Paper Thick Walls

Paper Thick Walls presents an elegant mix of deep, reflective, and at times haunting music which captures elements of sound similar to acts like Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens. Their songs quickly caught the attention of sound engineer Mike Hagler (Neko Case, Wilco) who engineered Paper Thick Walls’ first record entitled “A Thousand Novels,” which was released on May 3, 2011. This past year, Paper Thick Walls was asked to play at several taste maker music festivals including North by Northeast, South by Southwest, and CMJ Music Marathon.

The harmonies of Kate Schell and Eric Michaels, the lead members and writers of Paper Thick Walls, float beautifully over the indie-folk-pop backing of intricately written string, horn, and percussion parts of a 5 piece band. This almost orchestral arrangement has a fascinating way of complimenting the profound fictional story lines that Paper Thick Walls portray through their lyrics.

If you're in the area, be sure to check out the record release show for "A Thousand Novels," Friday, May 6 @ The Hideout in Chicago.

How do you describe your music to people, Eric?
Folk Rock. On the album, we have attempted to put together a vast landscape of stories and music that create a soundtrack for your life, like riding the bus, or going to the grocery store.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
My father is a musician. He used to play great music in the house all the time, from classic rock to jazz. Originally, I wanted to be a saxophonist like the great Charlie Parker, who boasted no training but had an amazing talent for really hearing music. From there I got into jazz performance but realized that I was getting frustrated with only being able to create solos. I wanted to change the chord progressions. When I was around fourteen, I taught myself guitar on my dad's Alvarez acoustic, which I still play today. It was only a short while until I started creating my own songs, even if I was playing the chords completely backwards or wrong at the beginning.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Travel. I have been to thirteen or fourteen countries and hope our music brings us to many more.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
It used to be organization. I have all the drive in the world but I suck at organizing. Now I have our manager, Ryan Sweeney, to handle most of that stuff. The other members of the band have stepped up as well to handle other elements like merchandise and inventory.

So now I can finally say the only challenging thing is the songwriting.  It challenges me as it forces me to grow.  I have to pinch myself that I get to write songs with such an amazing group of musicians, especially Kate.  She comes from a completely different musical background than me, so our styles clash beautifully.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I wanted to work for the CIA, actually. I did a report on it, how I wanted to trek the world under an assumed name and have German babe accomplices. I'd say I'm on the right track.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I have an amazing circle of friends that are all pursuing the creation of art as filmmakers, visual artists, musicians, actors, directors, etc. They often invite us to collaborate on projects. When we have these opportunities to maybe score a play, or even participate in a film, it expands our creativity both in other art forms and our own craft.

What other artists out there do you love?
Going local [Chicago], I'd have to say I enjoy Derek Nelson and the Musicians, John Drake and the Shakes, the Photographers, the Bitter Wigs, the Damn Choir and a fantastic group from New York called Pearl and the Beard. In North Carolina you've got the Holy Tent Revival, and I also really enjoy this band we got to hang out with at NXNE called The Gin Riots.

What does your future hold?
Hopefully more international espionage and music, lots of that.