It’s a sad day for punks nationwide, but particularly in Adelaide as our own home-grown Paper Arms decide to call it quits after eight years, three full length albums and a string of national and international tours. The last chapter happens this Friday 26 February at the Jade Monkey for their final ever show.
We sat down with lead vocalist, Josh Mann, to reflect on the band's achievements.
How are you feeling knowing the end for Paper Arms is nigh?
It's a strange feeling. On one hand it's something we've been passionate about for the last 8 years or so and it's been a huge part of our lives during that time. We're really going to miss it. On the other hand we just don't have the same passion for it that we had when we started. I'm not sure what magic you tap into when you get excited about a creative endeavour, but I do know that trying to keep going with that endeavour once that passion has died down feels false in a really personal way. I think we're proud of what we've achieved. We will miss it. But we're glad to be able to give it the respect it deserves and not grind it down til it feels like a chore.
Josh, you are highly admired in the Adelaide punk rock scene, having been a part of very respected bands such as God So Loved The World and STR before beginning Paper Arms. During your years of contribution to the punk community, have you seen much of an evolution within the scene in Adelaide over the years, or any other noteworthy changes?
I've seen the Adelaide scene through some huge changes. When I was a kid it was a very diverse scene. Every bill was a mixed bill. Scenes were spread across different suburban areas. The punk scene for example was almost entirely based in the deep south of Adelaide, and not really in the city at all. Also, there weren't many international touring bands coming through, so the locals were treated like big touring bands. Terrible local bands would regularly get a few hundred people out to shows.
I know this is a "back in my day" rant, but yeah. It was very different. Having the support of so many local people meant that the bands took themselves pretty seriously and, for the most part, got quite good at what they were doing. I can't really put my finger on what happened, but there doesn't seem to be the same level of interest in local music anymore, and as a result, there's not much encouragement for local bands to really give it everything they've got.
These things come in cycles though. I know there's a handful of Adelaide bands giving it their all and they're starting to draw crowds again. I can only hope that snowballs into a vibrant community again which encourages people to make some amazing music.
In 2014 you moved to Melbourne, How was the experience of writing Great Mistakes with a distance of 800km between yourself and the rest of the band? Do you have any tips for anyone doing long distance with their band?
It was pretty weird. haha. I guess there's never been a better time to do long-distance music. You can just plug into a computer, record some riffs and send them anywhere. We got it done, and I think the last record, written like that, might actually be our best. But it's definitely not as fun. Sitting in your room, struggling with song ideas on your own is no where near as enjoyable as meeting up with your buddies and collaborating together over some shit-talk and beers. At the end of the day you have to work with what you've got though.
You guys toured Europe a couple of times during the bands lifetime, and I understand you were highly admired particularly in Germany. Is there anything you can say about the difference in your Australian audience compared to your European audience in terms of how they engaged with both your records and live performances?
I think the difference we saw was an exercise in perception. Locally we always had people that were into what we were doing, but we were always just the guys from down the street. People seem to get a lot more excited when an international band comes through. There's a perception that they're exotic and that they must be good because they're come so far. People seem to give those bands a little more attention initially. I think that's what happened to us in Europe. People gave us a little more of a look because we were exotic and they liked what they saw. Moral of the story is, if your local scene doesn't think you're the flavour of the month anymore, take yourselves overseas. If they also don't like you, you might not be very good. haha.
Can you recall the strangest experience the band ever had whilst on tour?
Having a bra thrown on stage in Germany was pretty funny. Rocking up to a venue in Switzerland where the promoter had filled the place with inflatable kangaroos and Bundaberg Rum to welcome "the Aussies" was another. Also, after supporting Boy Sets Fire in Bruges one night we had to sleep in the van in the car park. We woke up the next morning in the middle of a primary school surrounded by kids.
Paper Arms have performed alongside some amazing artists, including Title Fight, Chuck Ragan, Violent Soho, the list goes on. Has there been a personal highlight for you in terms of those who you’ve had the opportunity to perform with?
The highlights are always going to be touring with a band that were your idols growing up. We toured with Strike Anywhere here and in Europe. They were one of our favourite bands in high school and now they're our friends. Same with Boy Sets Fire. We did Hits & Pits with Good Riddance and I was able to thank them for songs that still affect my world view and choices to this day. We made some great friends in Title Fight and The Flatliners. But probably the biggest one was playing with Chuck Ragan. Hot Water Music were obviously a big influence of ours and we got to play and hang out with Chuck a few times overseas. I was invited to sing on a live record of his in Germany and now I have double vinyl of myself on one of my favourite musicians albums. That's insane to me. Definitely one of the best parts of this experience.
Looking back on the three full length studio albums Paper Arms released in the last 8 years, is there a track that means the most to you now that the band is coming to a close, or perhaps summarises your experience in the band?
The track "These Nights" off "The Smoke Will Clear" sums it up pretty well. The chorus is "These are nights we'll hold onto." We definitely will.
Can we expect to hear any new music from either yourself, or the other guys in the near future?
I'm sure you will. We're all music junkies at the end of the day. We'll get clean for a bit, and then get the shakes. James still has The Burning Sea who are incredible. Check them out.