August/September 2013

by Tomas Nelson

Paquin: Bottling The Epiphany

by Tomas Nelson

Paquin: Bottling The Epiphany

From one man to four, Auckland act Paquin play a poppy and synth-heavy brand of shoegaze-slash-dance pop. It’s hard to be specific because they seem to be on a continuum of change, away from rocky guitar origins towards the increasingly commercial EDM of the fashionable likes of Hot Chip. Guitarist and producer Tom Healy first used the name Paquin for his solo output but now, as he tells Tomas Nelson, it represents a band who are pro-actively developing their sound and exploring the potential provided by their Lab Studio-based rehearsal facilities.

Tom Healy, may not be a name many have come across outside of his involvement with Paquin, however he has been working behind the veil with a variety of local acts, including Die! Die! Die!, The Naked and Famous, Popstrangers and Annah Mac, in a variety of roles. He describes his experiences with others as “…part engineering, advice, ideas, learning, problem solving and friendship”.”

“Production sits somewhere in all these things. It’s helped me build a wide screen view of music and when you work with great bands / songwriters it is always a kick in the backside to step up your own contribution. I am thankful I’m constantly working on records, and with artists whose music I love.””

Taking his involvement with other musicians and making a natural transition from engineer/friend etc. has enabled Healy to pursue his own musical creative outlet in Paquin, whose music was early on described as shoegaze dance pop.

This August 25th Healy, along with fellow band members Westley Holdsworth, Stu Harwood and Cass Mitchell (who replaced David Flyger mid-recording), will be releasing ‘Paquin II’, the four-song second instalment to what will be a self-titled EP trilogy – potentially a quadrilogy.

Following on from the five-track first Paquin EP, which comparatively was a record where he played everything himself, apart from drums, ‘Paquin II’ is very much a band affair.

“It is a little more up tempo and a little less drifty and hazy overall than ‘Paquin I’,”” Healy says.

Gunn, the first single released in December last year, doesn’t waste listening time, getting straight into luscious synth hooks and a breathy melody carried by lyrics that create a very real visual perception.

“It got the most traction on radio we have had thus far, so I’m really happy. My sisters said they liked it, which is a personal milestone for me.””

Regarding the inspiration for this new EP Healy tells me that it’s those who are making song-based dance music who influence him.

“Hot Chip, Cut Copy, Ladyhawke, Empire Of The Sun, LCD Soundsystem are bands I look forward to releases by. And when I say ‘song-based dance’, I mean with whole lyrics and song structures with intros, verses, pre-chorus, chorus, bridges sections – and bands as opposed to DJ-based let’s say.””

‘Paquin II’ was recorded near the end of last year.

“Most of the songs begin with me mucking round in my studio… the new stuff has been much less formed prior to the rehearsal room. Then it’s stockpiling lyrical ideas, bottling the occasional epiphany, and pushing a sheet of paper round my desk to get the lyrics finished.

“For me writing lyrics and mixing songs take a long time as I feel they are a process needing rigour to turn out something of worth. I think during recording and arranging you need to invite more happy accidents and spontaneity.””

At Auckland studio The Lab, where Healy has built his own rehearsal and recording space, they created the new Paquin sound through a myriad of drum and synth sequencing. He says he wanted a hybrid drum texture.

“Stu has an old Simmons drum kit with a couple of old Simmons’ brains (think early New Order), so around that, a vintage Rogers kit, some 808 and Linn Drum samples Moog, Novation and a Juno synths, and a bunch of Eventide FX, which are good sound mutators, the sound was built.””

The EP was mastered by Dale Cotton, described by Healy as “…a co-conspirator and a mentor.””

Preferring to keep most of the EP a mystery and up to interpretation, Healy is happy to talk about End To End, which he says is the least personal song on the EP.

“It is based on the thought that whenever anyone tries to sell some political / personal / religious snake oil to me, I have always been drawn to the idea of how there is most likely a completely opposed view held just as fervently by someone else. My experience of the world has always been one of multiplicity and heterogeneity.

“I have always thought a black and white view is a poisonous and limiting way to look at things. I love art that espouses the opposite. Books like Midnight’s Children that incorporate the fantastical with the mundane, where history is shown as interpretation. I like things that try to encapsulate conflicting viewpoints and everyone’s opinion is equally valid and invalid. The song is about your grasp being much smaller than your reach, and that that is a good thing.””

Much as the soundscape has been created by the myriad of synths and drum beats inspired by his favourite EDM, Healy says the artwork produced by Jenna Todd helps him to focus the sound towards something more dreamy and pop driven. While not yet the stuff of commercial radio, it does find favour on student radio stations, especially in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington. Paquin’s live audiences are similarly stronger in the South Island, where Healy and Harwood got their start, and where they have already toured three times.

Former NZM staffer Westley Holdsworth, who plays synth in Paquin, says the concept of releasing three EPs has allowed the band to evolve quickly.

“We’re thinking about adding extra percussion in a way we haven’t done before. The first EP was very guitar-centred. This one not so much, and I imagine that the next one will see us as more of a dance band than a pop band.””