“I listen to all kinds of music, although I like the older bands more than most of the modern stuff I hear.” Jason Quever, the man who records as Papercuts, is describing the path he took from listening to records to creating his own sound. “When you’re young, you think a band plays a song live, then they go into the studio and record it. Then, I became obsessed with The Beatles and the sound of the snare drum on ‘Revolution.’ I realized there were stylistic choices being made. It’s an art form to produce those sounds. That idea captured my imagination. I began investigating the details of recording and production.”
The songs Quever created for his new album, Past Life Regression, were written, produced and recorded in his home studio in the East Bay during the Covid lockdown. The music is melancholy, but uplifting, mid-tempo excursions exploring life’s ambiguities with compassionate understanding. His vocals have the quality of a conversation with an old friend, while his melodies carry you away with the warmth of a sunny afternoon. The music provides a welcome distraction from the troubling times of the past few years.
“I had a lot of time alone, because of the pandemic. I started thinking about past relationships, and the past in general, in a new way. I was immersed in memory. I started accessing things I’ve pushed out of my mind. With everything at a standstill, I had time to assess my life in a way that I never had time to do before.”
Like the previous Papercuts albums, Past Life Regression has an inviting sound, with elements of folk, pop, country and more, drifting through the arrangements. It’s wistful, without fitting neatly into any genre.
Quever said his early life was filled with tragedy. “When I was 14, my mom had a brain hemorrhage and died. My dad wasn’t on the scene, so I went to live with my mom’s friends. My dad died a few years later. I spent a long time recovering from trauma, but I didn’t even know what the word meant when I was young. I started playing guitar and begged my mom for lessons. She took another job, on top of the two she already had, to pay for them, so I never took music for granted. I was writing songs, but didn’t know anybody in bands, so I played alone. A friend’s dad got me a four-track tape recorder, and I started learning bass and drums, so I could sound like a band. By the time I got to SF State, I understood music theory. They had tiny rooms on campus with pianos in them. I’d stay there practicing until I fell asleep. When I woke up, I’d start playing again.”
During this time, Quever bought more recording equipment and instruments, so the songs he was writing and recording would have the sound of a band. “I didn’t think of it as a serious thing. I was just experimenting. When I met [future Americana icon] Cass McCombs, I recorded some demos for him. They became his first album when 4AD put them out. When he did well, I realized I could produce other bands. My grandmother died and left me some money, and I invested it in recording equipment, and slowly Papercuts emerged.”
Quever became a full time musician, splitting his time between producing tracks for acts like Beach House, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Skygreen Leopards and Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500. “I didn’t have the kind of mind that thought about what I wanted to do next. I was recovering from my unstable childhood for a long time, trying to have a normal life. It’s hard to imagine what kind of insane person I might have become without music to focus on. Luckily, I became productive and continued to use music as a means to process all the trauma..”
Past Life Regression was released on April 1 by Slumberland Records in the U.S. and Lableman in Europe.