I’m proud to introduce Indiana’s first posi-jazz band, Paper Claw.
“So the joke is that posi-jazz is the theme,” says Zech Baumhover, laughing over the idea. “We wanted to keep an improvisational theme to the music. There’s a very uplifting, positive feel to most of the songs. Most of them are pretty evil sounds, but it’s not like it’s all going to be over and you’re fucked. It always feels like there’s an uplifting energy that comes from it.”
Walking through the door at The Spot Tavern in Lafayette, Tim Gick, guitar and vocals, greets me on a rainy Wednesday day before a show featuring John Flannelly and Bree Jo’ann on their honeymoon tour. We decide to conduct our interview in the backroom versus the large outdoor patio space. Gick (formerly of TV Ghost and REV//REV) is soon met by his bandmates, Zech Baumhover, bassist and vocals, and Casey Synesael, drums, and we begin a loose conversation behind a hidden door in the dark performance area.
“It kind of started when I was talking to Zech. We had in [at The Spot] one of those Australian bands that was kind of grungy and heavy,” says Gick on the genesis of Paper Claw. “I was like, dude, I just kind of want to start a grunge garage rock band. I was just going through playing at home, playing old Stooges songs and all these Nirvana songs I learned when I was a kid.”
Baumhover elaborates that Australian bands and becoming bored with electronic music were huge factors of starting Paper Claw. Synesael chimes in with a genuine, “Why am I here?”
Tim and Zech assure Synesael he was integral in the creation of their songs, which included a process of recording while playing live. The end result was quickly self-releasing a cassette.
I was eager to grab one of the cassettes before their April 29 show with NYC jazz-punk-drone combo Sunwatchers. Mixing genres with exciting new results is no new concept, but it took a few listens of the loose-but-structured Paper Claw cassette to rationalize the ideas coming from a mix of academic jazz, punk, grunge and jams. Lots of jamming.
With the band forming, creating a ton of songs and recording within a matter of months, their enthusiasm becomes contagious. As far as the process goes, Casey says, “We were easily able to record the ideas for the songs, and about not even a month later we were able to record the finished versions of the songs and a couple more jams.”
“The way we record affects the ease with which we finished up everything really fast because we pretty much applied the same treatment to each of the recordings,” continue Casey. “With a few differences here and there, it made the recordings sound really cohesive like what it would sound like in a live set.”
On March 12, Brisbane band, Nite Fields, heavily inspired by the Cocteau Twins, headlined at The Spot, but a new band no one has ever heard, called Early House, played last. This was the first show for the band that will change their name to Paper Claw, and the confidence for captivating the crowd is there as if they’d been playing together for over five years.
A melodic and pop element blended to the vocal pairings of Baumhover and Gick, and it’s surprising how tight and catchy the first few songs are. By the end, there’s a 15-minute jam comprising of a possessed Gick flailing around. The distinct chemistry between the trio was undeniable.
“After the REV//REV tour I think Tim just disappeared until he went to Portugal for a month and a half,” say Baumhover. “We had this whole huge time to think about the tour, and how it really sat with us. Tim got back, and it was kind of like we were both holding our breath, being like, uh…do you want to quite REV//REV and start another band where we play guitars?”
Synesael played guitar in Lafayette band Pnature Walk, but he seems to have found a niche with drumming. He says, “I get to react to what they’re playing, and also, if I want to, I get to use my ability as a drummer to sort of drive where the songs are going.” Synesael smiles while collecting his thoughts, “It’s a good change.”
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Months later, I catch Paper Claw playing one of their shortest, but nonetheless explorative sets at State Street Pub on May 11. People from Lafayette drove to Indianapolis to see them play in a different setting. After two succinct, grunge-driven songs, they broke free into a jam that seemed to go over 20-minutes. Within that jam were several builds leading to an improvised freak-out of joy — Gick’s eyes rolling to the back of his head as his body bent backwards, Baumhover in a complacent groove zone, and Synesael swaying a dance in time.
The motion of letting go all comes back to what Baumhover calls the current central hub, The Spot. “Being here at The Spot we see a lot of jazz coming through,” says Gick. “Seeing all these different kinds of jazz coming through has inspired me to let go. Not every moment has to be a hook.”
Baumhover grabs onto the inspirational gravitas, “Take a chill pill, and try not to make everything happen at one time.” They all agree they are not afraid to explore stuff, and not afraid to screw up. Even though Gick feared veering into ambient parts as a trio, he’s come around to letting feeling override the calculation of aspects.
As our conservation ends we all reflect on how there is always one place for people to connect creativity in Lafayette, currently that place is The Spot.
“That all started because there’s enough people who realized there’s nothing to do here so you have to make something happen for yourself,” says Tim about Lafayette. “You have to make some things happen for yourself, for other people, for the community, and for your friends, and the easiest way to do that is to get a couple people together to play music and figure it out.”
Baumhover compares making music and being creative in Lafayette to Cabernet Sauvignon. Though everyone laughs at how he shares his metaphor, he has a point about dealing with condition to push through. Synesael continues the positivity by saying, “It feels good to share the music that is made between friends in our community.”