TRACK-BY-TRACK: Paper Mill – Past The West Way

Credit: Fraser Taylor / Joe Callingham

Not long after Lower Than Atlantis called it quits last year, guitarist Ben Sansom quickly got to work and formed a new project called Paper Mill.

Completing the line-up with his brother Luke Sansom on bass (who was also briefly the vocalist for Lower Than Atlantis at the very beginning) and Matt Rider (ex-The Holiday Plan) covering vocals/guitars, the trio recently put out their debut EP, ‘Past The West Way’.

We caught up with Luke and Matt to talk more about the EP, how it came together musically, its lyrics, and if any of the tracks were remnants from their now former projects.

01.) BRUCE
Ben: Musically we wanted to try and do something that just has that anthemic drive throughout. A simple chord progression that is instantly recognisable. I also wanted to make the verse drum beat be really obnoxious and loud to sit along the rather nice guitar riff. Almost so wrong that it’s right.

Matt: Lyrically, I wrote this song as a reminder that it wasn’t that long ago that we seemed a lot more aware of our common humanity. It’s been a really tumultuous few years in this country and elsewhere and it upsets me. Society is becoming more polarised and it doesn’t help deal with the problems that we have, it just makes them worse I think. I wanted to remind people that just because we don’t agree with someone, it doesn’t have to make them your enemy. I stole the chorus line from the intro to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’ video and just changed the words slightly (so we didn’t get sued, haha).

Matt: This one is a pre-Paper Mill song and it’s a special one for me. It’s just a really personal song, looking back at my late teens and early 20s with my old band, The Holiday Plan. I feel like my generation and particularly those of us growing up in London or other expensive cities just don’t have the same chance to ‘grow up’. I’d love to have my own place, have a family, a car, all that stuff, but it seems pretty much impossible. My day job is as a youth worker working in a hospital with young people who come in after they’ve been stabbed or assaulted. It’s really important and worthwhile work, but it doesn’t pay enough to ‘grow up’ in terms of what that means to me. And I refuse to just chase money, working to make someone else money. So the song is partly looking back from a distance at fun times when I was younger and trying to work out where I am now. Because I know I’m not that kid anymore, but I’m also not the ‘grown up’ I thought I’d be. It’s kind of about feeling a bit stuck in limbo.

Ben: Musically we just tried to make this quite dynamic so the verse just becomes this real nice groove and the chorus then really hits. There are only a couple of little vocal variations at the end that we added in, but we tried to keep this as close to Matt’s pre-Paper Mill version as possible. If it ain’t broke…

Ben: For this we just wanted something fast and to the point, chuck in a couple of weird chords here and there you have it. I think we smashed this one out from start-to-finish in two days. Sometimes those ideas just work and there is a little bit of magic in them that are pretty hard to capture.

Matt: I suppose this one is about as close as I get to a standard love song. I wrote this one about my ex. As the name suggests, we used to make these dens in her front room, watch movies, and get drunk and it was pretty lovely. She had this amazing flat and it was just a really lovely time. Sadly it didn’t work out, but there you go. She seems very happy now so I’m happy for her.

Ben: I suppose this one is the wildcard on the EP. The idea stemed from trying to create a song that could be on Bloc Party’s debut album, ‘Silent Alarm’. Just having that little groove beat running all the way through alongside a really simple riff and having elements join and leave again. The movement on the bass is what really effects how your ears hear the original riff.

Matt: I’ve worked with vulnerable kids and young people for years now in schools, hospital, hostels, all sorts. It just breaks my heart seeing the uphill struggle a lot of them face, and the lack of empathy and sympathy that they are shown by a lot of people. The story in this song was mainly based on two people I worked with, both in their late teens; one male, one female. It was all taken from little conversations I’d had with them. There’s a generation of kids growing up without hope, with serious mental health issues that they’re not properly supported with, they’re vilified, and they’re not provided for. And then people talk about knife crime like it’s some confusing, complex problem. If you don’t value your own life, is it a surprise that you don’t value someone else’s much either? I think we have a lot of work to do to unpick the problems caused by austerity, and we need to really start now because the ripples are just going to go on and on.

Matt: This one is basically me just raging at how disconnected we’ve allowed ourselves to become from reality. I find there’s a lot of dishonesty in how we live our lives these days. Often it can seem quite harmless, but it can manifest itself in some pretty insidious ways. I think we should be very alert to propaganda, and watch out for normalising it through our own personal propaganda, which I think is essentially what some social media has become. If we normalise dishonesty, people start getting away with terrible things and then just being able to deny them. Basically, don’t be scared to be honest, even when it seems scary. The alternative is living in a sort of divided way and that really doesn’t feel good.

Ben: We tried to go a little noisy in places on this one. Feedback galore and some untidy playing just adds to that raw energy.

Matt: This is another pre-Paper Mill song, and again it’s a sort of growing up, looking back, taking stock sort of song. I wrote this after a tough break-up and I had to move back home with my parents and my life just seemed all over the place. I suppose it’s about facing up to change and whatever point you find yourself at. It’s also about making sure you take ownership of your decisions and not being afraid to make decisions, which is much easier said than done in my case.

The band’s debut EP, ‘Past The West Way’, is out now.

You can stream/download the EP online via Spotify (here), iTunes (here), Amazon (here), and Google Play (here).