“You’re in the middle of fuck knows where in the USA and you don’t have a clue what you’re doing with yourself!” says PAWS frontman Phillip Taylor, through a thick Glaswegian accent. The heavy touring ethos of PAWS left them stranded as a unit last year, the band admit, and it was a pivotal point of hardship which left them pondering their next steps.
“We were so burned out from touring the last two albums,” he says. “Some nights you’re absolutely killing it and everyone is coming out to the shows, but there’s also nights when you don’t have a clue why you’re doing it, and you question everything.” The third record ‘No Grace’ is undeniably born out of these turbulent times.
Taylor continues to detail how inconsistency was at the heart of PAWS’ frustration. “There was nothing too extreme but it’s a story as old as time with touring. It’s a case of playing to nobody and then playing to two-hundred people who are yelling all the words to our songs. It’s the ups and downs that come with doing that,” he adds. It fast became clear that something had to change amidst the band’s intense touring patterns. A new album proved the natural outlet for escaping their previous state of affairs.
“Towards the end of that, we just decided we needed the space to get our shit together,” Taylor explains, “so we actually took time to sit and write some material.” PAWS’ manic schedule hadn’t allowed for this previously. He continues, “Before, a lot of the songs were written while we were constantly busy, and we rushed to record them. We wanted to take time to think a little more about what we wanted with this one.” Helping them put the experience to best use was Mark Hoppus, who first expressed interest in the band off the back of a show in New York. Despite being one of their early heroes, the process was by no means daunting. “When we were teenagers, blink-182 were around us constantly. They were the first concert I ever went to when I was fourteen,” Taylor enthuses. “So I guess it’s cool going full circle, the fact that one of the people that inspired me to do this has helped us record the music that I’m most proud of. It really was great,” he adds. “After the first five minutes it was just like having another guy in the band, it was really fun and relaxed.” This approach has paid-off big time for the band. Hoppus’ experience brought a new confidence that had lacked in previous years. “He really pushed to get the best out of us, in terms of making sure every take was the best it could be. It wasn’t a case of us just being content with what we’d done. That lift clearly made a big difference to the album,” Taylor concludes. There’s a decisiveness around standout tracks like ‘N/A’ and ‘Complete Contempt’ that support this sentiment.
“We feel like we want to connect with people physically rather than to depend on the internet to get our music out there.”
— Phillip Taylor
Perhaps one of the most noticeable things about 'No Grace,' is that it captures the band's spontaneous live sensibilities. “Touring really has an influence on our recording,” explains Taylor, “because that’s how the songs are written. We just bash them out in a live scenario and try to shape them that way. We got used to locking in a lot more, whereas before we were a lot more raucous when we played,” he adds. “Recording this album really tightened us up a lot. We always try to make it as representational of our shows as possible.”
Unsurprisingly, PAWS have always had a hands-on approach when it comes to touring. As well as bringing them hard times – as Taylor freely admits - it’s also been a direct and honest way of building their following. Taylor is quick to bemoan artists who put too much energy into the online sphere these days. “We feel like we want to connect with people physically rather than to depend on the internet to get our music out there,” he says. “So I think 'No Grace' is born of us sharing what it’s been like to do that from our point of view.”
In an online, plugged in world, the band believe that the good old fashioned IRL existence is set to make a comeback very soon. “Everybody relies, focuses and pours their expectations into the internet,” Taylor starts. “We like to do things naturally, and I think in this day and age it’s more necessary to do that. I think there’s going to be a complete u-turn, and it'll go back to the way it was before. It’s so important to do that and push ourselves where others feel they don’t have to anymore.”
It’s for this reason that PAWS felt it was a case of ‘go hard or go home’ with 'No Grace'. Everything was about being turned up a notch. “We always try to make our stuff as big as possible,” he says. “We work with what space we’re in to get the best representation of each song. It’s about changing the dynamics, and making things sound different than the last. It’s always so exciting to try and up the game. I think subconsciously we wanted it to be sounding huger and more tight-knit.”
When putting pen to paper, Taylor considered the journey of the band as a whole rather than solely his personal feelings this time. It’s a documentary of the three getting back up again and pulling through stronger than ever. “The first track in-particular, ‘No Grace’ is about touring and friends sticking it out, as cliché as that sounds” the frontman offers by way of example. “Although a lot of the other songs are a mish-mash of emotions that derive from being in a band, or just things between the three of us, and what we come up against. It’s nothing overly specific. It’s about things we’ve all seen.”
“When we were teenagers, blink-182 were around us constantly. I guess it’s cool going full circle… one of the people that inspired me to do this has helped us record the music that I’m most proud of. “
— Phillip Taylor
From here, we can be assured that PAWS will come back stronger than ever on the live circuit. It will be a case of getting back in the van, and trawling Europe and the States again with both fresh minds and material in tow. Having a solid record to push on the road looks to bring new enthusiasm. “I really relish the time in the studio because we’re never in there for overly long. You spend so much time touring the record, so when we’re there I just want to make the best thing possible for people to hear. I think if we were in the studio for five months straight I would absolutely fucking hate it.”
He also speaks of the dangers that can come from having too many ideas to hand. “I love going in and having the pressure to craft the best thing we can without overthinking it too much. If you overthink in the studio then you’re going to have a kazoo on every track,” he jokes. “You can just get lost in wanting to add too much. It’s about focusing, and getting you want done.” The result of this attitude is clear from the blunt edges of 'No Grace'.
They’ve also already had chance to try out the new material on the road. Taylor enthuses, “I just love playing them all so much now,” he says. “Most nights we don’t have a setlist, we just mix it up. We’ve tightened the new stuff up so much that it’s just great.” He also tells that the confidence that came with recording the new album is pulling through into the shows, “We’re already adding bits in and stuff like that which is a sign we’re happy with what we’ve got.”
Retrospectively, the rough patch that PAWS went through only seems to have strengthened their foundations, and taken them to new heights as musicians. After a thoughtful pause, Taylor reveals: “as with anything that people do over a period of time, you’re always learning and bettering your craft. You learn more about the surroundings of what you’re doing, and how it all interacts. This album is naturally a progression of everything so far. It’s about putting all of our knowledge into a record and reflecting upon our first few years as a band.”
PAWS' new album 'No Grace' is out on 17th June via FatCat.
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