Catch up with singer-songwriter Andrew Paley and listen to "Come Home" off his solo album, Sirens, out now.
What got you interested in music and in songwriting?
Andrew: I come from a pretty musical family. My dad is a guitarist and he writes folk songs and had a couple albums of his own; as well as my extended family, my cousins are all into music in various ways, so I was exposed to it very young. I grew up around guitars. When I was 5 or 6 I took some piano lessons and started playing around with the keyboard we had at home. So, I was always around it and it just felt like a natural thing to do. In terms of songwriting, I think I was dabbling in writing songs when I was in grade school; I didn't really know that's what I was doing, but I was playing around with chords and structures and putting things together. I think I was 13 when I went to my first all ages show at this club called 242 Main in Burlington, Vermont and saw some punk and hardcore and early emo bands play - including Texas is the Reason - and I got really excited about the idea of doing something like that, making that kind of sound. So that, I guess, got me into putting together a band and going from there.
You mentioned your band, why decide to go solo again to release this full length album?
Yeah, I still play with the band, The Static Age, as well. I think for me, I've been playing in a band context for a long time and collaborating with people is awesome and I really enjoy it. I had this other cache of songs that was growing up over the handful of years and I wanted to find some way to do something with them. There's a different writing process, it's a different kind of playing around as you're recording everything yourself and you can sort of change ideas as you go. It's just a different process and so I've really enjoyed that, as well. The cool thing for me is that I get to have both outlets.
Which musicians have you been influenced?
It's a pretty wide palate. I'd say, going all the way back, my mom was into a bunch of music when I was growing up and so she turned me on to things that, honestly, I still am into, including bands like Tears For Fears; Songs from the Big Chair is still one of my favorite records of all time. I've been pretty deeply influenced by bands that you couldn't necessarily draw a one to one to in terms of the sound, like I love bands like Minor Threat and Propagandhi for the energy and ethic of it. And then, on the other end of the spectrum, people like Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush I really admire for a variety of reasons but also just the way they play with sounds and textures and the way they compose.
What would you say is the best song of 2016?
I don't know if I can pick a best song of the year, but I will tell you that one of my favorite albums of the year - because I don't know if I could pick a single song off of it - is Epoch the album by Tycho that came out a couple of months ago. I think it is absolutely front to back fantastic. I've listened to it countless times and there's no vocals, but just the composition and the way - it was a one man project for a while but now it's a full band - the way they put songs together, I think, is strikingly good.
How would you describe your sound as a solo artist and how it compares to The Static Age?
The album is kind of all over the place. I think throughout The Static Age and in doing the solo stuff - because I enjoy having a wide palate - I always hesitate to sum it up in a phrase or a few key words. On the album there's stuff that's more acoustic where it's just me in a room with an acoustic guitar and that's really it and pretty stripped down and then, on the other end of the spectrum, there's a handful of songs that were orchestrated much more and built on top of synths. So, it's a wide palate, I would not be able to sum it up. In terms of the difference between The Static Age and my solo stuff, I think, generally, there's a live sound to certain aspects of each but throughout it, the band has a sound as a post-punk band and we've played around with what that means in a lot of different ways but there's a general vibe to that and there's a general energy to that. I had this other, like I said, cache of songs that didn't quite fit that, and so it's a wide spectrum of things that don't quite fit that, so that would be the key distinction.
What were your inspirations behind your single "Come Home"?
I think the key to that one is that over the last handful of years I've gotten to know a lot of people who are pretty adventurous in their approach to life and I've seen them go through some good and some bad times. It just got me thinking about the process of going out in the world and trying to do some scary, difficult things; just putting yourself out on a limb and the experience and the exhaustion associated with that and then being able to have an anchor somewhere else in the world that you can return to to rest and hide if necessary [laughs].
Could you tell us more about Sirens?
Sirens was pieced together over a handful of years. It was basically an album that came to be through my recordings in a variety of different places and at different times. Very early on, I wasn't even sure I was putting together a record, I was just recording ideas and giving myself the space to see them all the way through and let the song evolve however it would. Then at some point it was like, okay, I really want to do something with this. The album worked really organically - that also accounts for some of the ways in which certain tracks are quite different from others - but it was just a very organic process based on me taking advantage of whatever space I was in at the time and whatever instruments I had on hand and it eventually evolved into this full album, Sirens.
Now that it's out, do you have a favorite song off the album?
I never know how to answer this question because each song, obviously, I have a different connection to. They're all important to me in different ways. I will say that I'm excited about the direction of some of the tracks that I did near the end of the process of putting the record together and that's songs like "Let Me Go" and "Take Cover". Those ones I'm playing with much bigger soundscapes - for lack of a better word - and the next batch of songs, the stuff I've been working on since buttoning up the album a few months ago, takes that and it builds on it. [Laughs] I will say that I have the same relationship with all of the songs, I can't pick a favorite, but I am excited about the direction of a few of them in particular and where I'm going with that next.
How would you sum up Sirens in one sentence?
I think Sirens represents a series of snapshots across a handful of years of my life, through some positives and through some negative ones.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
I don't want to prescribe something they should take away from it, I just hope that they engage with it somehow, that's all. I like the idea that someone would listen to one of these songs and take from it exactly what I put into it, but I also like the idea that someone would listen to one of these songs and take something else from it because of their experience or just finding a different way to relate to the same ideas. I wouldn't want to describe it other than to say that I hope they get something from it.
Is there anything you want to add?
Only that I'm looking forward to next year and, like I mentioned, I'm already working on new songs. Also, there's a bunch of tours coming up, so I'm going to be heading to Japan and Europe in the Spring and we're laying groundwork for a US tour in the Summer, so I'll be pretty busy and all over the place next year.