Paris Green's newly released Rambling Yellow Paper CD was three years in the making, something Green cofounder and lead guitarist Justin Pea says was a good thing.
"A lot of things happened during that time to us, a lot of personal tragedy and downtime," says Pea, referring to the death of a parent, a failed relationship and subsequent child custody conflict that various members suffered during this period.
"We were kids when we started this CD in 2003 and over the last three years, we've grown up a little bit. We're a little bit more mature, I guess," the 26-year-old Pea shrugs.
Not only did the individual members mature, so did their sound, going from a loose mix of rock, funk and hip-hop to a significantly heavier rock tone. "When we first started recording the CD, we were a band that sounded like...whatever band, Incubus or something. Then, slowly, we started to sound more and more like ourselves, we made our own sound. We stopped trying to be a band that sounds like...some other famous band and became ourselves. That made a huge difference.
"Rambling Yellow Paper is also the first album where we've actually been produced. We've done two albums before, but it's always just like whatever we wanted to do. This time we got some actual professional direction on structure and stuff like that. We did four tracks ourselves, and then our producer, Eric [Delegard], was like, 'You know what? If you guys are really serious about this, you have to step it up a little. You have to do something different.' So we took six months and went back to writing. Then we lost our drummer and we took another year off, but we were still writing songs. By the time we had found another drummer, we had gotten in a phase where we were really writing well. So the second we found our new drummer, we went right back into the studio, and it just clicked. We finished the CD in a week -- and it's great (laughs). We're proud of it, we're really proud of it."
It was the late '90s when Pea and bassist Matt Gosney started Paris Green (the name refers to a deadly chemical used in paints and pesticides during the last century). "We were in eighth grade, and we were in a writing class together. We had an assignment to pair up with someone and then write their biography. So we had to ask each other questions, and I was like, 'Okay, what bands do you listen to?' 'Def Leppard.' 'Wow, man! I love Def Leppard.' 'Pearl Jam?' 'I love Pearl Jam, too!' After that, we said, 'Hey, let's start a band.' That was it.
"I wanted to play bass, but he already played bass. So I was going to play drums, but my brother was already playing drums, so that was out. And I thought, 'Man, this sucks! I guess I'm going to have to be the guitar player.' So we just started jamming, me, Matt and my brother Jason. We would practice on the weekends, our moms would bring us over to each other's houses and my mom would come in (in mom voice) saying, 'Do you guys want sandwiches?' (in normal voice) We were playing Jimi Hendrix and just having fun."
By the time the boys were juniors in high school, they were ready to perform, so they decided to get a singer. Jason Pea brought over a friend from his school band, Matt Patin, for an audition. "He came over and sang for us, and it was great! Then just to mess with him and see what his range was, we played No Doubt's 'I'm Just a Girl,' which is way up there, and he sang it. Perfectly. And we were like, Damn. Then we played some Bush, Oasis and he sang all that really well, so he was in.
"When he started with our band, Matt was 14 years old. But he looked way, way older. Kids would come up to us at shows and say, 'Hey, can you get your singer to buy us some beer?' One time when we played the Abyss back in the day, there were all these high school seniors and college freshmen at the show, and they all just flocked to Matt. He was 14 years old and he was like, 'This is awesome!' Later on, we told the girls that he was just 14 (laughs).
In 1998, the group recorded a six-song EP, Neptune Wide. Pena winces at the memory. "Our first CD was...very, very...gay. We did like six songs in six hours. And that sounds impressive, six songs in six hours -- but the CD didn't sound any good at all. But it was cool, we had a CD.
"And you know, we were so young and stupid we didn't even know about things like tempo or anything. The sound engineer at the studio would say something to us and we'd be like 'Tem-po? Hmmm, what is this thing tem-po?' We didn't know anything."
In 2001, Paris Green recorded their first full-length album, Simplevision. "Right around then, Broken Note Records wanted to put one of our songs on one of their compilations," says Pea, "and we were like (in stoner voice), Bro-ken Note Re-cords called. They want us to be on a com-pi-lation. Dude!' (in normal voice) Then they went under (laughs)."
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Around that time, Paris Green added DJ Will Moran to the group. They began to tour heavily and earned opening slots for Def Leppard, Bowling for Soup, Eve 6, Blue October and Slim Thug, among others.
Then came all that "down time" Pea referred to. When the group got back in the studio for Rambling Yellow Paper, they had a new drummer and DJ Will Moran became guitarist Will Moran.
"Actually," says Pea, "that downtime really helped us. I'm glad it took us so long, because our songwriting got so much better. By the time we got back into the studio, we were in a much, much better place. We are in a much, much better place."
Paris Green performs Friday, December 22, at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483.