PAPER TRAIL

For Weekly SurgeMarch 19, 2014 

Paperwork. Photo by Jeremy Cambrey Photography.

  • More information

    IF YOU GO

    WHAT | PaperWork, opening for Who’s Bad - The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute

    WHEN | Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Friday, show starts at 8:30 p.m.

    WHERE | House of Blues, 4640 U.S. 17 S., Barefoot Landing, North Myrtle Beach

    HOW MUCH | $20 & $23

    CONTACT | Call 272-3000 or visit www.houseofblues.com/myrtlebeach

With venerable local rock act The Mullets recently celebrating its 30th anniversary and settling into elder statesmen/weekend warrior status and South Strand rock act Ten Toes Up recently calling it a day, is a young, aggressive, ambitious and danceable rock act from same general stomping grounds ready to swoop in and fill the void and expand its fan base across the Myrtle Beach area and beyond?

If the members of the Pawleys Island-based ensemble, PaperWork, made up of former marching band geeks, do make a name for themselves, you can bet they’ve done their paperwork...

With an expanding musical repertoire, winning over audiences of young adults at an ever-increasing number of Grand Strand venues, PaperWork is broadening its horizons, and looking forward to traveling out of the area. This week the band will travel 45 minutes north on U.S. 17 to the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach to open for Michael Jackson tribute act, Who’s Bad on Friday, and back closer to home when it makes its Bubba’s Love Shak debut on the Marsh Walk in Murrells Inlet on Saturday. Friday’s show will be PaperWork’s second time opening for Who’s Bad, and incidentally the second time on HOB’s big stage in the main concert hall, one of the highest profile gigs musicians can snag along the Grand Strand.

“PaperWork has great diversity, blending rock, funk and soul and are a perfect fit to open for Who’s Bad,” said Jacki Giardina, Booking and Promotions Manager at HOB. “We love supporting local music and it’s even more rewarding to see a band like PaperWork going the extra mile to help promote our national acts. They have a lot of fun on stage and it shows in the crowd support.”

PaperWork’s audiences, mostly young adults in their late teens and early 20s, seem to appreciate the band’s youthful energy, musical skill, and imaginative set list of danceable covers sprinkled with originals that sound like they might have been written in the early-to-mid ‘70s, not in 2014. Though the handful of originals played each night, including two that are featured on a brand new so-called “two-sided” self-titled digital-only release, have an old-school approach and sound, they also have an undeniable freshness about them. Tempered with the first blush of youth? Perhaps. Or is it that the band members understand and love the rudiments of real music, played by real musicians? Are they bucking the trends of overproduced pop music pabulum, and electronic producer-driven tracks heard in hip-hop and Top 40 music normally associated with their generation?

We recently met with all five band members to discuss the group’s origins, their hopes and dreams for the future, and their multi-instrumental approach to a diverse set of covers from Robin Thicke, Black Keys and Daft Punk, to The Band, Prince, and Hall & Oates.

Letters, reports, official documents

Though there have been a few personnel changes since day one, the current PaperWork lineup up has been together slightly more than a year. It includes: Conner Mills, 19 (guitar, vocals, keyboards, saxophone), Anderson Owens, 20 (bass, vocals), Johnny Richeson, 19 (drums), Alex Robinson, 21 (lead vocals, synth), and Daniel Simons, 22 (guitar, trumpet, vocals).

PaperWork was founded in late 2011 by this group of Pawleys Island friends, most still in high school, and evolving from other local bands, including The Hooligans, and the Artichokes. Though they had been jamming formally and informally since their early teens, the marching band-trained members of PaperWork credit Waccamaw High School band teacher, Chris Graham, as laying down the musical foundation that helped set them apart from other untrained, young, would-be rockers, who might be viewed as having a distinct disadvantage from those with years of music education.

While still a brand new band in 2012, PaperWork won a highly competitive battle of the bands competition at the former Sound Hole in Myrtle Beach. “We used the $1,000 cash prize to buy Connor’s keyboard,” said Simons, who is the son of local musician Jonathon “Doc” Simons of The Doc Simons Band. “We also used it for merch, posters and for promotional endeavors.” Mills is the son of Steve Marino, a guitarist/vocalist and instructor who has worked at the beach for decades.

The band made a strong showing at the Hard Rock Café’s 2013 Battle of the Bands with Alex Robinson as a brand new replacement lead vocalist, though they did not win.

In its first year together, PaperWork featured Ephraim Brown on lead vocals and Thomas Smith on bass, son of The Mullets’ and Winchesters’ bassist Tom Smith. With the combined musical training in high school, continuing on in college for Coastal Carolina University students Richeson, and Owens, along with the musical pedigree of some of the band members, it seems inevitable that PaperWork would have to make a stab at a musical vocation. Will they boast of a 30-year career when 2042 rolls around? Maybe, maybe not, but for now band members are happy to make their own way in a tricky profession at the same time they enter adulthood.

Training Day

After countless hours in marching band, lessons, and first forays into the garage band world, each of the PaperWork band members are accomplished musicians, many of them on multiple instruments. Simons, who plays guitar and trumpet in the band, is also an excellent bassist, who regularly performed with the Kid Drew Band. When he was just 20, he landed a gig that turned a few heads, and caused a few problems.

Simons enjoyed nearly two years playing bass for long-running local act, the Tim Clark Band, a testament to his skill, but ultimately found his calling was with the band he co-founded. “There were too many [PaperWork] shows I was missing,” said Simons, who said he appreciated the work and experience working for Clark in his well-respected act. “Plus Tim doesn’t really like his guys playing in other bands; there are just too many potential conflicts. And he doesn’t want to play with replacements, which is understandable. It was great experience, and that’s how we ended up recording with Jim Harris.”

Harris is Clark’s longtime keyboardist, who also has a recording studio, a room full of “great gear,” according to Simons, and “so many great [musical] ideas.” Each of the band members lavished praise upon Harris for his expertise and for a rewarding recording experience.

The band recently released “Paperwork” a digital single of two songs, which they call the “A-side “Suzanne,” and the “B-Side “Don’t Stop,” both recorded with Harris. The songs are available as a “name your price,” digital download at www.paperworkband.bandcamp.com. Additionally, “Don’t Stop” was released on YouTube as a multi-camera, nicely edited video, shot live by band friend AJ Craig in February at the Pawleys Island Tavern (The PIT), the band’s home away from home.

The video captures the essence of a live show, the band’s personality, and the crowd’s appreciation. Here’s the link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6aYKHhxV2c.

The band member’s refreshing humility, honesty and self-deprecation, will serve them well. They lamented a recent performance I happened to catch, and Mills said, “I mess up at least 20 times on the keyboard every night.” I told him, “I thought it sounded great and didn’t hear any bad notes.” Mills replied: “You must not have been listening.” Everyone laughed. “I just started playing the keyboards a year ago,” he said.

Robinson is the only band member with a full-time job. His description of his work as a groundskeeper at an apartment complex is unbelievable, but he and his band mates swear the tales are true. He described crime scene clean-up, haz-mat suits, and general nightmare-ish and dangerous working conditions. “I’m pretty much their bitch,” he laughed. “There was a shooting last week. The guy got shot in the hand. I had to clean up all the blood and glass and bullets. His car with all the bullet holes is still sitting there. I need the job. Hey, I make 10 bucks an hour and get weekends off.”

Rooms With a View

Though PaperWork has played the majority of its gigs at the PIT, the popular South Strand restaurant/music venue, and most of its young following is from south of Myrtle Beach, the rest of the Strand is beginning to see and hear the group as well. The band played several gigs (including New Year’s Eve) at the Bourbon Street Bar & Grill on the north end of Myrtle Beach. PaperWork plays regularly at HOB’s restaurant and deck, and Rockin’ Hard Saloon, Wahoo’s, and the Hot Fish Club in Murrells Inlet, among others. The band is breaking new territory with upcoming gigs at The Dead Dog Saloon, and Bubba’s Love Shak. While Craigslist Musician’s forum haters whine about the terrible music scene, lack of gigs, and the “impossibility of getting gigs” at the best venues, Paperwork’s schedule grows each week.

Is Paperwork representative of the new guard emerging from the primordial musical stew that is Murrells Inlet / Pawleys Island? Is there room for a five-piece horn and keyboard band that performs new pop, along side classic rock standards – all while wearing leisure suits? So far the answer seems to be “yes.”

“I love them,” said superfan Taylor Guthrie, 20, from Pawleys Island. “I grew up with them, went to school with them. They were always very musical. Alex was always the funky one walking down the hall, singing something. And Dan always had a guitar, and Connor, too. Their music is fun, upbeat, it’s gets you moving and dancing. We love it.”

Another fan and friend of the band, Craig Julian, 21, also from Pawleys Island, has known most of the band members “since we were kids,” he said. “I see PaperWork all the time. They’re always looking to have a fun time, they play good music, and they bring the party.”

What kind of music might you hear at a PaperWork party?

The Music

As evidenced, only to a degree, in the band’s recordings, PaperWork’s music covers a lot of ground. “We play around a 70/30 mix of covers to originals,” said Owens. After seeing their complex keyboard rig, including a Vocoder, used in Auto-Tune and EDM (Electronic Dance Music) recordings, I innocently asked the question. “Do you play EDM?” They erupted in laughter.

“We have a running joke about that,” said Simons. “It sounds like a disease. So this friend of ours was recently diagnosed with EDM. He’s got it bad. He can’t talk without Auto-Tune.” When I defended my question by suggesting the band’s cover of “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, a Grammy-winning house music EDM duo, I was educated about modern music in the way that can only come from those whose lives are fully immersed in pop culture, trends, and a perspective that they understand and own.

“Get Lucky” and that whole album [“Random Access Memories”] was sort of Daft Punk’s anti-EDM album,” said Simons. “It was like their way to prove to the world that they were real musicians,” added Richeson. “They sampled real beats that they recorded with live musicians,” said Mills. “The whole album is good,” said Simons. “Get Lucky” is not even the best song.” While that subjectively may be true, PaperWork is smart enough to play what people seem to want to dance to.

“We try to stay up with current trends,” said Mills. “We play dance music,” said Richeson, “whether we’re playing ‘70s or ‘80s, or whatever. That’s the fun of it. Make it danceable. A lot of bands don’t care about that at all.”

“When Ten Toes Up disbanded that provided a few more gigs,” said Mills. “We weren’t opposed to filling that vacuum,” said Richeson. “We’ve known them for a long time,” said Owens, “They’ve given us gigs, Seth [Funderburk, TTU’s manager] has hooked us up. They really encouraged us.”

So where to next?

“We’d love to play the Boathouse, Hard Rock Café,” said Mills. “We hope to travel to Charleston. We’ve played the Satellite Bar in Wilmington, [N.C.] and this friend of ours from Pawleys Island packed eight people in her vintage Volkswagen bus and came up to see us. There aren’t a lot of bands our age around.”

“A lot of bands don’t cater to the audience,” added Robinson. “They don’t even try.”

“There are two kinds of bands around town,” said Mills. “There’s the cover bands, and then the all original bands, and we’re trying to fit into both groups. Bullfrog does that, but most bands are one or the other.”

“If you play enough covers, you can sneak in the originals,” said Owens.

“The problem is you don’t get paid at those multi-band, original shows,” said Simons. “We might get a hundred bucks for one set, so it’s gas money.”

“There aren’t as many young bands around as there used to be,” said Richeson, who along with the rest of the band co-writes the original songs.

Will PaperWork write new material?

“We wrote “Don’t Stop” a year ago, and just recently we started writing again,” said Mills. “We want to record, and get out of town.”

“We like Myrtle Beach a lot,” said Simons, “but we’re ready to go other places.”

“People say the live music scene in Myrtle Beach is dead,” said Robinson. “It’s not true. The only people who say that are the ones not doing anything.”

“Young kids would rather go to Broadway at the Beach and listen to deejays,” said Mills. “I want this to be an anti-EDM Public Service Announcement. EDM is an epidemic.”

“ I think we’re a dying breed,” said Richeson.

Weekly Surge is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service