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From the Soundtrack to the Stage: Paper Thick Walls are ‘Here’

written by: on May 1, 2012

Paper Thick Walls have followed quite the unconventional career path. The path toward a sophomore album is usually a fairly direct one, but this is not the case for this Chicago-based quintet–after a period of promoting their debut album A Thousand Novels, Paper Thick Walls is set to grace the silver screen.

The music of Paper Thick Walls, which will be featured in the film, is a combination of haunting vocals, delicate piano and guitar, along with more unconventional instruments such as the fiddle, upright bass and mandolin. Vocalist Kate Schell cites singers like Tori Amos, Emily Hansen and Cat Power as influences, musicians who she describes as individuals with “smoky voices.”

It wasn’t long before the baroque instrumentation captured the attention of notable producer Mike Hagler (Neko Case, Wilco), who engineered Paper Thick Walls’ debut album A Thousand Novels. The resulting release was met with much acclaim, including no less than a sold-out album release show at Chicago venue Hideout.

In going behind the camera, Schell and guitarist Erich Michaels hope to further bridge the gap between cinema and music. “Some of my favorite artists I have found through movies like Garden State,” says Schell. “Amelie made me fall in love with the music of Yann Tiersen. I love music that comes from movies. I love the connection.”

The film, microbudget indie We Grew Up Here, places an unique spin on the usual boy-leaves-girl, boy-tries-to-win-girl-back story. What is different about this particular treatment is the presence of science fiction–Chicago musician Liam (played by Michaels), who has recently broken up with his girlfriend and musical partner (played by Schell) discovers that his hometown has disappeared. With this additional motif in hand, the filmmakers hope to explore the precariousness of memories and the importance of addressing them with honesty, says director Kevin Pickman and writer/producer Andrew Neel.

Filming for We Grew Up Here is slated to begin in mid-May, but simply because cameras are rolling doesn’t mean that Paper Thick Walls have set down their guitars for good. In addition to filming, the ever-busy Chicago act will spend time playing shows and mini-tours along the way in preparation for their upcoming sophomore album.

Regarding plans for a sophomore album, Schell seems confident. “We have all the songs written,” she says. “Recording is based on timing.” Contingent on funding, PTW plan on recording a follow-up to A Thousand Novels in July.

The members of Paper Thick Walls may be enchanting listeners with ambient compositions, but they are much more than a band. They are veterans of the arts, exploring various facets of artistic expression. It may not be the cut-and-dry story of a band on its rise to stardom, but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting, and without a doubt more harrowing.

Paper Thick Walls’ new film project We Grew Up Here has a Kickstarter page–hop on over and help ‘em out!