Interview: PAPA’s Darren Weiss

papa band
Left to right, Danny Presant and Darren Weiss.

Los Angeles duo PAPA will perform to a sold-out audience tonight at the Troubadour.

Influenced by punk, jazz, folk and hip hop, PAPA bandmates Darren Weiss and Danny Presant combine for an indie-rock and soul sound. They pride themselves on never relying on modern technology.

Ahead of their WeHo show, WEHOville caught up with drummer-vocalist Weiss.

Question: How’d you guys get started?

Answer: “There’s two official writing members, me and my friend Danny (Presant). He plays bass while I play drums and sing. When we tour we have a keyboardist and guitar player.”

Q: What about the group’s name?

A: “Papa was what I called my grandfather, who I was very close with and was very influential in my life. He would tell me really beautiful stories about the way he grew up. He was born in 1918 in Chicago, involved in various gangs and alcohol bootlegging. All kinds of crazy shit. Things of folklore and fairytale to me.”

Q: Papa’s stories served as an anchor for PAPA’s unique sound. How long has the band been making music?

A: “The first show under the name PAPA was almost five years ago, in New York where I was living and in school. [Then] it was a very different kind of thing musically, it was more ‘folkie,’ more acoustic guitar, piano, upright bass.”

Q: What inspires you to create?

A: “Music is only a very limited scope of what I’m pulling from. Poets like Gregory Corso are very important to me. In school I studied literature and Saul Bellow, also artists like Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and Basquiat, Frank Lloyd Wright books. No one has my respect more than Nick Cave. “Push The Sky Away” is his 15th album and he’s more inspired and dangerous than anyone out there.”

Q: Why is band rather resistant to the world’s current fascination with electronic music?

A: “We don’t play any samples and we don’t play loops. Everything is us playing. It’s important to me that we keep it that way.”

Q: What’s your reason for incorporating hip hop in your music?

A: “I grew up on punk bands, also folk and jazz, Leonard Cohen, Tina Turner, but [in NYC] hip hop was the cultural music. It definitely became a bigger part of my life. I also listened to groups that absorbed hip hop and turned it into something else like the Talking Heads and The Clash. Their music is so much their own identity but the music has this other rhythmic quality to it. That’s how we infuse hip hop. We play American music.”

Q: One your musical idols, Leonard Cohen, has previously performed at The Troubadour.

A: “The first show I went to when I was 13 was at the Troubadour. I used to imagine, as a child, that success meant being able to headline the Troubadour. [Our show] it’s going to be sold out in advance. Something we take pride in because we don’t even have a record out. We have a lot of great fans in Los Angeles who we care about connecting with.”

Q: Tell us about your literary project.

A: “I will be releasing my first book, a collection of poems and drawings, sort of a companion piece to the album. It’s not PAPA but very closely related.”

Q: How do you stay so polished for live performances?

A: “We work really hard on our craft and our instruments to be good live. A lot of bands are afforded the crutch of technology. Even if they aren’t good song-writers, they don’t even have to be good at playing their songs. If you’re going to do this, that’s the only thing that really matters.”

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