The Paperbacks – Doubling Up

By Michael Elves

While reports of the music industry’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, the more recent prognosis is that the full-length album is dead (or at least dying). Quickly disseminated and digested as MP3 singles and the shortened attention span of the Twitterverse have created a (not so) perfect storm where albums are given short shrift.
So, local act the Paperbacks chose to follow up their 2007 full-length, An Illusion Against Death, with a double-album.

You read that right—instead of accepting the perceived reality, the band instead chose to do something that few bands have tried; and even fewer have done well.

Songwriter and frontman Doug McLean admits it’s a surprising strategy, and Lit from Within’s genesis is as complicated as it is surprising. “I wish there was a really simple answer I could give you, but [it’s] a three parter to fit the double-album. The first part is, after we made our last album, we were in a bit of a state of flux. We had a few members leave at the time, [we] gathered some new people and those new people were touring an album they didn’t have a connection with. So, we were lost a little bit and I felt like we needed something to galvanize the troops—a big target to send our little army at. So… double album! It’s ambitious, let’s get everyone going,” McLean explains.
“The next part is, I was reading an interview with Lenny Kravitz, I think—it could have been someone else—and he said, ‘I live each day as if it might be my last, and I apply that same mentality to my music. I make every album as though it was my last album.’ I gave that a bit of thought and I don’t know if it’s exactly true for every artistic project you take on, but maybe it’s a good plan for this. If I’m going to make this album like it’s my last album, that’s like saying, ‘This sums up what I’ve done so far.’ So for me, it was thinking, what would that be to sum it up? And what would be worthy of a double-album?” McLean asks rhetorically.
“So, here’s part three: I was talking to a friend who is involved in a number of social-activist type endeavours and it was around Christmas and she noted, ‘I’ve done all this work to benefit the world and I’m sitting alone at Christmas and it sucks and I don’t even know why I bother.’ Thinking about that in relation to the second part, I started wondering, why do we bother doing stuff, why does my friend bother doing all this work, why do we bother having a band—what is the reason for all this stuff? And so that’s what the record’s about, and also why it is.”

For McLean and the rest of the Paperbacks (Jaret McNabb on bass, Kevin Andrechuk on guitar, Corey Biluk on drums, and Kevin McLean on keyboards) the answer to ‘Why bother?’ (both the direct question for the band and the more existential one) can be found within the 32 tracks on Lit from Within.  “Most of the material on the album is headed in that direction. The answers are wrapped up in the text of the record,” Mclean says. “The way it was plotted out is as a progression. It’s not so much two different sides of things, it’s just a long song cycle to get to a certain point. The first disc sort of raises the questions and the second disc would answer them, I guess.”