Room to improv

Paper Thin Stages' damaged charm
By SUSANNA BOLLE  |  April 30, 2008


The members of PAPER THIN STAGES — Ed Hadley, Nate McDermott, and John Perotti — have been playing music together since grade school. Given such a long history, the trio could be forgiven if they allowed a little stylistic moss to grow under their feet, but familiarity has only made them more adventurous. Their last album, Flying Hearse (Sort Of), was a double CD of sprawling, noisy improvisations, oceans removed from their early forays into finely calibrated, if acutely skewed, post-rock. Their next one, due later this year, promises to find them paring and cooking things down, with shorter songs and a more distilled sound.

For their live sets, they use an ever-changing array of homemade instruments, cracked electronics, and half-broken equipment. They’ve even been inviting guest musicians (percussionists, horn players, a bassoonist) to agitate the mix. With every show, they rejigger the formula. “We set up these new situations,” half-explains multi-instrumentalist John Perotti, “and then within them we do what we do. In this way, we’re setting up every show to be different, and we come up with something that sounds very different, but, hopefully, in the same good way.”

A typical set consists of a single, long-unfolding improvisation — which Perotti admits is challenging in the distracting buzz of a bar. Patience, however, trumps all. “You have to walk into it a little differently, let the sounds wash over you. It’s a like a Magic Eye poster: you’ve got to unfocus your ears a little bit and relax yourself to a point where the music hits you in a different way than it would if you were just paging through radio stations, searching for something catchy.”

PAPER THIN STAGES + THUNDERHOLE + MANE | Milky Way Lounge & Lanes, 405 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain | May 4 | Free | 617.524.3740

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