Paradise Fears @ The Studio at Webster Hall 06/03/2012

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Whether it’s in a dark closet, dimly lit by one light in a far corner or in an open pit of a concert venue, one can’t help but feel up close and pesonal. Close to Paradise Fears, their songs, and the members of the band. After speaking with Paradise Fears’ Sam Miller and Jordan Merrigan, I can’t help but have a new found respect for the band. The first level of respect came from their ability to make music without the cheese factor. The second level of respect came from the freestyle rap Sam and Jordan (mostly Sam) did for me in the confines of the closet in which our interview took place.

Maybe it was the atmosphere that brought on this new level of respect. The back room at the Studio at Webster Hall in New York City had this fun yet serious tone about it. (Probably because various members of PF would walk into our interview closet and make faces) Oddly enough, that’s the same feeling you get when you watch Paradise Fears on Stage. Their maybe planned, probably highly practiced simultaneous jumping while performing and their swoon worthy music are the ingredients to a good night.

It’s hard to put a live performance by Paradise Fears into words. It’s just something you have to see live. The energy they hold, the electric feeling in the air, the excitement brewing from the crowd that waited hours in line to see PF perform. All these factors build up to this one performance, a performance that puts you into a state of euphoria; one where you shake your head and think to yourself, “Wait, am I really here right now?” You think that because you can’t believe the musical ability of six guys from South Dakota. Yeah, I didn’t know people played music there either. ;)

Whether it’s an original song or a cover of Maroon 5’s “Payphone,” Paradise Fears know what’s up with the music they play. Not one note is played with uncertainty. Every note is deliberate, every spoken word has a purpose, every member of Paradise Fears adds to a truly entertaining show. I also have a theory that the members take turn at each spot on the stage. Throughout their set, I lost count of who was in which spot how many times. Constantly changing spots, Paradise Fears never lose their place in the song. Which is impressive considering the amount of jumping they do, one would think their brain would disconnect.

But it’s a good thing that didn’t happen. My wonderful night would not have been the same. Act after act, each band that played was impressive. Each band had everything you wanted to see in a live act. Paradise Fears was a joy to talk to before the show and a joy to see live. These guys are pure fun. Give them a listen. Try to see them live because there’s really nothing like it. PF create a feeling of home, you feel safe with them. Even as Sam spits water over a crowd. Safe. Ending the show with “Sanctuary,” left me sated. I’ve never left a concert feeling so full of musical talent before.

Paradise Fears is Sam Miller, Cole Andre, Lucas Zimmerman, Jordan Merrigan, Michael Walker, Marcus Sand.

What brought about the decision to go on your first mini headlining tour?
Sam: We were looking at ourselves from an outsider perspective and what an outsider looking at us would think. We realized that we could do better than people gave us credit for because all we had done was opened. We really really wanted to on the heels of three very big support tours put our feelers out there and say “Okay, how have receptive have people been, have people really liked the music, and if they have will they come see us when we headline?” So we booked 9 shows really quick that tests that theory.

“It’s like a big intimate love fest.” -Jordan MerriganYou were in Baltimore yesterday. What has the response been?
Sam: The response has been incredible.
Jordan: Great.
Sam: It’s mind-blowing. It looks like three-fourths of the shows have sold out or going to sell out. It’s amazing how many people know the words when they’re there to see you.
Jordan: It’s totally different because great supporting, and we played rooms a few thousand people before but it’s a totally different dynamic when you’re playing for a couple hundred people who know every single word to every single part to every single song. It’s like a big intimate love fest.

Why did you choose to stay on the east coast?
Jordan: There are some Midwest states as well. It was kind of just-we just wanted to test the waters , we kind of wanted to pick where we do the best at right now, based on the past, based on a lot of different factors, we kind of figured out “okay these are the cities we know we can do really well in so we should start there. We’ll be headlining again hopefully in the whole world.

Why did you decide to record Sanctuary?
Sam: It’s become a defining song for our band. It’s the one people know the most, it gets the greatest emotional response and we love playing it live. So we determined the recorded version wasn’t quite up to par to where we wanted the song to be. So we decided to go back in and try to amp it up a little bit from an emotional standpoint. And there were parts that we added live, like the speech in the middle of it, that people were kind of upset that wasn’t on the recorded version, so we figured it was worth it to go back in and rediscover the song that we recorded two and a half years ago.

“Lets make this the best damn climax you ever had” -Sam Miller

Why did you go back to the church where the song was about?
Sam: We decided we wanted to do it in our hometown because it is kind of such a personal song, and the song itself is really written about that piano and that sanctuary and that being a safe place so we figured we take the story, we parallel it to someone else’s story, and give it the same sanctuary in the hope that the song becomes a metaphor for being that sanctuary. And I think that it created a really nice visual picture of the song ultimately, and it felt like it was a very personal project for us.
Jordan: We’re all just really proud of where we’re from. I mean whenever someone hears we’re from South Dakota they’re like “Wait people live there?” We always try to own the fact that we came from a very small town, we didn’t have a bustling music scene, it was cool to give it that personal feel back home.

When you go back to South Dakota, do people recognize you as The Band from South Dakota?
Jordan: In our hometown people know us, not because of the band, it’s a small town, it’s a small town environment, everyone knows everyone type of thing. They know our parents, they know the milkman, we don’t know the milkman.
Sam: South Dakota is so much like that that like people that don’t even know know, I’ll get recognize as the kid from the band, that kid from Paradise Fears in other cities in SD too. More certainly more so than anywhere else.

You’re covering Maroon 5’s Payphone? Did you write the rap that goes with the song?
Jordan: We’ve covered.
Sam: Mhm, we have covered. We did it on the YouTube.
Jordan: It’s on that YouTube Machine.

Is there a secret ambition to become a rapper now?
Jordan: YES.

“So cray!” -Jordan MerriganIs there a rap scene in South Dakota because I think there is!
Sam: No, there is no rap scene in South Dakota.
Jordan: So cray!
Sam: I think spoken word is super, super powerful and I love cadence and I love like words being said very rhythmically and there’s an art form to it, and I love getting to do it in Sanctuary, that part has gotten a lot of attention, it’s easier for me to write lyrics a lot of times when there isn’t a constraint of melody, so yeah, we put that rap in Payphone, and I wouldn’t think it’s out of the question for more future stuff to have more spoken word in it.

Can you freestyle? Can you freestyle right now? I’ll bring cupcakes for the next show.

You’re independent and you don’t have a manager but you have a tour manager on this one. Is that different?
Sam: Yes
Jordan: YES
It’s crazy!
It’s nuts!
It’s awesome!
It’s a whole new style of touring!
It’s great.
Really?
YES.
Jordan: Wait, he’s a horrible human being. Just kidding. (As Grant, their TM walks in)
Sam: It’s so nice not having to worry about things we used to have to worry about, (Yeah –Jordan) and he just takes care of it.
Jordan: There’s instances sometimes when you when you kinda wanna yell at someone or you prefer to tell someone something, so now we don’t have to do that anymore. So now we’re like “Hey Grant, go tell him to do this!”
You have a mini servant!
Sam: He puts us in line too. It’s almost nice to have someone put us in our place, because before sometimes it’s a weird dynamic, you yell at someone for something, now we have a manager guy who can yell at us for us.

By the way, your first interview that you did with HT, had hundreds of views within the first hour. It almost shut down my site!
Jordan: Our fans are persistent.
Sam: I love the internet.

Set List:
1. Last Breath
2. What You Want Me To
3. Fall On Me
4. Kid In Demand
5. Iris
6. Just a Feeling
7. Payphone
8. Now or Never
9. Advice
10. Waste of Time
11. Sanctuary

Connect:
www.facebook.com/paradisefears/
www.youtube.com/paradisefears
www.twitter.com/#!/paradisefears

Follow Nancy Hoang:

Nancy Hoang created Hopeless Thunder in 2007. She conducts the interviews, writes the articles, photographs the concerts, and handles the site's coding & design. (Basically, she's a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.

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