San Francisco's Jason Quever got his start recording dreamy, lush pop music at home.
But seeking to expand on his band Papercuts' mellow and hazy sound, Quever left his home studio behind, working instead with noted producer Thom Monahan (Pernice Brothers, Devendra Banhart) at The Hangar in Sacramento, Calif.
"I was surprised at how easy it was. It was a huge relief," Quever said. "I'd gotten used to doing everything out of necessity from starting out as a bedroom artist. Once I realized I didn't have to do everything, and I wasn't the best man for each job, I realized it was coming out better."
Fading Parade, Papercuts' fourth album—and first for Sub Pop—is still comfortably in the realm of dream pop, but Quever's bigger ambitions give it a more intricate and atmospheric sound. Quever is following Fading Parade's March 1 release with a month-long United States tour, with a March 14 stop at Solar Culture.
"Thom Monahan is a great mixer, a great engineer, and he's had so much experience. At first, I was nervous; some things that he wanted to do, I wasn't planning on," Quever said. "But I was able to try out different things without feeling spread too thin. I think that brought some clarity to it and more focus on performance."
Handing over most of the technical responsibilities to Monahan freed up Quever to concentrate on the music.
"I would try to focus more on singing and playing guitar and the overall arrangement and not necessarily which mic to choose and which preamp to use and where exactly to place the mics for recording drums," Quever said. "I let Thom do a lot of things."
Quever also let go of some musical responsibilities, recording with a full band rather than playing nearly everything himself, as he'd done on past Papercuts records.
"It feels like it's evolved into something slightly different. It more revolves around playing songs with four or five people," he said. "I feel good, and I can see the results of the collaboration more than before. We're always trying different things, within the confines of what feels comfortable and natural. I feel like we've stretched out, and I hope to do more in the future."
Joining Quever in the studio were David Enos (keyboard and autoharp), Graham Hill (drums) and Frankie Koeller (bass). Also in this touring version of Papercuts is guitarist and keyboardist Steve Strohmeier, who has played in Beach House.
"A lot of the growth has been up to other people, but it's always going to be my thing. If it's more of a full collaborative band thing, I'd change the name," Quever said.
Touring with essentially the same band that recorded the album makes the live performances more faithful to the songs.
"We're able to do the record correctly," he said. "All the harmonies and the little parts will be there. I don't feel like there's any compromise this time around."
Fading Parade marks two other changes for Quever as well. First, the songs were written and played live before the band took to the studio: "I was able to take them for a test run, which is also uncommon for me." Second, the songs themselves are more direct and more personal than Quever has written in the past.
"It's a romantic record, in a way I've never done before. It's basically just thinking about things that have come and gone. It's got love songs, or distant and foggy memories of love songs," he said.
A past tour mate of Papercuts, Beach House draws perhaps the easiest comparison to Papercuts, but likeminded San Francisco Bay area bands like Vetiver are also apt comparisons.
Album opener "Do You Really Wanna Know" recalls another of the great bedroom pop artists, East River Pipe. "Wait Till I'm Dead" has the sort of jangly shoegaze of Belle and Sebastian, while "Chills" is a slightly mellowed-out take on the 1960s pop of groups like the Zombies.
"I've never used the term 'bedroom' too much, but in retrospect, it does make sense in reference to how I ended up recording everything myself," he said. "But it's a vague term, one of those things that's always changing."
Papercuts' relationship with Sub Pop enabled a lot of the growth for the band, Quever said, thanks to the resources to record with Monahan and tour support.
"I've tried to be happy no matter what the situation was, so long as I could continue making records," he said. "But they found us, and I've always been a huge fan of Sub Pop, so it was ideal. It is fun to see how a larger operation works."