Former one-man band opens itself up to collaboration
The Paper Heart ebbs, flows with musicians
When Topher Beyer first began The Paper Heart while he was still a teenager studying at the International Business College, it was as a solo act.
But his vision was not to just name his own one-man band. Rather, he wanted to allow for the ebb and flow that has been part of the musical journey over the years.
Solo act becomes full band
“Originally I went back and forth on what to call my solo act,” Beyer said. “Some people call me Chris and some people call me Topher, so it was hard to know what to call it. And I think I always knew that eventually I’d bring in more people, that that was the goal.
“I perform solo sometimes, but I don’t like it as much as playing with others. Then as the years went by, we had a sort of rotating bunch of members, sometimes with a couple of us, then other times with a full band. For the last three years, though, we’ve had a pretty steady full band.”
One recent departure, guitarist Bill Cupp, left the lineup at four members, with singer/guitarist Beyer joined by bassist Steve Niemoeller, drummer Isaiah Laatsch, and keyboardist/singer Amy Withrow. There are no immediate plans to expand back to five since this year has already taken a toll on how much they’re able to play together.
“When we weren’t able to play last spring, we just spaced out and did our own thing,” Beyer said. “I have a side project with Adam Baker, and both Amy and Isaiah teach music. By summer we were more comfortable getting together again so we practiced though we didn’t play together, and we haven’t been able to play much since then. Several people close to me have had the virus, and I have two newborns so I try to be careful.”
Those twin boys join two older brothers which, combined with a day job, keeps Beyer busy enough to not worry about canceled gigs.
Always about the music
But he said that he is always thinking about music, and The Paper Heart has always been a vehicle for him to write and perform his own songs.
“I think about writing all the time,” he said. “I keep a guitar in my office at work so if I get an idea, I can play it and send it to the band. There’s always writing going on.”
One of those songs is a new single released in October, “Play in the Dark.” Although Beyer has been the primary songwriter and vocalist for the band, he said this song is something very different from other Paper Heart songs.
“This is the most collaborative song we’ve ever had,” Beyer said. “Normally it’s just me singing, but Amy wrote the lyrics and is singing it. I like that it was more collaboration and less me.”
INto the Studio
The band records frequently with Baker helping with production. Sometimes they record in a basement, sometimes in the studio, but they record regularly, something they will continue to do as more performances are being put aside for the time being.
“A lot of it may never see the light of day, but we have enough music for a full length album,” he said. “But I like the songs to go together, something more along the lines of a concept album. I’m not sure we have enough songs to do that in a full length album so we’ll probably put together an EP at some point. I love long albums, but I don’t know that most people have the attention span for that anymore.”
Beyer also stays active with the funk band El Camino Hot Tub, but he concedes that that band is on hiatus as the performance schedule was once again curtailed. As he waits patiently for that situation to be resolved, he knows that The Paper Heart will keep playing together.
“I’m sure one day we’ll be back together and recording for another EP.”