Interview: Phillip Taylor of PAWS talks We Are Scientists, Weezer and the Morrissey incident
'It’s nice to receive support from the press... it is not essential to us. It’s not why we play music'
Glasgow’s fuzz-pop trio PAWS have had an interesting few weeks ahead of the release of their second album. From an online spat with Morrissey, to playing ‘Say It Ain’t So’ with ex-Weezer members - it’s all in a day’s work, says frontman Phillip Taylor
Your new album Youth Culture Forever is out soon in the UK, how are you feeling ahead of the release?
Phillip Taylor, frontman: I’m really excited for it to come out. Hopefully people that liked our first record will like this one also. It’s a strange thing I guess, because, we make music because it makes us happy or it helps us feel better about things that don’t make us very happy at all. So, the stress before a release is bizarre to me… because it shouldn’t really matter what anybody thinks about it. We just want the fans we’ve made to enjoy it and I guess it would be nice if some new people were turned onto us you know? We’re grateful for the fact that people seem to care at all.
How did a simple Adventure Time quote inspire the new album’s title?
Josh [Swinney, drummer] and I were just taken aback by how positive that notion was to be in a cartoon mostly for young people. Youth will always be in control of the future. Forever changing how we look at the world and offering fresh ideas you know? That’s the idea I guess. There will always be youth culture.
What new themes did you explore on the new album? Why were they important for you to address?
There’s a lot of heartbreak and miscommunication/misunderstanding in there, maybe more than I’d have liked in hindsight. But that’s what creating is, expressing how you feel at that time. I suppose it was important for me to address it at the time of writing so I could try and move on or get over those feelings.
Has band life since the release of your debut LP, Cokefloat!, had any influence on the new record? Extensive touring, meeting other bands, etc?
Most definitely. We’ve grown as human beings and gained perspectives we didn’t once have. Touring is hard, but it’s important work. To put yourself out there and try and engage with an audience and learn about your surroundings… rather than build hype on the internet, which seems to be what most bands do now. It’s had an influence on the new record for sure. You only live once and I’ve tried to put myself into what I do wholeheartedly. If anyone gets it, that’s a bonus. We’re just trying to be as outgoing and hardworking as we possibly can.
The first single, ‘Tongues’, was released with a video of same-sex couples kissing, where did the idea for the video come about?
With that video, I just wanted to celebrate homosexuality and try to put out a simple, empowering visual message. The passing of gay marriage laws has been on the up this year and I suppose I wanted to high five to that, seeing as it had just happened in Scotland. A lot of terrible things dominated the media this year with regard to this topic and it really pissed me off. I can’t believe we live in a world at this point that, in parts, still wields an outrageous amount of oppression for the homosexual community. Most music videos conveying some sort of love story is always the same. Boy meets girl or girl meets boy (insert mundane/expensive/boring video script/treatment here) you know? So, why not just same sex couples sharing an experience – as simple as it gets?
The video, like many of the band’s, was edited by you. As a band very heavily influenced by DIY culture from the very start, how important was it for you to keep this creative work ethic alive with album number two?
Very important. We try and do as much as we can to keep things close to the people that care for our band. There needs to be a connection and rock star ego/ethos needs to be snuffed out.
You’re ending your upcoming UK tour with a couple of launch shows in Glasgow and Edinburgh, anything special planned for these?
For sure. We are planning to blow the roof of both venues at these homecoming shows and surpass any Scottish performances that we’ve given to date. We are planning to have a guest cello player to accompany us for the three songs that had string arrangements on the new record. The support acts that we have booked on these shows are going to be incredible too. We have CHUMP and Black Cop at the Glasgow show and Meursault in Edinburgh. People should grab a ticket while they can because these will more than likely be our last Scottish shows for a while.
You’re currently touring with We Are Scientists again in the US. It always looks like you all have loads of fun on and off stage, do you think PAWS have found pals for life in WAS duo Keith Murray and Chris Cain?
100% – They are the biggest sweethearts.
You recently faced a bit of hassle in Santa Ana with Morrissey and his crew. When your initial post about the situation went viral, many people said things like, 'You can’t buy media attention like this,' but you guys don’t seem like a band just looking for 15 minutes of fame. What’s your response to those comments?
We make music for music and the amount of media attention that this received was outrageous. It’s nice to receive support from press when we do and we appreciate it with all our hearts. However, it is not essential to us. It’s not why we play music. Anything that anybody needs to TRUTHFULLY know about this entire fiasco was posted wholeheartedly on our Facebook page in a full detailed account.
People who want to judge us, send me death/violent threats (which has happened in the wake of this obscenity) or anything else… that’s fine. I know that we’ve been honest. If you don’t like our music? So what? That’s totally cool. Music is subjective. I care about passion, honesty and justice. Not for hatred, gossip and popularity.
Morrissey incident aside, your new album and live shows have been garnering a lot of media attention in the US alone. Has this taken you by surprise or are you just taking it all in your stride?
Yeah, for sure. We are just incredibly honoured and thankful for anyone that shows any interest. We just go day by day and try and be as down to earth, friendly, attentive and polite as we can possibly be. The U.S has been amazing so far and we look forward to continuing our career here!
You also recently played LA’s Troubadour where you celebrated both Keith Murray’s birthday and the 20th anniversary of Weezer’s Blue Album with Matt Sharp, joining in for ‘Say It Ain’t So’. How was that experience for you all?
It was one of the most fun evenings I’ve ever had. Everyone was in such high spirits and the crowd were just fantastic. Matt is such a great guy and We Are Scientists are the kindest folks out. There was so much jubilance in the air that night. The 16 year old inside of me was bursting out and it felt so special. Truly special.
One for bassist Ryan Drever now! As a founding member of Garden of Elks and No Island, was it a tough decision for you to depart those bands to join PAWS or was it quite an easy transition?
Ryan Drever: At the time, it was a no brainer to want to help my friends out and be a part of a band I’ve supported for so long, who just happen to be good friends of mine. I loved both of the bands I was in prior to my joining PAWS and in a naive way I had initially hoped to do all three for as long as I could because I simply love playing, but there came a point, fairly early on when it seemed very obvious that this wouldn’t work. Thankfully both bands were accepting of my decision to pursue this opportunity with PAWS but I’m still very close friends with both parties and would very much encourage anyone with half a brain or a heart to give them their attention.
Youth Culture Forever is released on Mon 2 Jun (Fat Cat). Paws play the Art School, Glasgow, Fri 6 Jun and the Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh, Sat 7 Jun.