One Sunday this past September, I metro-ed over to Chinatown extra early to catch LA rock band PAPA play FYF fest. An hour and two Sailor Jerry lemonades later, they took the stage. It was potentially the best thirty minutes of live sound I enjoyed that weekend. Musically and atmospherically, the experience was pure sunshine. I drank an entire $3 bottle of water.
A few hours later, my colleague Erin Dennison and I caught up with the two brown-haired Valley boys of average height who are allegedly the only relevant members of PAPA. In atypical rock fashion, Darren Weiss delivers his vocals from behind the drum set while bassist Daniel Presant assumes the front-and-center position. So far, the duo has released one EP of all-American feel-good jams titled A Good Woman is Hard to Find.
Here is the conversation the four of us had. It begins with the pretense of relevance and then devolves into banter of indeterminate sincerity. If you guys know a good woman whose perfect date involves dinner at CPK and cuddling while watching It’s Complicated, please let us know. Those really are hard to find.
Rebeca: Was this your first big festival gig?
Darren: No, we played Outsidelands a couple of weeks ago. It was really, really fun. A lot cooler—I was freezing. I was wrapped in a blanket walking around like some kind of Moses.
Danny: Indie rock Moses.
Darren: It was really different. Golden Gate Park is so beautiful, you feel like you’re in the middle of a forest.
Danny: You’re literally in the middle of a forest.
Rebeca: Where did the name “Papa” come from?
Darren: Papa was what I called my grandfather. He was a really interesting man, he grew up in gangs in Chicago and was a lot of things throughout his lifetime, from an alcohol bootlegger to a window washer to a travelling salesman…did I say amateur boxer? He was a lot of things. Whatever he had to do to make it for his family. He was always very important to me, so I think about him a lot. And the way I think about him and his life was important to the way I wanted this band to operate.
Danny: Sort of an homage?
Darren: An homage, if you will.
Rebeca: Where did you guys meet?
Danny: We met like three weeks ago.
Erin: Wow, you have a lot of chemistry.
Danny: No, we met through these twins when we were seven or eight. We had these mutual friends, these twins.
Rebeca: How did the band start?
Darren: The band started in New York, but it was a much different sort of thing. It was just me with an acoustic guitar stomping around, so it ended up sounding much more like a folk thing, which wasn’t what I intended for it to sound like. I always wanted to be in a band like the Clash or the Talking Heads, which I’m not saying we are, but that was always what I wanted to do. We’d been doing it for about a year and a half before I started playing drums and singing. Then Danny moved to New York from Boston. Once we started writing together, it started going much more in the direction that it is now.
Rebeca: How did you end up becoming the drummer?
Darren: I had been touring in a couple of bands, playing drums for a couple of years, and I thought that I wanted to get away from it a little bit. So when I moved to New York, instead of studying music I studied literature and just had my guitar, and started spending a lot more time writing songs. But then I had people play drums for me, and being a drummer myself, I was always quite picky about what I wanted. So eventually I said fuck it, I’ll just do it myself.
Rebeca: So do you two play all the instruments on your records?
Darren: Yeah, except for keyboards—we had our friend play keyboards on the record. But we play guitar, bass, drums and vocals—all that stuff.
Rebeca: What’s next for you guys?
Danny: We have a full length. It’s being mixed.
Darren: I’m hoping it’ll come out in early spring. We’ll be doing some touring in the meantime—full US and Canada starting Tuesday with Two Gallants, and then we have a shorter tour in November with Group Love.
Rebeca: How does the new album differ from the EP?
Darren: Well it definitely is different. I think because we recorded fifteen songs, we had much more room to stretch out creatively, whereas with the EP we had just five songs so it was a much more focused sound. I think with this record we cover a lot more bases. We get a little tougher—
Danny: A little weirder.
Darren: A little weirder. And then there are some songs that go back to me with an acoustic guitar. So it’s diverse.
Danny: I’m excited about it. Just for people to hear it—anyone.
Rebeca: So it’s different sonically—what about thematically?
Darren: Well, I can’t sit down with a guitar and consciously come up with words, so it just sort of happens, it’s very linear. I just keep writing and writing. As far as lyrically, unfortunately there are still a lot of songs on this record that are about the break-up that inspired the EP—A Good Woman is Hard to Find. Having had some space from it and listening back to it, there’s a lot of goodbye on this full-length, which isn’t something that I did consciously. I think has to do with this band starting to tour more, and also when I was writing a lot of this stuff I was touring with another band, and I was gone, so I felt like I was saying goodbye a lot more than I was saying hello. And I became conscious of what things I was happy to say goodbye to and what things I felt like I was missing.
But I always say, with Papa, it seems to always come back to Women, America and Insanity.
Rebeca: What’s the new album called?
We’re still working on it so I don’t want to give it away just yet.
Rebeca: Were you guys born and raised in LA?
Darren: I was born and raised in Encino.
Danny: I was born in New York, lived in New Jersey for a little bit, then moved to LA when I was four. So I got that Dirty Jerz in me. But I grew up in Sherman Oaks. We live there now. We’re Valley Boys.
Erin: They have great CPK in the Valley.
Danny: Oh, fuhgetaboutit. Delicious. We’ve got hella CPK in the Valley.
Darren: And Chin Chin.
Danny: OH CHIN CHIN, fuhgetabouit.
Erin: I love the Valley. I like the mall right there. I’m a mall person. I went yesterday.
Darren: If you like the mall the Valley is the place for you.
Rebeca: I was going to ask what your favorite places in LA are but maybe we just covered that?
Danny: I like to go to breakfast at this place called Hugo’s. I go there as much as I can.
Darren: It’s where we hold all of our business meetings. Christian our manager now frequents it too.
Christian: It’s a whole new place for me.
Rebeca: Christian, are you from the valley also?
Christian: I am not.
Danny: They also have a lot of things called Papa on the menu. Like “Pasta Papa.” “Papa Eggs.” I’ve never ordered anything with the name “Papa” in it. But I like their tea a lot. And Studio City Yogurt. You gotta follow them on twitter because they change their shit.
Darren: Their flavors by the way, not their shit.
Erin: Do they have peanut butter?
Danny: Sometimes, but now always, which is why you gotta check their twitter, because they update it daily.
Rebeca: What else do you guys like to do besides play music?
Darren: I like to draw. I’ve been working on my jump shot, actually, a lot over the last couple of weeks. Before we leave tour I want to make sure my jump shot is good.
Danny: Basketball’s a big part. Unfortunately neither one of us is too big, so neither one of us is going to go pro anytime soon.
Erin: But when you’re small you get to foul people.
Danny: Oh yeah. Darren’s very dirty when it comes to basketball.
Darren: My defense is dirty.
Danny: I play catch with my brother, sometimes with a baseball. Hikes.
Darren: I can’t seem to stop watching It’s Complicated, you know, with Meryl Streep.
Danny: Oh, hella romantic comedies all the time. Genuinely.
Rebeca: Which one is your favorite?
Darren: Right now, It’s Complicated.
Danny: It’s Complicated’s your favorite?
Darren: Well, right now.
Danny: I’ve been vibing on Just Go With It, really, really strongly.
Darren: Just Go With It rules. “When I feel it, I feel it.”
Rebeca: Oh is that the one with Adam Sandler?
Danny: Yeah. Good film, you know. No two ways about it.
Darren: This is a great interview, by the way.
Erin: I like the ones with Kate Hudson. What’s that one?
Rebeca: Ten ways…to…loose…
Danny: How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. Yeah, I’ve seen it, a couple times. Do you guys like Friends?
Rebeca & Erin: Yeah.
Danny: We’ve got tons in common. These are the things we like. We’re also really into MMA, street fighting. No I’m kidding. But maybe you want to add that in, if you’re going to put in that other stuff. Also, tattoos, motorcycles…
Darren: Danny’s a dominatrix.
Rebeca: Do you have any tattoos?
Danny: I do. I have two.
Erin: That’s it?
Darren: I have none.
Danny: I have friends who have many.
Rebeca: I feel like people in LA have more tattoos than people in New York.
Danny: Oh I don’t know about that. Our friend group in New York has more tattoos than our friend group in LA.
Darren: But we have a lot of friends who are artists who were gifted tattoo guns so when they all get drunk they have tattoo parties and everyone ends up covered.
Rebeca: Oh that’s like Erin’s friends here. Every time I see one they’re like, “Oh yeah, I just did this to myself yesterday.”
Danny: My friend did that to me last night! He said, look at my new tattoo. And it was a cross on his knee, and I was like—okay, that was a good idea.
Darren: I want Jesus in every fold of my body.
Rebeca: So what are your zodiac signs?
Darren: I’m a Scorpio.
Erin: Oh boy.
Erin: Oh boy.
Danny: Cool right?
Rebeca: Well, now we know everything there is to know about you.
Erin: Yeah that’s all we needed to know.
Rebeca: Anything else you want to tell us about?
Darren: No I don’t want to tell you anything else. You know much more than I intended.
Danny: Darren’s a cuddler.