Paper Tiger

by JEFF ECHERT & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & P & lt;/span & aper Mache's manifesto runs like so: "In a culture of predictability and contrived emotion, honesty is the currency by which art is valued."The Spokane band, led by charismatic frontman Seth Woodward, embarked on a 25-state tour on Feb. 16 in support of its recently released record, Easier to Lose. I spoke with Woodward, asking him about his process as a songwriter and his hopes for the tour.

Easier to Lose is a record that stems from personal loss -- in particular, the loss of one of Woodward's friends to drugs."This record is entirely autobiographical," Woodward noted, speaking about the emptiness he felt. "You get angry at God, but even in doing so, you're acknowledging that there is a God. We're not a Christian band, but we do want to incorporate a moral aspect to our work."

Woodward spoke of the album's title, saying, "It's easier to give up and lose, but the difficult thing to do is to keep going, keep living."

The album, which describes people, places and events as disparate as bereaved barkeeps in Montana and young children playing house (excellently juxtaposed against a backdrop of war, aging, and adultery) reflects Woodward's talent as a writer. "The best compliment I received was when a fan told me that my lyrics were deep but they didn't go over anybody's head," Woodward said. "One of the greatest ways, I think, to show maturity is to show innocence," exhibiting a sense of sardonic humor that cuts straight to the quick.

Counting Bob Dylan and Bright Eyes amongst his influences, as well as non-musical writers like John Steinbeck and C.S. Lewis, Woodward has a lyrical style that's a mix of abstract themes and concrete, specific imagery. It's hard to avoid the pathos present in his songs, which wed autobiography and philosophy together effortlessly. Buoyed by the quiet, confessional style & agrave; la Elliott Smith or Brand New, it works extremely well.

Paper Mache's tour will take its members to the usual large, urban locales such as Seattle and Portland, but they will also hit up smaller venues like Riversdale Grange in Roseburg, Ore. Woodward spoke enthusiastically of the "in-between" stops, saying, "The kids out there aren't as spoiled -- we get better turnouts and the response is better. We get generous, non-jaded fans at these places." With touring acts being rarer in the smaller areas, Woodward describes the atmosphere as more cosmopolitan, with all sorts of genre representatives present.

Woodward remarked on his own amazement at the response to Paper Mache. "We're not a very big band yet, but it's crazy how good [our] fans [are]," he says. "The dedication keeps us going. We thank them for everything they've done."

It's refreshing to see the honesty in Paper Mache, and the commitment they have to bring their music to as many fans in as many locations as possible. With so much of the industry focused on financial and technological elements, Paper Mache's putting a little bit of heart -- on sleeve -- back in the game.

Stream five tracks from Easier to Lose at