Columbia’s Death of Paris love to tour, and not just because its members feel at home on the road. They definitely do, relishing the opportunity to play restless electro-pop for hungry new audiences and share the stage with like-minded musicians. But their comfort in strange towns has just as much to do with how isolated they feel at home.
The Capital City music scene is on the upswing, flush with fraught bedroom pop and rollicking folk, daring punk rock and confident hip-hop, but Death of Paris doesn’t quit fit in. The band’s music is a relentless rush of buoyant synths and sharp guitars that lend kick to arena-ready hooks. Jayna Doyle, Blake Arambula, and Patrick Beardsley draw on many of the styles around them, but they recombine them in ways that some of their peers find inauthentic — a message related often and in person.
“We feel like this weird outcast,” Doyle, the band’s singer, says. “I don’t feel like a lot of bands like us. I don’t know if they don’t like us because we don’t sound like them, or if they don’t like us because they just don’t like us or because we just don’t fit in. We want to play shows with bands that we’re friends with, but we don’t sound anything like them, so we can’t. And then bands that we do sound like shun us. So we’re alone. We want to fit in, and we want to be a part of it.”
The Death of Paris crew also want to be successful, to become popular enough to quit their day jobs and pursue music full time. But they say that’s not the motivation for their musical decisions. They’ve recorded both of their albums — the 2010 LP Death of Paris and the 2013 EP Gossip — out of town with experienced pop producers. For the latter, they raised $5,000 through Kickstarter to work with Atlanta’s Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount, a duo that had previously handled projects by Outkast, Usher, and Jimmy Eat World, among others. The producers’ savvy is apparent on the EP. They pushed the group to unify their sound with consistent and kinetic synths, already a part of Death of Paris’ sound, but never to this extent.
“They were like, ‘On every one of our records that we put out, each band that we do, we make sure that they have a unique sound to them that is evident all over the record,'” remembers Blake Arambula. “After listening to all the demos that we sent them, they were like, ‘We need to go in the direction of the keyboards for you guys’ signature sound throughout the album.'”
The six songs on Gossip live up to its producers’ dictum. The sounds shift throughout, but the EP always feels tight and professional, held together by Arambula’s brash keyboard embellishments and Doyle’s brisk and billowing pipes.
“Give + Take” sprints through chugging distortion that’s smoothed out by fuzzy synths, like the Faint but with more catchy ambitions. “Shut Up & Kiss Me” is a straight-up pop banger. Taking a cue from Destiny’s Child and copping its insistent guitar chop from Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen,” the song allows Doyle to steal the show. She demands to be taken by a lover, sounding reckless and assured, defiantly feminine but not making a big deal about it. More than the synthesizers, her performances make Death of Paris work.
“I just try to write songs that center around strong emotions that everyone feels,” she says. “I try to write things in a way that’s universal. I’m not trying to really cash in on being a female. I don’t think of it like that. I’m female. It comes out feminine. I’m not aiming it that way.”
Similarly, Death of Paris isn’t aiming their music to attain success. The band members are business-minded, but only insofar as they insist on high-quality production and will play on pretty much any bill they feel is beneficial in the long run. They want the largest number of people as possible to hear their music, but that’s not why they play pop.
Back at the bar, Arambula recounts a line he recently read in a record review, one that compared pop songs to cheese pizza. You can cover up a mediocre pizza with a mountain of toppings, he explains, but with cheese, you’re putting it all on the line, daring the diner to appreciate you for exactly what you are. Arambula, Doyle, and Beardsley feel they’re doing something similar.
“I love pop music,” Doyle declares. “I’m not ashamed of it at all. I’m just fascinated by the whole phenomenon of what makes a good pop song a good pop song because no one can really pinpoint it.” Love Best of Charleston? Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
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