Papercuts - Biography
San Francisco-based indie pop artist Papercuts is actually a project built around Jason Robert Quever, who grew up as a part of a Christian commune in Eureka, California. Though he draws comparisons to freak folk artists like Devendra Banhart and Vetiver, such designations have more to do with his proximity to those artists than it does in musical spirit, as Banhart’s co-owned label Gnomonsong (Andy Cabic of Vetiver is the other owner) released a couple of Papercuts’ albums. In either case, the fragile-voiced Quever and his ’60s-informed esoteric stamp on romantic indie rock music has garnered attention from coast to coast in North America, a feat heightened all the more having toured with Grizzly Bear, Camera Obscura and Beach House. As a consummate DIY artist, Quever started his own recording studio to avoid outside meddling, calling it Pan American Recording Studio. Since his first full-length album was released in 2000, Papercuts has put out four total LPs and earned critical—if specific—reviews. One reviewer called Papercuts “a marching band on Quaaludes.”
Quever lived in a Humboldt County commune until he was ten years old, and grew up on Led Zeppelin and The Beatles (with a particular obsession for The White Album), and later looked to Gypsy jazz icon, Django Reinhardt. With a fixation for the original Twilight Zone television series and a natural flare for music, he learned to play piano at a young age and bought a four-track recorder when he was 15 years old. His first musical foray was recording piano tracks for Baltimore-based singer/songwriter, Cass McCombs, in his apartment. Named Papercuts because it was a good way to convey subtlety—in pain, in meaning, in context to larger more oppressive things—Quever wanted it to be a solo enterprise so that the show could go on if he couldn’t find players.
Papercuts put out his first full-length album in 2000, the serene 14-song Rejoicing Songs (Cassingle USA), which aided him in meeting Bay Area musicians. He then collaborated with Casiotone For the Painfully Alone, The Skygreen Leopards and Vetiver before signing to Plain Recordings. In 2004, Papercuts released Mockingbird on the label, which was ten organic tracks with contributions from Cave-Ins members, Luke Top (drums) and Matt Popieluch (keyboards). In live performances along the West Coast in the album’s support Quever was often joined by Malcolm Pullinger and Jeremey Brown.
After signing with Gnomonsong in the mid-2000s, Quever’s Papercuts project put out Can’t Go Back (2007), which drew favorable comparisons to everyone from The Hidden Cameras and Grandaddy to Midlake and (inevitably) Bob Dylan. With Cabic helping out on vocals, and Matt Stromberg on drums, the album was a lo-fi sunshine burst of late-’60s NoCal pop that was centered on absolute benevolence, especially with Quever’s emotive, drifting voice carrying things along. Tracks such as the hypnogogic “John Brown” and the acoustic -thrummed “Just Another Thing to Dust” made it an organic affair, and soon Papercuts was touring with Grizzly Bear.
In 2009, Papercuts fourth full-length album You Can Have What You Want (Gnomonsong) was released, again containing the magic number of 10 tracks. With darker contemplative subject matter (such as the track “The Void”), the lyrics still rely on insinuation and hints, and Quever’s gentle at-times almost effeminate vocals are brushstroke soft, enough to keep in the moorings of earlier Papercuts material. Alex Scally (Beach House) helped out on numerous instruments in the recording process, and when touring in support of the record the roster included Lazarus members, Nancy Nyland and Trevor Montgomery. In 2011 Papercuts released Fading Parade.
Papercuts contributed a track to the Sing Me to Sleep—Indie Lullabies CD that was put out on American Laundromat Records, a cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer.” While he continues to write new material, Quever also is busy mixing and recording for artists such as Vetiver, Still Flyin’ and The Finches.