Sinking into their genre-bending style, Paper Dragon read the minds of ravers worldwide – dropping their explosive EP “Circuits” just in time for the weekend. Since raising flames on the Bristol dance scene, the band flex their collective ability to curate a chest-thumping sound that makes for a practically euphoric experience on any dance floor. Transforming from the drum and bass roots of their first EP, the band pay tribute to their mutual love of the electronic as they cultivate a move into the soundscape of dance and house. The sultry vocals of front woman Ruth Royall, along with rising piano accents and ethereal harmonies mashed with arm-raising beats, the second EP takes the band to new heights. Promising their fans to take their music to live arenas, the addition of six new bangers is just the start for the constantly evolving artists.
Talking to us about how the influences of being a woman in male-dominated industries inspired track “Collateral”, and a majority vote that “Chimera” marks the very moment of club-worthy anthems, Paper Dragon elaborate on their fresh EP, and the sonic similarities they hope will come to define their sound.
Hey guys, how are you? How has this past year been for you guys?
It has been a challenging but ultimately good year. We actually had a really great start, with our collaborations with Axel Boy and Grafix, which layed down some solid foundations for the release of our upcoming Circuits EP. Coming out of the lockdowns and being able to get back out to shows and meeting people has been amazing. Things move so much quicker when you can network and speak to people in person, it is amazing how many things happen from conversations backstage at events. That was something we really missed during 2020.
With everything that happened last year, how was your creativity affected?
Creating and working remotely as a band was something we were able to adapt to, but it did make the creative process a little bit longer. There was more push and pull on tracks because we were not in the same room, which would have usually allowed us to make group decisions. As we were riding the excitement from the success of our first EP which helped us breakthrough in 2020, we were all really feeling creative and full of ideas. We also had a clear idea about what we wanted to do with the second EP. As we moved in late 2020, we managed to have a writing weekend all together, where we made the bones of the EP, then as we went back into lockdown we all spent time in our home studio, working via Zoom. We were really pleased at how we still managed to vibe out via video calls, but it was defiantly not as fun as getting together in the studio.
How did you guys all meet, and what sparked the interest?
Bruce and Jon met ages ago and had been making music as an act called Playhead since 2010. Kris who was working as an engineer at Abby Road then meet Bruce whilst teaching at dBs Sound & Music Institute. Jon met Ruth whilst they were working as the production/tour manager and vocalist respectively for the Fred V & Grafix Live tour in 2018. During the tour Ruth approached Jon about creating some music and we all then decided to get into the studio mid 2018.
We all have a love of electronic music across the board, and we all held this idea that we didn’t want the music to be restricted by a genre. When we did start writing music it all came together. We all have different skills sets that compliment each other. Ruth and Jon had song ideas and Kris and Bruce are super engineers/producers. It gelled really nicely and producing was really fun. We all cross over roles within the band, creating a self-sufficient eco system. Jon Looks after the management and distribution of the music through the label we created called Our Space. It felt like we had all the pieces to create something cool, so we just went for it.
You all have different inspirations; how do you go about combining them to create your sound?
We apply the ‘throw as much mud at the wall and see what sticks’ principle. Ruth usually comes up with a song idea, Jon then creates a demo of sorts from that idea, and then Bruce and Kris take those ideas and build the frame work for a fully formed track. So naturally everyone’s influences seep into the finished product. But like we said, we all sometimes do a bit of everything. For example, when Chimera Bruce came with a banging instrumental idea, we initially thought it would be an instrumental track, but then Jon added the “Pull it, shift it, move it ,break it” vocal idea. Ruth then wrote the rest of the top line on a zoom call with everyone before Kris arranged it, created the structure and made it sound amazing. Part of the fun is not knowing quite how something is going to turn out, but we find we land on something that has broad appeal because it has a little bit of all of us in it.
And now you about to drop your new EP, talk us through your mindset approaching the project?
We knew the second EP was going to be a different genre from Birds of Paradise which was DnB focused. Our ethos has always been to cross genres, we love electronic music and want to create in lots of different styles. We have a loose plan to create four EP’s all featuring different genres so moving from DnB to house and rave inspired breaks in this EP was really fun. We have tried to keep the production ascetics really high and apply the same process from the first EP so they have sonic similarities. One difference we had to cope with was not having as much access to using musicians to record with for this EP, due to lock downs we could not get into studio spaces with real people so easily, but we still managed to get a few big sessions in and were also able to record instruments separately at home.
What song means the most to you guys collectively?
That is so hard, as we all have different tracks that mean a lot. We can say “Be Free” from the first EP was a great moment for us all, as that was the first track to be picked up and heavily support by the editors at Spotify. But we are all in agreement that “Chimera” from the Circuits EP is a massive banger!!
What do you want people to take away from your music?
Lyrically the songs all hold a message, so listen carefully then apply your own meanings – feel free to reach out to us on the socials if you want to know our individual meaning for each track.
Bird of Paradise was about love and relationships, each song is about a different phase of falling in and out of love. Circuits is about the journey of strong female presence in a male dominated world.
We love it when fans get in touch and tell us about how a song connected with them, helped through a bad moment or helped them celebrate something great. Recently a fan got in touch to say they had used the track “Loving You” for their first dance, it was so cool and we offered them the track to use on their wedding video. We are really touched that our music is creating moments for people!
What’s next for you? What are you most excited for?
We are writing new music, some of which has a garage/two step vibe! We have expanded the collective, and have bought in Torsten to play keys and Rhii as our percussionist for the live shows. We love the idea of Paper Dragon being a collective where there is a core but then people can move in and out of it, being from Bristol Massive Attack are huge inspiration and where we got that idea from. As well as Torsten and Rhii we are working with some other vocalists and songwriters…. more on this to be announced soon and we potentially have some pretty cool collaborations with some well know producers on the horizon.
If you want to come and see the live show we are next playing on 4th Dec at a really cool old mansion in Bristol called Ashton Court. You can get tickets here.
You can also listen to our radio show Paper Beats on SWU.fm it is on 5pm-7pm on the first and third Fridays of the month, Ruth and Jon bring you beats, bass and banter to get the weekend started!