You couldn’t have been alive in Fayetteville in the early 2000s without bearing witness to The Paper Hearts. From 2001 to 2004, The Paper Hearts were the gateway band into the thriving worlds of Clunk Records and the old JRS Lightbulb Club, and the Arkansas band most likely to be known by underground circles outside of Arkansas.
The band’s pop/punk approach to alt./country was a seismic shift from the hardcore and bar rock dominated landscape of local music, and a leap forward for Arkansas’ underground music scene. After releasing an EP on Clunk Records, the band released the 12 song LP Plans for the Past on HeartShape Records. After Plans for the Past, Gill moved to Memphis, Tenn. to join Lucero, and Weidner moved to Kansas City, Mo., and started The New Tragedies.
After a short hiatus, the band regrouped in 2004 to play more shows and release the Hard To Smile EP, their final recordings. One of the only Fayetteville bands with Youtube tribute videos and a Wikipedia page, The Paper Hearts — like their songs — are easy to remember. Catch The Paper Hearts playing a 10-year reunion show on Saturday, Feb. 2 at Rogue, with Kentucky Waterfalls opening. I asked Todd Gill (Vocals, Guitar) some questions about the band and the upcoming reunion…
How did The Paper Hearts reunion happen?
Several of us have talked about getting together for a show over Christmas break one year. That’s a time when we’d have the best chance of getting everyone together in the same town since Andrew lives in Seattle and Aaron lives in Kansas CIty, but both still have family here in Fayetteville. It was nothing but talk until Andrew called us up recently and suggested we play this year since it’s the 10-year anniversary of the release of our first and only full-length album. As it turns out, February worked out better for Andrew’s touring schedule and coincidentally, that’s the same month we released the album and played our final show in 2003.
What have you guys been doing since the break up?
We’ve all been playing music in some way since the band broke up. Aaron started a band in Kansas City called The New Tragedies; Bryan, Dustin and I played in The Good Fear; Michelle played and released some solo material; and Andrew has played in countless bands. As for jobs, Andrew is the only one playing music for a living. He currently tours nationally with Rosie Thomas and Shannon Stephens. Aaron is in advertising doing work for Gatorade. Dustin and I started the Fayetteville Flyer. Michelle is a design coordinator at the Walton Arts Center and Bryan works in information system security at Tyson.
Is it difficult to play the songs again? (They seem to be personal and time/place specific.)
I can only speak for myself, but singing old songs has never been too difficult for me. I think everyone that hears a love song relates to it in a different way, and over time, the same thing happens for me with my own words. I sometimes listen to older material and wish I’d written something a little less cheesy, but then I remember that when I wrote it, I didn’t think it was cheesy at all so I just let it go. Re-learning decade-old chord progressions and guitar lines is a little tricky at first, but I’ve been surprised at how quickly my fingers learn to move to the right spots.
What do you miss the most about playing in The Paper Hearts?
I miss driving to shows in our old red van the most, I think. It had Christmas lights and tassel fringe stapled to the ceiling and a megaphone under the hood that we used to yell into or hold up to our radio speakers to play music for people as we drove around in different cities.
Is this a one-time only reunion?
We’re still stretched across the country so yes, it’s just a one-time reunion show. Maybe if we do ever end up all in the same town over Christmas break one year we could do it again.
Any plans for new Paper Hearts recordings/songs?
No plans for new Paper Hearts songs or recordings. Just this show.
What can we expect at the show?
The show will include the original lineup plus Dustin Bartholomew on piano. He played with us a few times and recorded on the full-length album so it’s only natural that he’d be up there with us. We’re planning on playing everything from “Plans for the Past” and as many other songs as possible. We’re practicing individually at home, but we’ll only be able to practice for a couple of days as a full band before the show. Wish us luck!