The promise of fast food is simple. Step up to the counter, order off the board behind the register and mere seconds later empty calories, grayish meat products and an astronomical sodium intake are thrust towards you on a plastic platter, a magical rectangle that can deliver nourishment and good feelings almost instantaneously to your bloodstream. There’s no time to ponder what havoc this unhealthy cuisine will wreak on your bodily system or the effect on your post-feast mental state. You order, it’s there and then you eat.
Paper Holland doesn’t operate anywhere near that mindless efficiency. In 2013, the band released the 10-song debut, Happy Belated, a fun, spirited pop-rock album which took a painstakingly four years to complete. While unbounded by financial restraints since a friend offered free studio time, the project dragged as the possibilities seemed limitless and the most minor details ended up being fussed over. It was like being burdened with the responsibility of finding the best way to present a dish of Twinkies at a fancy restaurant.
The two co-founding members Joe Tomcheck and Andy Kosanke sounded exhausted and relieved when the album finally saw the light of day and seemed more than ready to tackle the next effort when I last talked with them. But then surprisingly there were three years of no new releases, not even a hint at another effort. That radio silence finally concluded last month with the breezy bedroom pop single “Jazzy Jeff,” which was released in advance of the five-song EP Fast Food.
“We just take a long time to do everything,” Tomcheck explains. “We’re really picky. We were building towards a full-length for a long time. What ended up being Fast Food were these five songs that had to be their own group. I’m not sure why it took us so long to realize that.”
The band initially set out to learn from its previous mistakes. Happy Belated was recorded on the fly; drums and bass were an afterthought, recorded after much of the song had been laid down. This time things would go much more smoothly if those tracks were cut first, or so they believed.
“We thought it would be a quick process,” Tomcheck remembers. “We started off doing drums at Howl Street Recordings. Then we wanted to self-record the rest. We thought that would be easy. It turns out self-recording, while it saves you money, does not save you time.”
Still novices to the intricacies of home recording, the most frustrating part was trying to mimic the sonic sheen from the professional recordings.
“We wanted to match the sound quality from what we had gotten from Howl,” Kosanke says. “It was like drinking half a beer and then making your own beer and trying to make it match, which does not work.”
But while songs that have been furiously tinkered with in the studio can sound overstuffed or worse, antiseptic, the biggest strength of Fast Food is in its casualness. The band was even able to work in new instrumentation—keyboards, trumpet, saxophone—seamlessly. It’s a bright and bouncy record that begs for some summer sunshine.
“I think we’re inspired by wanting it to be warm outside,” Kosanke says. “Something you’d want to listen to during summer when you’re driving around.”
Fast Food is currently streaming over at Milwaukee Record. Paper Holland plays a release party at Company Brewing, 735 E. Center St., on Saturday, April 30. Antler House joins the festivities to celebrate the release of their sophomore full-length, Across The Waves. Ugly Brothers rounds out the bill. The show starts at 10 p.m. and cover is $5.