Darren Weiss on the Return of PAPA and Playing Various Roles

“I was doing the two-set-a-night thing, which I hadn’t done in a while,” says Darren Weiss, AKA PAPA, who recently wrapped a tour where he played the role of...

“I was doing the two-set-a-night thing, which I hadn’t done in a while,” says Darren Weiss, AKA PAPA, who recently wrapped a tour where he played the role of both drummer and opening act for Irish singer/songwriter Sorcha Richardson, which included an October 16th date at The Foundry.  The tour was the first for Darren Weiss –also known for his work with Sky Ferreira, Lana Del Rey, Perfume Genius, Girls, and our friend Miya Folick, in addition to his own Monastereo – as PAPA in more than half a decade.  However, Darren is already preparing to return to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection this Saturday, December 9th, at Theatre of Living Arts, when he will do double duty once again, as Sky Ferreira’s drummer, in addition to an opening set as PAPA.

This October, PAPA — who were once described as, “Joe Strummer and the E Street Band” — released Dig Yourself Or Dig A Hole, their third full-length and first since 2016’s Kick At The Dust.  “To me, it has a very different feel from Kick At The Dust, the last full-length.  In addition to just being a more rock-focused, angrier and more aggressive sounding record, a lot of that record was about being in a touring band, in a way, so a lot of what I got in the time since was being in a cleanse,” Weiss tells me during a recent phone chat from the road with Ferreira and her band (who can be heard in the background.)

Many of the songs of Dig Yourself Or Dig A Hole – which features keyboardists Brad Oberhofer (who Weiss played with in Miya Folick’s touring band) and Tyler Cash (Devendra Banhart), bassist Michael Shuman (Queens of the Stone Age, Mini Mansions), violinist Daphne Chen (Travis Scott, Niall Horan, Aimee Mann) – were discovered by Weiss in a folder of unfinished PAPA songs during the pandemic.

One of these songs, “Simple Life,” is PAPA’s latest single, whose release coincided with the album, and which Weiss has said, “is a break up song for those who choose to be black and blue rather than beige.”  “A part of it had been laying around for a long time.  It was written by me and Danny Presant, who was my partner in the band,” he tells me.  (The two formed PAPA more than a decade ago, releasing their first EP, A Good Woman Is Hard To Find, in 2011, followed by their debut full-length, 2013’s Tender Madness.)  He goes on to explain, “That song came about when I was doing a lot of touring and going through a lot of mental health things…  But I always aimed my life at art and passion and the things that make life worth living… which is what I mean by black and blue rather than beige.”

“Simple Life” also has a music video [below], directed by an old friend of Weiss’, Ethan Dawes, and Madeleine Woolner.  Although he tells me that the video isn’t actually exactly what they’d had in mind: “We originally had a totally different concept.  It was supposed to be between the female dancer and the male dancer, but we were so moved by the dancer, Claire Woolner, the way she let her movements speak the song — which was completely improvised — that we decided to just let that tell the story, rather than fill it with a narrative that was based on the song.”

Curious if he prefers doing his own thing or playing with other musicians, taking some of the pressure off from being the mainperson, Weiss explains to me that his recent time drumming for Sorcha Richardson and Sky Ferreira, while also exploring music as PAPA, has been ideal: “I’m the happiest when I have both going on, because they fulfill different aspects of my creativity.”  “I was a music fan before I was a touring musician,” he tells me, going on to say that he only goes on the road with artists that he respects and is a fan of.

Darren admits to being a big fan of Ferreira, who he first met through an abundance of mutual friends when he was drumming for Girls: “I love her music…  She’s a really special songwriter and a really special singer.”  When asked what can be expected of her show this Saturday, he tells me, “I would say the thing with Sky is she’s a very genuine artist and performer.  She doesn’t put on a face, no one is producing her performance.  Whatever she is is just how she’s feeling that day.”

*Unfortunately, it was just announced that Darren Weiss will be leaving the Sky Ferreira tour prior to Saturday night’s show, so he and PAPA will not be performing.

**Get your tickets here.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.