“Maybe it’s because of my age, but I don’t really understand music these days… I think we’re mature alternative, but alternative has grown kind of outside of what I recognize the genre to be,” says James Mason, vocalist for LA outfit Paper Jackets. Since last October the band has been releasing singles from their forthcoming album, Souvenirs Part Two (the follow-up to 2020’s Souvenirs Volume One). Their most recent single, “Bones,” dropped in July, with an accompanying music video premiering in August. According to the band, “’Bones’ is a song about ambition and the fear that’s sometimes needed to make whatever it is you need to happen, happen. We’re always doing things that make us uncomfortable in order to break through to the other side, whether it’s fighting our own inner saboteur or proving people wrong.”
During my recent phone chat with James Mason, he tells me that, while recording “Bones,” he had someone in particular in his head: “I feel like ‘Bones’ is like Tom Waits-meets-Bert McCraken. When I was recording it there were these gut-wrenching sounds coming out of my mouth and I thought, ‘This must be what it feels like to be Tom Waits,’ but then I feel crazy [laughs].”
Souvenirs Part Two, whose release date is still TBD, is a sort of sequel to Souvenirs Volume One: “It’s like a second chapter, if you will. All of the stuff on Volume One was from the Old Testament, and this is the New Testament, not to be Biblical [laughs].” The most notable difference is that all of the songs on Part Two feature vocalist Aimee Proal: “We explored this dynamic between us, this powerful female vocalist and this unique, dirty-sounding male vocalist, this kind of rough contrast.”
According to James, the music of Paper Jackets, which tends to vary in its degrees of pop and alternative, is mostly inspired by artists who managed to transcend genres and eras: “I’d say we’re heavily influenced by more mature, never-going-out-of-style music, stuff like Amy Winehouse, iconic music. I don’t think she ever thought or questioned if she’s fitting in, and that’s what we try to do with our music. We’re not really trying to jump-on-whatever’s-hot kind of thing.” He does, however, admit that that can be problematic for fans and audiences.
“The band has been kind of searching for an identity. In a way, I like how it kind of doesn’t stay in one place. We’re sort of finding a little more of a footing on it. Fans want to know, ‘What is this band’s sound?’, or what to expect and I think people, with this band, would say, ‘I’m not sure.’ You don’t know what to expect.”