After spending two EPs exploring the transcendent expanses of the universe (2014’s Magic) and the humbling marvelousness of the earth (2016’s Escape), Brooklyn-based dreamy synth duo Paperwhite has set forth to explore the most complicated of terrains: the human condition.
The first foray of sister-brother team Katie and Ben Marshall is new single “Human Nature,” which Katie says taps into the complicated human experience. We’re flawed creatures — to be sure — but we’re also strong and we’re not alone. We endure a lot and we will make it through the challenges we face.
Recently, Vehlinggo did a quick Q&A with the Marshalls. They talked a bit more about the concepts they explore in their new music, in addition to discussing the highlights of sharing their work with the world. They even touch on the nature of being independent artists. All of this in a short Q&A.
(Note: The questions and answers have only been edited for clarity or to comply with house style.)
Vehlinggo: Each of your EPs has had a distinct theme — from the sounds and lyrics to the art used on the EP and the singles. Where are you headed with this one, and where are you at with production?
Katie: We are doing all the final tweaking and mixing for our third EP now. We actually haven’t decided on a name for it yet, but we’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming. We want the title to feel cohesive with the message we’re trying portray.
In many ways “Human Nature” does embody the theme of the EP. We really wanted to talk about the human condition and show more of a range of emotion. We still have some dreamy upbeat songs, but we wanted to keep pushing ourselves sonically.
Katie: We’ve always wanted to push the music forward. We feel that there’s something really powerful in trying to write a solid song verse [in a] song with trendy production.
Our music has definitely fallen into trends in the past and while it has been beneficial to finding our audience, we also want to make sure that we don’t end up getting stuck. We want our music to be progressive and the only way to do that is to keep trying new things.
Ben: Yeah, for me, it’s just about making something that inspires me to keep working. For better of for worse, I feel like that’s the only way I can decide if something’s good or not — whether I naturally vibe with it. So I guess “Human Nature” aesthetically is just the progression of that gut feeling.
You two have been releasing great work as Paperwhite for three years — a namesake inspired by the flower. What have you learned about yourselves and each other during this time? What have been some of your most memorable moments so far?
Katie: First of all thank you!! You’ve been supporting us this entire time, which has been amazing. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is to stay genuine. As an independent artist, we’re doing so much all the time to keep the momentum going. Staying true to ourselves and writing music that feels authentic drives us and then when we do get a positive response, it feels that much better.
One of the best moments of Paperwhite so far was when we played our first headlining show in D.C. The energy in the room was magical. They knew the words and they started jumping during the first song. I knew immediately that it was a moment I’d hold onto for a long time.
You’ve taken Paperwhite from the studio to stage with seemingly relative ease. With the help of a few friends (from Brooklyn-based Savoir Adore, for which Ben is the drummer), you put on a stunning live show. It’s a blast to experience and the songs sound great. This isn’t always easy for synthy acts, and sometimes it doesn’t work out so well. What’s your secret?
Katie: Thank you! We are constantly striving to put on a better show. For us, it’s a balancing act between having a show that is interactive and fun, but also holding onto our musicality.
Both Ben and I studied music in school and our musicianship is very important to us, but at the same time we’re writing somewhat electronic music and we want to represent it accurately live. It’s always a back and forth.
I think our secret — if anything — is just that we’re always experimenting and trying to learn from our audiences. The live show is for them! So we want to make sure they’re having the best time possible.
What’s the future look like for Paperwhite? There’s the EP, of course. What else? More touring? An LP? A super group with Savoir Adore? (Paperwhite-Savoir Adore collab “Too Late” is awesome.)
Katie: Haha! We’re currently planning a tour this summer across the country. We’ve been wanting to do it for a while and so in celebration of our third EP, we’re going for it.
Ben: Yeh, we’ll be finishing up the new music and we’re re-working our live setup a bit, so you’ll have to stay tuned to see what that looks like!
(Feature Photo by Lauren Kallen for Paperwhite.)