitar teacher for lessons and listened to and jammed to a lot of rock and metal music.
I never learned how to sing, I always just could do it naturally. I did, however, learn a lot of breathing techniques and tips online once I started singing live. Samprit was a guitar prodigy in our teens, and while we did go to an amazing teacher for guitar lessons (Saadi Muktafi), he always had a knack for self-learning. In fact, he has learned everything about music production and sound design from Youtube and Twitch streams of famous producers.
[Mikhail and Torben:] You say that you came up making tunes in Dhaka. What kind of music do people make there? How have those styles influenced your music? Are there any Bangladeshi artists or bands that continue to influence you?
[Sifat:] Dhaka is one of the densest cities in the world and thus has a lot of music. Much of the mainstream music there is inspired by modern pop with eastern classical melodies and a noticeable influence from Bollywood music.
However, we started playing music during, what is commonly referred to as, the Bangladesh Underground Rock and Metal movement of the early 2000s—which was basically a group of kids who were tired of listening to what was on TV and wanted to sound edgy and different. We went to concerts in small overcrowded venues on the weekends and would be in the front row to watch bands that played covers of Metallica and Nirvana. By 2007 we had a band with the goal of sounding as different as we could from other artists in the scene, and so we would try to sound like bands like Alter Bridge, Incubus and Porcupine Tree, who at the time were new and fresh for the scene. Bands that continue to influence us from the Dhaka scene are Artcell, Black, Cryptic Fate and Nemesis to name a few. There are hundreds more.
In 2010, we released two rock singles with our band Absent Element which received a fair amount of radio play acclaim from the community, but were slowly discarded as one hit wonders as Samprit permanently moved to Canada and I was away from Dhaka for 6 years being in Canada and the UK till 2016.
The underground scene from Dhaka really influenced us not just musically, but in teaching us that kids of any age or background could come together and create something from nothing. Huh? Oh, why bud light lime of course! Anyways, the scene has now evolved far beyond just rock and metal, but continues to be a spirited generation of creators supporting each other and looking for the next unique sound. In fact more than one third of all of Broun’s listens still come from our old fans in Dhaka.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Sorry to interrupt but, do you prefer bud light lime or craft beer?
[Sifat:] Craft beer haha
[Mikhail and Torben:] Do you still visit Dhaka? Have things changed there since you’ve been abroad?
[Sifat:] Yes, In fact, I was living there between 2016 and 2019. Things have changed massively. The internet has only fuelled the scene’s creativity and diversity. You can find all sorts of genres and listeners there now.
[Mikhail and Torben:] You guys have been ‘virtually’ jamming almost every weekend since May 2020 despite being halfway around the world from each other; do you have any more releases planned for the near future? Singles? EP? Album?
[Sifat:] We’ve been virtually jamming actively since May after we realized we really had nothing to do on the weekends because of Covid. But honestly, I don’t think we ever stopped nerding out on music since 2004. We still talk guitars, some crazy riff or breakdown in a song, our favourite concert videos—you should see our chats. I think Facebook once told me I have exchanged the most number of messages with Samprit amongst all of my connections.
Yes, Broun is a long term project. It is something that we wish to pursue for many years to come. We see this as us finally pursuing our “Freedom to follow our calls” as musicians. (*coughs* teaser from second single *coughs*). We have written about 7-8 songs now that we really like, with 2 in the final stages of production now. This goal is to release one single a month till 2021. If we can get a decent following by then, a sabbatical from work and our first face to face meeting in 10 years is on the cards!
[Mikhail and Torben:] Your song blends elements from a few different genres. It’s the type of music that could really take off. Are you guys working towards the goal of Broun replacing your corporate jobs?
[Sifat:] Glad listeners are picking up on the variety of our influence.
Absolutely. Believe it or not, both of us just turned 30. We really think it’s now or never. While we will need to hold on to our jobs for now, if we can really make music at the level that we aspire to, who knows what’s possible.
Right now, we are just trying to be time-management ninjas, and channel the kind of discipline we’ve been able to cultivate in our jobs towards our creative endeavours.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Has Covid affected how you produce music? Did you have any shows or tours that you had to cancel? Are you thinking of ways that you can adapt and continue to connect with people despite being unable to perform live?
[Sifat:] Covid has changed the game for us. It forced us to get rid of our mind-numbing weekend distractions and actually sit at home and give music one more shot. While I did play a few open mics here and there for the last few months, we didn’t even exist as an act—so covid was more of a catalyst than an inconvenience for us.
In May, Samprit randomly sent me a synth backing with a beat and in 15 minutes of our first zoom call we had the first verse and chorus of “Escape The Feeling”. Over the next few weeks, we went back and forth on the arrangement, structure and mix of the song. By June, when it was done—it was something we were really proud of and it opened our eyes to the possibilities we had as a duo. We started writing other material in full force while planning how to market ourselves as an act online.
Above everything else, we want to make good quality music that people would love to jam to—whether that be at work, the gym or a sold out stadium. However, we live in the age of digital media and thus online content is always going to be an important tool for us to reach our audience.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Did you enjoy producing the music video for “Escape the Feeling”? Would you like to do more videos in the future, and do you see them as an integral piece of modern music production?
[Sifat:] It was the most fun I have had in a very long time, and am really sad Samprit could not be part of it.
A little back story.
I was lucky enough to randomly come across Wina, a film producer in Jakarta. She liked the song instantly and agreed to assemble a team of 3—Putrisa, Adit and her brother Monty who did everything on the video, starting from concept, direction till the final cut. Along the way I asked my friend Adara to play the eccentric and mysterious girl in the video. Yousuf helped drive us around, took some photos and also featured in a little cameo. It all just came together like magic! Believe it or not, we filmed everything on a Sunday night from 5PM to 5AM. These guys were super supportive and honestly are our very first fans and believers. I have promised to get them backstage passess when we play Tomorrowland haha.
We definitely will do more videos in the future, maybe stuff that’s a little easier to shoot. We have been exploring lyric videos as an option too.
Online content is the prime way to build engagement with an audience now. I have actually been YouTubing for the past few years, and the skills I have picked up have been insanely useful so far. I even made Samprit do a photoshoot, and he’s the type who hasn’t uploaded a photo in 8 years.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Do you think that metropolitan life and corporate work stifle creativity? Is there any room for creativity in the world of work?
[Sifat:] Not at all. We feel like it gives us a chip on our shoulder to fight for our dreams harder. If we didn’t have our jobs, what would we be trying to escape from? It’s a strange paradox.
The corporate hustle also teaches you to be tough, work with tight deadlines and prioritize ruthlessly. Honestly we’re the type of people who would be lazy bums otherwise. The world of work is extremely dynamic now. Creativity is an essential skill needed to thrive in it. In fact, our colleagues fully know about and support our music.
Life in the city exposes you to a lot of stories. These stories fuel imagination and creativity.
[Mikhail and Torben:] How did you two end up in Toronto and Jakarta? Are your new homes starting to influence your music in different ways?
[Sifat:] Samprit’s family emigrated to Canada in 2010. He studied at UofT, and being the perfect poster boy engineer, found his footing in the tech industry in Toronto. I was more of a confused hopper—after completing university in the UK I was part of a tech startup in Dhaka. The connections I made there brought me to my current gig in Jakarta. I really like Indonesia, and plan to stay here for the next 2 years at least.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Who would you most like to collaborate with?
[Sifat:] The priority right now is to really establish our own unique and recognizable sound. We have exchanged messages with many musicians in Toronto, Dhaka and Jakarta – but for now we’re heads down in work trying to get our craft right.
[Mikhail and Torben:] What is one message you would give to your fans?
[Sifat:] Be honest with us, tell us what you really think.
Feedback is the one thing that will help catapult us to a global stage.
You’re the architects of our dreams as much as we are.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Thanks for chatting with us, Broun!
You can listen to “Escape The Feeling” here
Broun’s second single “Tonight I’ll Wait” here
Interview curated by: Mik and Torben
I never thought I’d get to enjoy the likes of Drake, Usher and Kanye West when I descended the stairs of the Biltmore Cabaret. Winner of Play Surrey Contest, Nylez K delivers when it comes to hip-hop and R&B tributes. Opening the night with Kanye West and closing with Ginuwine’s “Pony”, the Vancouver native knows how to work a nostalgic crowd. While well-versed in the classics, he holds his own performing his own tracks including “Remind Me” and “VibeTing” and kept the crowd chanting “Nylez, Nylez, Nylez” throughout the show. We were all begging for an encore at the end. I caught up with Nylez after the show:
A: You just played two back to back shows at the Biltmore and at Surrey Canada Day. How was the Biltmore show different from Canada Day?
N: I could personalize and be more intimate with the crowd. I was more emotionally connected with the audience. This was the first time I played with a full band, except for back in the day when I used to do Bollywood songs. I never imagined I’d have my own band and do my own songs.
A: What was it like playing at Rifflandia?
N: I was able to bless the stage thanks to my really good friend DJ Hark. Me and him produced the song “Remind Me”. We did that track together and when he told me he got an opening for Rifflandia, I said “heck yeah we’re going to perform this song”!
A: What was it like going to the Much Music Video Awards?
N: Getting to experience the red carpet…it was very very special to me. After that moment, I knew that I wanted to be who I am today. I knew that I wanted to make sure music is my main thing. I never wanted to look back after that
A: Your dad is a performer. What did he do?
N: He was mostly in the Bollywood genre and did a lot of Hindi songs. Back then, he used to do a bunch of stage performances, fundraisers, stuff like that. For him, it was always for fun
A: Do you have any shows coming up?
N: Not as of right now. My main focus is I want to finish off this project I’ve been working on. I’m trying to come up with an EP right now. I really want to hit the hearts of my fellow R&B and hip-hop listeners. I really want to home in on who I really am in this new EP and show, here’s what’s missing. That’s actually the title of the EP.
A: Last question. Bud Light Lime or Craft Beer?
N: I would say Craft Beer. If it’s from Vancouver, I’m definitely going to be drinking it.
Watch for his EP, dropping by the end of the year.
Review + Photos: Ashley Yip
One of the best “stumble-upons” we’ve experienced happened earlier this year. Let’s go back 4 months to sunny days and festival season.
It was a couple hour break between acts we were familiar with, at Tall Tree Music Festival 2017, when we heard the most captivating voice coming from the main stage. We strolled down from our campsite, and all stood in awe as we got to experience our first Caleb Hart performance.
Caleb has been on our radar ever since, and we made sure to hop on the first opportunity we got to have a lil’ chit chat.
Following Caleb’s most recent release, OrigiNation, we had 987’s Mikhail Din exchange with him a few words:
Hey Caleb! Thanks for chatting with us 🙂 You may not remember me; I was the guy standing 11 rows back in a t-shirt at your Tall Tree 2017 performance.
Jokes aside, that was a great set, and I’m stoked to do this Q&A.
What made you choose Canada when you moved from Trinidad and Tobago?
To be honest, I didn’t choose. My parents chose for me. I was 18 years old and needed to get out of a toxic environment… so they shipped me to Canada.
Could you tell us a bit about the divine encounter that changed your outlook on life/your music?
Two days after arriving in Canada, I had a ‘vision’ of a white light and a being walking toward me, this ‘man’ then said ‘I am love and have created you to love.’ At that moment, I felt a change in my life. I cried for over 7 hours. The next morning I woke up and all of the addictions and rage I had struggles with for most of my life had disappeared. I felt joy. I felt love.
Is there a meaning behind your new album title “OrigiNation”?
The meaning of ‘origiNation’ is explained by my father in the intro track of the EP. If I give it away on here, people may not go listen to it 🙂
You’ve got some gigs lined up in BC over the next few weeks. Any shows coming up after your Nov 5th set in Victoria?
I have 5 more BC shows. Oct 26th in Vancouver, Nov 3rd on Galiano Island, 4th on Salt Spring Island and as you mentioned – Nov 5th in Victoria. Then a lil show at VIU in Nanaimo on Nov 10th. I fly to Tobago on November 11th for some much needed R&R.
How did you link up with Illvis Freshly? It was super rad seeing you guys on stage together at Tall Tree.
To make a long and funny short (and still funny)… I met Dan after seeing the New Groovement perform at Rifflandia. I believe I mentioned to him how I’d love to collaborate sometime. He took me up on the opportunity and invited me over to possibly record something… He introduced me to Jesus and Phil (also from Illvis Freshly) and I was kind of confused as to who they even were… but then Jesus played me the rough ‘Upside Down’ track and I loved it. So I ended up collaborating with Dan’s ‘other band’ instead. Needless to say, the tune’s done quite well!
Craft Beer or Bud Light Lime?
Bud light lime all the way to NO! Craft beer is one of the best fads to ever hit Western Canada. Nothing like a delicious Hoyne Dark Matter 😍
Which one of your 700+ performances stands out the most for you?
This is arguably the most difficult question I get asked a lot. The answer will probably always be the same… I got to perform / sing for a birthday party one time. Surrounding me was about 25-35 children who medically ‘shouldn’t be alive’ but are warriors! I sang, they danced, I cried at the honour, they kept dancing. There is no greater feeling. A crowd of 10,000 is amazing and exhillerating but that ‘crowd’ was the most special I’ve ever performed for.
You’ve played across Canada, Australia, New Zealand & The Caribbean, is there any country that you’d love to travel while performing?
All. Literally take me anywhere and everywhere. I want to sing for everyone, everywhere! Please and thank you.
Any artists you’d love to open for/have open for you?
I got to open for my #1 musical inspiration, Damian Marley a few weeks ago to a sold out show at The Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. That was a dream come true to say the least and the reviews of my performance were incredible and humbling. The next step would probably be to have him produce a song or album of mine, but I digress. More dreams come true would be to open for Nas, Bunji Garlin, Andrea Bocelli, Matisyahu, Coldplay, Burning Spear, Sean Paul and for some strange reason… Ariana Grande.
Thanks for chatting with us! We’re excited to catch your October 26th performance at The Belmont 🙂 I’ll be 11 rows back in a t-shirt.
Unacceptable. The Belmont deserves you front and centre in a crop top.
See you then!
Write up + Interview + Photos: Mikhail Din
Promo Shot: Nice Marmot PR