Almost 20 years on, Tom Landa and his band, The Paperboys, are continuing the innovation that has made them stalwarts of the Canadian music landscape.
Founded in Vancouver in the mid-90s by Tom Landa, The Paperboys did things a little differently from the beginning, blending folk, Celtic and bluegrass sounds into a veritable stew of laid-back listening.
Landa admitted that the initial reaction at the time — when angsty grunge was all the rage — wasn’t always supportive.
“When I started the band…it was met with a curiosity or that kind of look that people give you when you’re a little bit odd,” he said. “It was at a time in Canada that the whole Celtic resurgence hadn’t really happened.”
Now, eight albums in with three Juno nominations including one win, for 1997’s Molinos,The Paperboys are back to doing what they love best — hitting the road.
Having toured extensively in Canada, the United States and Europe, Landa and his motley crew of band members, which typically fluctuates between five to eight people depending on the show, have converted many a spectator into full-fledged fan following their lively, engaging performances.
“We’ve basically gotten good at playing live,” said the 40-year-old Landa, who was born and raised in Mexico. “If we’d been in the studio as much as we’ve played live maybe we’d be a really great studio band but the point is, we’ve kind of built this band around the live show.”
He considers the involvement of the crowd to be a key factor in the band’s highly touted shows.
“My favourite shows are when I feel the audience had as important a role as the musicians on stage. We fed off their energy. They sing along, they are a part of the show,” he said.
But two decades of success requires more than just a nifty stage presence, and Landa is bent on innovation.
The Paperboys’ sound “evolves with every record,” said Landa. “From the fourth record onward there’s really been a musical growth. That just comes from a musical curiosity... I would get bored if I did the same thing over and over again.”
The band’s latest album, 2009’s Callithump, draws on Landa’s Latin roots to craft a diverse record that never strays from the band’s core values.
“Even though there’s a lot of changes from record to record there is a common thread,” namely, he said, the group’s Celtic foundations and the fact that Landa, the only remaining original member, is the lead singer on every track.
“The reality is that we’re playing to the same fan base that we’ve had for years, so we definitely keep making records for them” he said.
With the band’s 20th anniversary coming up next year, it’s hard to imagine what is left to accomplish for Landa.
“I’m still hungry for it. I’m not resting on my laurels and I’m certainly not bored of what I’m doing,” he said. “I still sit down and write music hoping that I’m going to write ‘the song,’ whatever that means.”
The Paperboys are playing a free show with Vancouver rockers, She Stole My Beer at Celebration Plaza as part of GranFondo Whistler’s post-race ceremonies, beginning at 6:30 p.m.