Paul Banwatt, of Woodhands and The Rural Alberta Advantage, talks about his time at the local indie label.
Not many indie music labels last for more than a few years, and fewer still hit the double digits. So Paper Bag Records (PBR) is fully justified in making a big to-do over its tenth anniversary this year. It’s celebrating with three packed nights of sets from nearly every band on its roster.
The now-legendary label’s first major claim to fame was releasing Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot it in People, before BSS moved to create their own Arts & Crafts label. Since then, they’ve signed high profile Toronto acts like Tokyo Police Club, Austra, and recent Polaris Prize shortlisters Yamantaka // Sonic Titan.
We spoke with musician Paul Banwatt before he played last night’s opening show with Woodhands (and tonight’s second show with his other band, The Rural Alberta Advantage). Our interview is below.
Torontoist: So the Rural Alberta Advantage took a slightly different path to signing with Paper Bag Records, right?
Paul Banwatt: Yeah, we’re with Saddle Creek Records in the U.S., and Paper Bag here in Canada. We actually broke first in the States through eMusic, and signed with Saddle Creek before we had a Canadian record deal.
I knew Trevor [Larocque, PBR's co-founder and current CEO] from Woodhands, and knew it was an awesome label, one we wanted to be with. They’re totally committed to putting out good music.
That’s right, Woodhands has been with Paper Bag for a while.
PB: Trevor came to see us at Pop Montreal in 2007, reached out to Dan [Werb, of Woodhands] and I after a show, and we were with them pretty quick after that. Trevor doesn’t just sign good bands; he signs good people. We’ve made a lot of amazing friends on the label, and it’s been exciting to see them do well. PS I Love You, for instance: Dan and I have known those guys for years. And the guys in You Say Party! and The Acorn—they’re just great people to hang out with.
So there’s a strong sense of community among the different acts on PBR’s roster?
PB: Absolutely. Trevor goes out of his way to make connections between the artists, and get them on projects together, like the David Bowie covers album [Paper Bag Records released the album as a free download recently]. Those are becoming like an annual tradition. It feels like you’re part of something bigger than just you and your own band.
So will there be much collaboration between acts over the course of the three-night concert series?
PB: A number of bands are talking about doing that, but we haven’t had a chance—not my bands. [Laughs.] For Woodhands, this is only our second show of the year, so we’re playing a ton of new material, and we were focused on getting that ready. Same thing with the RAA. We’re deep into writing our next album right now, and that’s what we’re really focused on and excited about at this point.
And this new album will be on Paper Bag?
PB: We haven’t signed anything yet. But I’ll say this: I’d be really happy if it came out on PRB.