Paper Holland

An Evolved Paper Holland Takes to the Beach on ‘Galápagos’

The indie-pop band discovers its true self on its third release.

More than five years after debut record Happy Belated, indie-pop group Paper Holland seems to finally be finding its groove. Their new album, Galápagos, adds to the lush instrumentation and breezy moods that the band flirted with on 2016’s five-song EP Fast Food. Galápagos turns those dials up a notch and drops an umbrella in the cocktail glass, to boot. The album embodies a serene tropical getaway that yearns to escape the mundanity and rigors of daily life. The release party happens on Friday, June 1, at Anodyne Coffee (224 W. Bruce St.), with openers Mark Waldoch, Klassik and Jaill.

“This is the best example of Paper Holland — maybe what we had been striving for but didn’t have all the tools until now,” guitarist Andy Kosanke says.

Album art by Jason Kopp and Mike Krol

The band has bulked out to a six-piece, adding saxophonist Sean Hirthe (of Soul Low) and trumpet player Glenn McCormick. With those extra sections, Paper Holland fleshed out its sound through more experimentation in the studio.

Happy Belated and Fast Food were bare bones in post-production,” guitarist and singer Joe Tomcheck says. “There wasn’t a lot of layering or manipulating the sounds and adding texture. We recorded the tracks, mixed them and mastered them. And that was that. For this one, we spent a lot more time exploring each song and trying weird things.”

Recording at Silver City Studios

Galápagos was recorded at Silver City Studios with the help of the studio’s co-founder and fellow local musician Josh Evert. Kosanke and Tomcheck were fans of Evert’s past work in The Fatty Acids and jumped at the opportunity to enlist his assistance.

“I wanted to work with him because I know that The Fatty Acids had self-recorded Boléro and I really liked Boléro,” Tomcheck says. “That was somewhere in the neighborhood of where we wanted to be with this record. I was really impressed with what Josh had done with production for that.”

For all the new tricks the band tested out (and with Silver City’s affordable rates there were a lot), Galápagos still sets out to be a cohesive whole rather than an amalgamation of tracks.

“This record is indicative of what happens if we dedicate ourselves to making a true studio album,” Tomcheck says. But it’s not a concept album, he insists.

“I don’t think Galápagos is trying to tell you anything,” Tomcheck says. “You don’t really need to take anything away from it. It’s not forcing that. Hopefully it’s allowing you to escape somewhere and take from it what you will.”

Tomcheck is underplaying his lyrical prowess a bit. On album stand-out “Sea [Sic],” there does seem to be a message he’s getting across. The track’s sunny disposition belies the album’s most anxiety-riddled lyrics. (“Waves to pull you down/ To pull you in,” Tomcheck sings.) It’s a reminder that even the most enjoyable places can carry a nasty undercurrent.

“It’s about pulling someone in when you should be letting go,” Tomcheck says. “Or you’re holding someone closely because you can’t let them go. Whatever the relationship is, it isn’t good and you have a certain hold over someone. And maybe for a while you like that hold even though it’s not good for anybody. Those were lyrics we had for a long time. I don’t feel like that person anymore, but that concept was still something I wanted to explore.”

Plans for the summer

“I feel like I never know what to do when it gets warm here,” Tomcheck says. “Being outside is such a shock to the system after being holed up all winter.”

“I don’t like to go to the beach,” Kosanke admits.

“I’m not a beach guy, either,” Tomcheck interjects.

Yet somehow these two beach averse musicians just came out with the beach-iest local album of the year.

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Kevin is a freelance writer residing in Milwaukee. He’s contributed to The Shepherd Express, Third Coast Daily, Pop Matters and the sadly now-defunct A.V. Club Milwaukee. He looks forward to forging a deeper connection with the city’s impressive music scene during his gig as a Music Notes blogger. His talents include music criticism, riding a bicycle, drinking tasty beers and a crafty croquet swing. His weaknesses comprise Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, professional wrestling and his ever-growing record collection. He’s in desperate need to find more physical (and hard drive) space for the exceptional albums Milwaukee musicians keep churning out.