Already hailed as one of Paste's "4 To Watch," Paper Route has earned acclaim for their ingenious electronica-based rock and intensely intimate lyricism. The Nashville-based band's Universal Motown debut, "ABSENCE," is an ambitious and impassioned collection of widescreen modern music, rich with shimmering textures and intricately crafted sonics. Songs like "Carousel" and the elegiac "Are We All Forgotten" are haunting and emotional, alighting upon such common themes as love and loss, rebirth and redemption. Throughout the album, Paper Route express resilience in the face of adversity, ultimately achieving transcendence though honesty and a sense of real circumstance. The work of a rare band that's not afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves, "ABSENCE" is both acutely personal and altogether universal. "We're very sentimental, emotional, hopelessly romantic guys," says JT Daly (vocals, keyboards, samples), "and that's not cool. But we've found that when you are just brutally honest, people connect with that. A lot of things that people are running away from, we've always found ourselves gravitating towards." "The most honest and real songs come from times that aren't necessarily the best," says Chad Howat (programming, piano, keyboards, bass). "So over the course of making this record, we've gone through failed relationships, sicknesses and deaths among our friends and families. But that's life, and hopefully it will resonate with other people." The founding members of the band hail from churchgoing families in the American Heartland. Daly and Andy Smith (vocals, guitars, harmonica) met through a family connection and began writing songs together. They converged with Howat in college and formed their first band. The band relocated to Nashville after a year, but soon called it a day. "The band never quite got off the ground," says Smith. "But we felt there was a chemistry between us that we'd later find hadn't fully been realized." The three musicians went their separate ways, but maintained their tight knit friendship. Smith pursued a career in social work, while Daly continued to explore visual arts and film. For his part, Howat bought a laptop and taught himself to record and program. Plagued by insomnia, he worked long into the night, creating experimental music inspired by such artists as Air and Boards of Canada. "Chad started coming up with really interesting stuff," says Smith, "this smart, emotional, electronic pop music. The more that he got into it, the more it felt like a new direction. It was as accessible as possible, yet still flooded with as much integrity as we could muster. It just seemed like an exciting thing." "It all came together as soon as I started writing songs on the computer," Howat says. "It felt like I had finally found my voice." He soon invited Smith and Daly to contribute vocals to the recordings and the trio of friends found themselves abuzz with creative energy. "We all kind of got the bug again once we got going," says Howat. "This is our drug," Daly says. "We can't quit coming back to this. We always just circle back to making music." By mid-2006, they decided to grow their project - now dubbed Paper Route, conjuring up innocent images of their youth - into something with wider appeal. They released a self-titled EP and began to ponder how to bring their sound to the stage. The problem was resolved with the inclusion of drummer Gavin McDonald. Though Paper Route continued to build music around samplers and other programs, the addition of a live drummer gave the fledging band a richer, more human sound, as did a musical arsenal incorporating glockenspiel, accordion, melodica, piano, and guitars.
"I knew it would take a lot of work to incorporate live drumming into the band's sound," McDonald says. "But after our first few shows, it was obvious that it was going to work and also open up new possibilities creatively."
"The three of us had learned to operate as one," says Howat, "but we knew Gavin would get us out of our comfort zone, add some healthy tension and challenge us to go further, artistically." "It also allowed us to not dive completely into the synthetic element of being an electronic band," adds Smith. "We love using computers as instruments - the options are amazing - but there's something about organic instruments that you can't argue with, that seems timeless." Paper Route's brand of laptop Americana utilizes modern instrumentation to give life to an otherwise classicist tack that inextricably connects the band to its adopted home city's mythic past. Nevertheless, in a town known around the world as Music City USA, Paper Route's synthetic symphonics set them apart. "We're kind of the black sheep here, sonically speaking," Howat says. "But there's something to be said about the allure of Nashville. There are undertones to the whole history of American music in the way we approach songwriting." Having all grown up in the church, a series of recurring lyrical motifs revealed themselves in songs such as "Be Healed" and "Dance On Our Graves." Thoughtful and inquisitive, the songs of "ABSENCE" wrestle with life's myriad miracles and mysteries - Do we need change or do we actually need healing? Will the ghosts of our past stay with us forever? Is God really there? "Whether it's some spiritual void or the loss of a lover or the absence of affection from a wife or a father," Howat adds. "It's a theme that runs through the record - wanting things to be how they were, missing things that just aren't there anymore." When the time came to make its full-length debut, Paper Route opted to forego a proper studio to work in Chad and Gavin's Victorian home in the center of town. The band recorded in Chad's bedroom, spending close to a year tracking much of what would ultimately become "ABSENCE." In September of 2008, Paper Route chose to isolate themselves in order to apply finishing touches to the record. They began looking for the right spot, a house where they could be inspired to fully focus on their vision. "It had to make us feel like the homes we had when we were growing up," Daly says, "like when we all had our paper routes. It had to stir up that sense of wonder." They found the ideal location in Nunnelly, Tennessee, about an hour outside of Nashville. The house - located on 200 sprawling acres - proved the ideal artistic environment, prompting the creation of a number of new songs, including `Lovers' Anthem' and "Wish." After an extended gestation period which saw the band facing struggles with both art and life its ownself, Paper Route is now eager to bring "ABSENCE" to the people, giving their powerful, personal songs the chance to flourish and fulfill their infinite promise. "We're ready to bring these songs to our listeners," Daly says, "to just live them out, to get them out of our system. So much of our life have just been paused in these songs and we really can't move on until we start playing them live. We're all really ready for this."