Foyles Central London
added: 15 Sep 2013
interviewed by: Emilie Devillet
Following the review of Paper Aeroplanes' last album, "Little Letters", here is the interview of Sarah Howells, the singing half of the band. We talked about " Little Letters", of course, but also about open mic nights, Harry Styles and her musical hopes and wishes.
1) Paper Aeroplanes was born in 2009, what can you tell me about its birth?
Sarah: I was in a sort of pop rock band with school friends for years from my GCSEs until I left school. We were doing really well and ghen, Nia, the girl I started the band with, got sick and she was playing the bass so we needed someone to step in while what we thought was recovering. So that's when Rich came and he's a really good bass player, he knew about our band and he started playing the bass for us. But unfortunately, Nia didn't get better and she passed away. She had leukemia which is just a terrible tragedy, it's awful. She was ill for 18 months then she passed away and the whole band just stopped because we were just too unhappy to go on, to play. Richard and I became good friends and we started playing together, making our own music, writing songs and, eventually, we moved to Cardiff and that's where we started playing gigs and puting things together. We had a different name though, we were called "Half Light", and that lasted for a few years then we had some other people playing chello and drums. Then, I moved to London and that's shen we decided to have a name change and a rethink about our direction. That's how Paper Aeroplanes was born, really.
2) Tell me about the process of writing music and lyrics; which one do you prefer?
Sarah: Rich and I both write the songs so it's sometimes together, sometimes we both bring a separate song to the table and we work on them together, when they're sort the beginning of new songs. I tend to write more lyrics than him just because I'm singing and I need to know what I'm singing about. I prefer writing lyrics to be honest. But I do enjoy writing music but it's a much scarier process. It's much more difficult and I'm much more critical of myself when I write the music. The lyrics, they are personal, they're self expression and it's easier to let that come out naturally and just form the words. You can play with words.
3)You sang a few songs to an open mic night a couple weeks ago; what can you tell me about this experience? Would you do it again? Is it a way to put yourself in danger?
Sarah: Basically, I'd started to fall out of love a little bit with performing or maybe I wasn't appreciating the experience as much as I used to. I just didn't enjoy it as much as before and I wanted to go back to playing music for the sake of playing music, not for the sake of...you know, I don't want to be counting tickets number and worrying about things like that. Its the kind of stuff that can pressure you and that anoying, boring even. I just wanted to try some new songs out, I wanted to play in front of a completely new crowd that didn't know if I was going to be any good or not. It was a really interesting experience! I don't think I've ever done an open mic before and there was such a vast mixture of genres, of skills, of ability and experience. Some were almost professional artists, some were complete beginners that you could tell haven't done any more than one gig before, and everything in between. It was actually quite scary cause I was the featured artist so it felt like I was supposed to be somewhat better than everyone, or at least up the higher end of the selection! It was really interesting to put myself in that situation and I felt quite exposed and it's good, it was really exciting! I would definitely do it again and I recommend it to people who are beginners or non beginners, just to see what it's like.
4) Harry Styles from One Direction tweeted about you...
Sarah: Apparently, he did, yeah! But no one seems to have noticed, otherwise we would have like ten thousand more fans! I think he did say something about "Paper Aeroplanes" being recommended to him as a similar artist and how he liked it. So that was pretty cool but I think maybe 40 people took up the fact that he was talking about us. The rest might have been too busy tweeting "hey, I love you!". I don't knownif they care about what he says or does, they just want him to notice them. That was a funny experience, yeah!
5) Talking about pop music, what is your favourite pop song at the moment?
Sarah: Good question! I have to be honest, I don't listen to popular radios like Radio 1 or those radios where they play those big tunes. I actually can't think of anything... The last thing I really loved was, in a guilty pleasure kind of way, "Moves like Jagger". Absolute classic pop song (laughs). I like that anyway so that will be my answer!
6) Your last album "Little Letters" was released in May this year. What can you tell me about it?
Sarah: It was a full band kind of sound on this new record. On the previous one, it was more structured, more low key, just really the acoustic guitars and vocals. But this was made with the intention to make a lot more noise. The lyrics are still the same kind of honest, cathartic sort of stories and words. But we made a bit more noise: we're using more drums and instruments. It's meant to be reflecting on the texts and tweets and the way we communicate differently these days. Not all the songs are about that, though. It's kind of something we wanted to talk about through different songs.
7) Where do you get your inspiration from?
Sarah: Generally, the inspiration is the way I feel. I'm trying not to be too self absorbed but I do tend to write about what's going on inside my head, how I feel and, usually, I have something up there that I need to take off my chest: the way that life is treating us and it's also about relationships with other people, the things you can't really say outloud but that you need tk express in some way. Hopefully, people can connect to that and I think... I mean that's the way people who like the band are coming across to us, how the lyrics touch them and how they feel about what we write and sing.
8) What's your favourite song on "Little Letters"?
Sarah: It's going to be "Fable". It was written...we were actually watching tv, both playing with our guitars and this riff appeared and the rest of the song came quite organically. I just live it! I think its got a real still atmosphere to it and that's the kind of music I love to listen to myself.
9)What do you wish for, musically?
Sarah: We wish to reach as many people as possible! (laughs) But, it's all about the music really, touching people and if that can happen in some way, we'll be really happy. We have already a strong base of loyal fans and, everyday, more and more people become aware of "Paper Aeroplanes" and that's amazing!
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