Sometimes interviewing people who are looking to be interviewed is boring. Who cares about when your album drops, a woman might be president! And her opponent is a Satan reboot with skin discoloration! It seems like everything is exploding with new twists and turns and we want to know what you have to say about it. With Person of Interest we look for individualized takes on what’s happening in the world.
This week we talk to Danny Presant and Darren Weiss of the Los Angeles band PAPA. We know this column isn’t about hyping new albums, but their new one, Kick the City, is out on Friday through Hit City.
So this column is about asking young people about their opinions on topical issues.
Danny Presant: Well, I just heard the most insane thing. I just read while I was eating at Nate’N Als alone that Lil Wayne said that in his entire life he has never experienced racism.
Presant: Remember when Baby gave Lil Wayne a million dollars in a Louis Vuitton carry-on?
Weiss: Now there’s bad blood.
Presant: This is topical, right?
Yes! It is.
Presant: That happened with Drake too. Views, that’s the first time he owned his publishing.
Does that encourage you guys as artists?
Weiss: We’ve always owned our own publishing.
Presant: Which might be a mistake.
The record company doesn’t own the publishing right, just mechanicals?
Presant: Depends on the deal.
Weiss: We’ve always recorded our own albums and shopped them to labels, rather than have labels pay for them.
Presant: When you get paid—say for a commercial—it’s 50/50 publishing, and then 50/50 mechanical. So if they give you $200k, $100k goes to mechanical, and $100k goes to publishing.
Weiss: With our last record label, they wanted some of the publishing and a lot of artists are signing to major labels with these 360 deals where the record company collects on tour, merch, publishing—everything. But we’ve never been in a deal where anyone has owned our masters. We’ve always owned them and decided where our music will go and be played.
Presant: Because if they own it, they can choose where our music goes.
Right, like for a Trump campaign theme song or something.
Presant: I think that was an issue for Lil Wayne too. No control of your music can be scary.
Weiss: The latest stuff going on with record labels and their artists is social media advertising. So let’s say an artist has over 100,000 followers on Instagram. Then they get paid $25,000 to post that they love this new…
Weiss: Then the label gets 50% of the $25,000 without having to do anything.
Presant: Because the label owns you.
Weiss: The record label doesn’t have to spend money on publicity anymore.
They don’t have to do the work.
Weiss: Exactly. They don’t have to do the work and they get to collect on it. That’s why everyone is so excited about this new revenue stream because they don’t have to do shit, they just have to sign people that already have a lot of followers.
Presant: I really think the future is in brands. Like brands are going to be the new labels. You’re going to sign to Coca-Cola, they’ll own your music, put you in all their ads.
Weiss: Red Bull does that already, but they treat their artists well. And because they have income from, like, truck drivers staying up through the night, there’s more than enough to go around.
Presant: Like K-Mart will own the country music world, or something like that.
Weiss: We’ve been around a long, long time and toured and sold records and done really well for ourselves, independently. But one of our strong suits is not social media. We’re on it, and we do fine, but we’re not growing.
Presant: We’re not Lil Uzi.
Weiss: I don’t know what that is.
Weiss: Okay, but these brands are interested in marketing. A brand would sign an artist because the crossover for fans and clients would make sense. When we were shopping our record around, even cool indie labels we talked to were like, “We love your new record, it’s really cool, you’ve already done a great job at your grassroots touring experience and have a solid fan base, but we don’t like your socials.”
They want to know how you can be like OK Go and make viral YouTube videos?
Weiss: They’re not interested in how you could do it, because money is so thin, they’re only putting money into artists who already have a following.
So you have to be famous before you get signed.
Weiss: Or the complete opposite, where you have nothing, so they can mold you into their perfect artist.
Presant: No one wants the old dog.
Weiss: They want the blank canvas. Like Lana Del Rey, who had a handful of goes at this, and finally a new team was brought in and were like, “Okay, you’re talented, you can do this, but we can brand you differently and see which image sticks.” But that doesn’t work with us.
Presant: It’s unfortunate for us because we know this other band from Los Angeles who had like over 10 thousand followers on Instagram, so people naturally thought they were a bigger band than us, since we only have half the amount of followers, but they couldn’t sell out the Roxy, which we had done. But we have half the followers. So what do you do?
Weiss: What do we do? Well, now we’re just functioning as a truly independent band. Our record is coming out on our friend’s label, but on our dime. We signed a publishing deal and took all of that money and put it into making this record. We haven’t touched a penny of that for ourselves. And we’re paying for all the manufacturing, distribution, promotion, radio campaigns—all of it. After having been on a major label, and having it be such a disaster, where money was just being thrown around, but none of it makes any sense, and none of it was curated or thoughtful…
Presant: I remember the craziest thing was when they told us, “We got you a billboard.” It’s like, “Uh, cool.” I’ve never driven around and been like, “Oh cool, who’s that?” Music doesn’t translate through billboards.
Right, and no one is looking up in their car anyway, just at their phone.
Weiss: It was just jerk off marketing.
Presant: Honestly, we should have made a budget where we paid people $100 to go listen to our music.
Weiss: It’s a perfect example of what is going on in the industry today, where they do well with big name acts, but they don’t know how to take a small band and give them a bigger audience.
When did you guys meet?
Weiss: The band began in a different form in 2008.
Because you were in bands together before, right?
Presant: We met when we were seven. We went to middle school together.
Weiss: We started playing music together and then by college we sort of split off. I started touring when I was 17 in a band with my brother called Wires on Fire. We toured with Simon Dawes, which is now Dawes. I went to college to study literature because I didn’t have anyone to talk about books with. Then we started PAPA there in New York.
But you guys were in a couple bands before PAPA.
Presant: The Borshwazy and the Broken.
Weiss: Oh, that’s where you’re trying to go with this.
Yup, I just wanted you to tell me about the Borshwazy.
Weiss: That was a name that Clara [Balzary] thought of, and I had such a crush on her that whatever she said I would have named it my band. She said “bourgeoisie” and I had no idea what that word was, so I went home and wrote it down “b-o-r-s-h-w-a-z-y.”
Presant: I went to school for film scoring, but then I almost killed myself in Roxbury, Boston. Have you heard the song “Rednecks” by Randy Newman? The song where he mentions all of the ghettos? The first one he mentions is Roxbury, where I was living and where I’m still registered to vote.
So what do you do, absentee ballot?
Presant: Absentee all day.
Are you guys upset you’re not in the 27 club?
Presant: Musicians who died at 27?
Presant: Also, when I found out that Tupac wasn’t in it, I was like fuck that.
Weiss: It’s too easy to join, they’ll accept anyone.
What do you guys think about exclusive album streaming deals?
Weiss: I don’t have Tidal so when The Life Of Pablo came out, I didn’t hear it. And I kind of felt like, “No, fuck you Tidal.” I love Kanye, I have all of his records, but when this one came out, I didn’t get it. I didn’t want to download Tidal because I was like, as much as I love Beyoncé and Jay, this feels like I’m being duped.
You felt like it was a marketing ploy on their end.
Weiss: Yeah, I just felt taken advantage of as a consumer.
Shouldn’t Kanye or other artists feel taken advantage of then?
Weiss: No, I don’t think he cares.
Presant: He also owns a piece of Tidal.
Weiss: Taking an exclusive deal for a band like us who rely so heavily on our relationship with our fans wouldn’t make sense, which is also the motivation to keep working the way we do because that makes the connection with our fans work. There’s no fucking middleman of a brand between us. We exist on the same level as our fans. I mean, it sucks being poor, but I don’t think I would feel good about it.
Presant: It’s also an impossible question to ask from our point of view. The only artists who do those type of deals have everyone in the world begging to hear their new music.
Weiss: I don’t know how long the exclusive album streaming deals will last. I’m glad people are trying to figure out how to monetize streaming so they can make it fair for the artists. In that way, I recognize trying to make it worthwhile, but they’re just trying to make it worthwhile for one artist. It’s a very one-on-one industry, not really a communal vibe. Even though Tidal has that commercial with Jack White sitting next to Rihanna, it’s just a bunch of millionaires hanging out.
There’s teenager in Florida named Malachi Love-Robinson who keeps getting arrested for fraud. First it was after he was accused of pretending to be a doctor and seeing patients, now he got caught trying to use an elderly relative’s signature to buy a Jaguar in Virginia. Of the two of you, who’s more likely to try something like that?
Presant: Me. Darren has morals.
Have you ever been scammed? What about catfished?
Weiss: I wasn’t catfished, but my good friend, Michael Shuman, who is the bass player for Queens of the Stone Age, kind of was. Those fans are so crazy, it’s like religion to them. Someone somehow got ahold of a close friend of our’s email address and changed the last two digits of the email address so it was hard to tell that her address had been changed. Anyway, they asked for all this personal information about Michael and I almost gave her everything.
Presant: Someone once signed me up on Match.com and requested for only black women to reach out to me.
Hillary Clinton’s issue with chronic dehydration supposedly is caused by the fact that she hates drinking water. Do you buy that excuse?
Weiss: Something is terribly wrong.
Presant: She’s an old, out of shape white woman. And she’s been ripping around!
Weiss: I think that schedule is rough on anyone.
Presant: Not conducive to a 70-year-old woman.
But you’re going to vote for her, right?
Both: Of course!
Presant: I just don’t want her to get hurt because I just don’t know about Tim Kaine. He looks like a guy who sits when he pees.
This is a two-part question: Trump refuses to to release a full medical examination and his tax returns. 1. Would you be willing to submit your medical history to the public? 2. Do you even know how to file your taxes?
Weiss: Yes, I know how to do my taxes. I’d release my medical history, but I did have one penial issue in my more active sexual youth.
Presant: My penis problem was scraped off the record. Every boy had it living in New York at one point, all the friends.
From one girl?
Weiss: No, mine is still a mystery because I was in an exclusive relationship, so…
Presant: None of these are serious diseases.
One of your friends gave me HPV. The Rams are back in Los Angeles after leaving the city in 1994. What’s about Los Angeles in 1994 that’s now gone do you wish still existed?
Presant: All of the apartment buildings that were lost in the earthquake and the Lakers. What about you, Darren? Something about the Chili Peppers?
Weiss: I was going to say something about John Frusciante, but that was a very dark time for him.
Favorite Alexis Arquette role, Pulp Fiction or The Wedding Singer?
Weiss: The Wedding Singer.
Presant: Pulp Fiction.