It was back in January that I named Paper Birch, the London/Glasgow based duo of Fergus Lawrie and Dee Sada, as one of my 21 for 2021. The band formed back in 2020, working under the enforced isolation that the year forced on us all. Impressively, the pair have even managed to make an album together, despite the fact they’ve never met. That album, morninghairwater, is set for release at the end of next month, via Derbyshire DIY label Reckless Yes, and Paper Birch recently shared the latest single from it, Cemetery Moon.
Cemetery Moon was inspired by Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in London, a reflection Dee explains on, “the poignant changing nature of a physical space when a relationship begins and ends”. Musically, the track fuses a delightful layer of static-fuzz to what is underneath a wistful indie-pop song. Cemetery Moon is led by the rhythmic pulse of an acoustic guitar and a meandering keyboard-line that seems to offer a subtle nod to Joy Division’s Atmosphere. The track follows on from previous single, Love For The Things Yr Not, a lo-fi rock’n’roll ballad that The Velvet Underground would be proud of, resplendent with dual vocals and a potent sense of sadness, “wasting all my time, dreaming of your eyes, going out my mind”. Despite their distinctly modern formation story, there’s a timelessness to the music Paper Birch-make, without falling into the trap of nostalgia, morninghairwater mines the history of alternative music and melds it into a sound entirely of Paper Birch’s own, and it doesn’t get much more exciting than that.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Paper Birch?
Fergus: Just me and Dee so far! Dee is an amazing songwriter and multi instrumentalist whose other bands include An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump and Neumes. We worked on a couple of her songs ages ago but then we were both too busy for years. She got in touch again just before the pandemic hit and it was the right time. Everything has been very free and eclectic. We just started writing together very naturally without any design or expectations.
Dee: I’ve been a huge fan of Fergus’ work (Urusei Yatsura, Projekt A-Ko and his more experimental work as Obscure Desire of the Bourgeoise) so it was amazing to come together and focus on this collection of songs which became Paper Birch. It was a very cathartic process of ideas that led to an organic development of songs. In the solitude of lockdown, we created a beautiful, open, safe space of dialogue where I could share an idea, riff or notion of a song and which Fergus could do the same.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
F We haven’t even met let alone played a show!
D: I hope that’s the case and I just don’t have a really, really terrible memory….
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
F I wanted to be a writer but I found I needed something more hands on, immediate and practical. Music requires so many skills and I have no natural talent for it so I enjoy the challenge!
D: I came from a classical music background and when I was learning music, I also fell in love with words and poems around the same time. The fact that you could combine the two blew my mind! Lyrics and music are the most natural and intrinsic forms of expression for me. It’s something I can do in perfect solitude but also the ability to create with other people and share that expressive bond – that’s one of the best feelings! You don’t have to stick to a definitive sound, instrument or pattern and therefore it is an art form that lives with you and changes through your experiences.
FTR: What can people expect from the Paper Birch live show?
F Lasers and Unisex Strippers
D: Plus a hologram of Rainer Maria Rilke as our headline act.
FTR: What’s next for Paper Birch?
F I don’t know! That’s what’s so exciting about it! We just did an audit and have 25 demos for the next album. Hopefully more MBV influence and more noise and electronica but still with classic alternative rock touches.
D: We absolutely love working with Reckless Yes – Sarah and Pete are the most genuine music fans and we really support the great acts on the label and also their ethical values which are hugely important to us in terms of inclusion and sustainability. We’d love to work with them again on another release. In terms of what else is next for us, perhaps one day Fergus and I will actually meet in person!
They Listen To…
Autechre – are y are we?
F: Something mad about this track, its impossible to concentrate on it all the way through!
Hatcham Social – Sidewalk
D: I’ve known the band for many years through the east London music scene. Toby Kid from the band and I have done a few gigs as ORAL ORAL – an experimental/improv project we do with Princess Julia and Max Allen. Hatcham Social are releasing a greatest hits compilation to celebrate their 10 years as a band on Fierce Panda later this year.
Opaque – Mysterious Eroticism of Wounds
F: I miss gigs, haven’t been to one since I stopped drinking.
Absent Kid – Quiet Playground
D: A trip down memory lane with another Fierce Panda band, Absent Kid. Perhaps it’s because I started doing music around this time but at the moment, I have a lot of nostalgia for bands from the 2007/8 era as it reminds me of a very exciting time when we felt our music was going to change the world! Absent Kid are also doing a reunion gig later this year. It’s great to see bands reforming and I have a feeling some of them will come back for good now that we’re older and wiser!
Yeule – Cattails
F: Lots of people experimenting with this aesthetic but Yeule has the balance just right