Get To Know: The Paul & John

These days, when the word "pop" is mentioned, I immediately think of some photogenic teenage girl with more than a hint of sleaze and a liberal dose of auto-tune thrown in for good measure. We forget there was a time when "pop" was created by singer-songwriters who had a craft of writing perfect melodies. Image and style took a backseat to talent.

Think about it: Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Joe Jackson were not exactly Abercrombie & Fitch models... But their audience didn't care. It was about the songs.

Not to say that the duo The Paul & John aren't good looking fellows. But they also write good "looking" songs. That's the difference in their pop.

These are songs that paint a vivid picture and suddenly make the mundane seem sublime. Paul Myers and John Moremen have crafted a simple and sweet collection of power pop that also works as a complete piece when played from front to back.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Paul a few questions about The Paul & John's new album Inner Sunset. Here is what went down...

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(Andy Derer) Having the Inner Sunrise, Inner Sunset, Inner Sundown theme to the record gives us the feeling that the album represents a day in the life of The Paul & John.

Would you consider this album a "concept" album in that regard?

(Paul Myers) Since I was given the task of writing all the lyrics, I think I can address this with certainty. My collaborator on all the music, John Moremen, lives in a neighborhood near Golden Gate Park called the Inner Sunset district. A lot of the songs were written at John's place and I was always fascinated, as a "word guy," with the idea of imbuing accidental meaning into phrases. Maybe we were too close to the old spirit of Golden Gate park and the sixties freaks but I thought the name Inner Sunset would be a great title for an album and set about writing the lyrics to one of our pieces of song. We felt, early on that it would be the title track. As we wrote more songs, and I wrote more lyrics, I realized that one of the themes of the album was going to be tapping into your inner strength and finding the courage to change and overcome obstacles, something that maybe only someone who's lived a few years can explain.

I knew then, that we should bookend the album with songs that greeted and bade farewell to a full day. This concept is blatantly inspired by XTC on Skylarking, and it also reveals that much of what I personally brought to John and Allen when we co-produced the set of songs, was this idea that I learned, through my first hand conversations with Todd Rundgren. He is a firm believer in cohesive concepts in albums, even if you have to reverse engineer, as we sort of did here.

But you know, I think most producers and editors of any work, probably do the same thing to greater or lesser degree.

It's just that I had a full brain full of Todd methodology and idealogy when it came to assemble Inner Sunset.

I want to add that Inner Sunset is the most honest set of lyrics that I've ever written, and because it's the first time I've allowed another songwriter to share the voice if you will, I think the songs were better for it. John and I have strikingly similar musical tastes, with equally striking divergences, but we both feel like proud papas on this record, and because we both have such a deep respect for the genius of Allen Clapp, we were happy to delegate the final mixes and overall production sensibility to him.

People will talk about the Mystery Lawn sound someday and I'm crazy thrilled to be a blade of grass in that lawn.

(A.D.) With "Hungry Little Monkey" and "Long Way Back" I feel a definite sense of you guys describing your own struggles with sobriety.

I remember you saying you have been sober for years, but with these few songs it certainly feels like sobriety might be an everyday "battle," was the recording of Inner Sunset therapeutic in some sense, or stressful to the point where you might have wanted to revisit old demons?

(P.M.) Well I'm the only one in this project who could be called an "alcoholic," but I know that John has also pared down and cut out a lot of the social drinking that he may have engaged in when he was a younger man. He's never had a drinking problem as far as I can tell. But we both loved this idea of recognizing the habits that limit us and being mindful. A song like "Hungry Little Monkey" has it's inspiration in Nick Lowe's frankly superior "The Beast In Me," which similarly makes the addiction into an unwanted dinner guest that must be kept in a box or a cage. I've never needed to go 12 step or AA but I have a lot of respect for the awareness they spread and have had friends I can't name who are only alive and productive because they go to the meetings.

The rule of any addict, as far as I can tell, is that you never assume you've beat the thing. It's always there, waiting to get back inside.

So I wouldn't say I "struggle" so much as I am mindful and respectful that I am powerless to this disease, I'm allergic if you will.

"When I Lost My Way" is probably the happiest song about being afraid of slipping into old bad habits, but it's mindful and respectful that present day happiness is even sweeter if you never ever fucking forget how bad it got.

(A.D.) How does your own infatuation with photography inform your music and songwriting? Do you every look back at a photo you took and a song starts to write itself?

(P.M.) That's a good question! I haven't really ever consciously written a song from a photo, but I do find that I'm feeling the same "buzz" from composing and framing the light and subjects in the photos, the way I would balance the rhymes and images in a song. Photos have hooks too.

I grew up with single images on album covers and this resonates in something like Instagram, which has a square format.

I think of all the other art disciplines as helping each other, like crop rotation. After a crop of journalistic writing, I'll go make some music, or take a walk with my camera and just be on "photo safari."

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From the sleek cover image to the immaculate harmonies, Inner Sunset satisfies with ear-worm melodies and hard hitting riffs. Paul is just as adept at writing heartfelt power pop as his brother Mike is at coming up with lasting characters like Austin Powers and Wayne Campbell. Certainly, the Myers come from a talented gene pool.

John Moremen is Paul's perfect musical foil, layering Rickenbackers and vocals with a Brian Wilson-esque sense of arrangement.

Paul's lyrics can run the gamut of capturing the jittery content of finding love to tapping into all sorts insecurities and worries. The guys give us all this while still having one foot firmly planted in terra "pop."

After having a successful Kickstarter campaign the album Inner Sunset is now available to the public. Highly recommended by Empty Lighthouse!

For more on The Paul & John: http://thepaulandjohn.bandcamp.com