I wish I could feign indifference when it comes to PAPA and keep my composure when telling others about the Los Angeles act, but I simply can’t. There’s an invaluable and refreshing consistency in the quality of music they make that has me coming back to their releases time and time again. I was recently fortunate enough to speak with Darren Weiss — founder, singer, writer, and drummer for the group — to discuss their approaching Los Angeles residency and more.
You just finished playing some dates with Grouplove. How was that?
Those guys are super fun and cool. Their crowds are fun, and everyone was just excited and happy to be there. You don’t always get that luxury. When people come to a show and they want to have a good time, it just makes everything better, so we had a good time on that run.
Tell me about your upcoming residency.
It’s every Monday in January, free at the Bootleg Theatre here in East LA, and it’s going to be a really fun time, I think. We haven’t had our own headlining show since May, so we’re looking forward to getting back into setting our own tone for the show in our hometown. We’ve got some really great bands on the bill, plus some special guests here and there, and I think it’s just going to be a lot of fun.
You recently released your single “Put Me to Work.” Is this an indication that we can expect another EP?
No, we actually have a full-length album that’s finished right now. We’re just sort of working out the logistics of how and when it’s coming out with the label side of things, but it is done, and “Put Me to Work” is one of the songs off that album. That was a bit of a preview, and we’re super excited about the album. Hopefully we’ll be able to share details about its release shorty after the residency.
As a group, you’re all used to juggling multiple music projects. Since the disbandment of Girls, have you had the chance to focus wholeheartedly on PAPA or are there any other projects you’re working on?
My main focus now is PAPA, but I do also work with a lot of people while I’m here. I sort of turned down all other tour offers because that kind of thing takes up too much time and focus away. I love to play music, so I try to do as much as I can. When there’s time off from PAPA, I have been playing with some other people and playing drums on a couple of records that’ll come out next year and that I’m very excited to be a part of. So I’ve been busy, but PAPA is definitely the center of my universe.
Who were some of your musical influences when you were recording the new album?
That’s a good question. I could tell you who we were listening to when we were recording, but the truth is these songs were written over a long period of time. Danny — who writes the songs with me — and I were always listening to a substantial amount of people like Brian Eno and his records with the Talking Heads, and certainly Bruce Springsteen and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were really big with us.
Danny and I also listened to a good amount of classical music, and Debussy and Revell were two composers that we were listening to a lot during this process. I don’t know why it took me so long, but I found this late in my life a love for Dean Martin. I listen to him nonstop these days, so he was definitely a part of it. Danny and I also listened to the latest Beyonce record 4. That was on repeat for most of the year for us.
I know you started out as an almost solo act with just you playing acoustically. What made you want to move into becoming a band? Was it Danny coming into the picture that created that change?
Danny actually joined the band about a year and a half after the band had been active, but without getting too much into the history, I had been playing drums in a number of bands and touring in a number of bands starting from when I was seventeen. I had just sort of had enough of the particular experiences that I was having, so that’s when I left the couple of bands that I had been touring with and moved to New York. I didn’t know any bands out there, so I didn’t know anyone that I could play drums for. I had already been writing music and performing acoustically, but drums were always the main thing. I was in a position where I got the time that I wanted away from touring and playing drums in what was mainly a hardcore punk band, and so what I had was my guitar.
I didn’t have a band because I didn’t know the musicians. I had never played drums and sang at the same time, but I was always having trouble, myself being a drummer, having other people play with me. I’m a little bit of a control freak, I guess, so what happened was at a certain point, I decided, “Fuck it. I’m not going to keep trying to put a band together. I’ll just be my own band.” I’m not much of a guitar player. I write the songs on guitar, but I’m not too good at it. I figured it would be much easier to teach someone my guitar parts than to explain the drum thing, so I just started working on that, but with everything out of this band, it was just necessity. I couldn’t get a band together, so I said, “Alright, I’ll just do it myself then.”
That seemed to work out pretty well for you.
[Laughs] Yeah, when Danny came into the band that was definitely another phase. There was certainly a big change when he joined with the way we went about writing songs and things like that.
What are some musical recommendations you can make for our readers that they may not yet know about?
New bands? Or just band in general that might be obscure?
Either. Bands that you’re passionate about.
Well, some bands here in LA are Mini Mansions. They’re a great band. My brother has a band called Slang Chickens that is really great. Let me think, you guys do a pretty good job at this. One artist that I listen to a lot who’s not that obscure, but I feel definitely because of his style — don’t even know really what you’d call it: street, folk, classical? — is Moondog. He has a really, really beautiful album, and I feel like not enough people know about it. I think 4 Men With Beards just started reissuing his stuff on vinyl, but he was gone for a long time. I think he was really in the ’50s and ’60s.
Find out more about the free residency, and for more info: