Paper Holland is a band out of Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood that finds its roots in pop music. Members Andrew Kosanke, Ted Powers, Joe Tomcheck and Mark Yencheske comprise this up-and-coming band in the Milwaukee music scene. Paper Holland is headed to SXSW, a film, interactive and music festival in Austin, TX, next week via the Milwaukeehome Stage and was featured on NPR’s The Austin 100: A SXSW 2014 Mix. I recently had a chance to speak with Joe Tomcheck before the group’s big trip.
BC: So, give me a little background of your band.
JT: Well, Andy and I have been playing together on and off since high school, but Paper Holland sort of started as a solo project. I made a MySpace account and posted the only song I had written at the time. After I showed it to Andy, we started working on other songs that eventually became Happy Belated. We weren’t able to find a bassist or drummer for a few years after we recorded Happy Belated, but we eventually started playing with Mark and another drummer, who’s no longer with the band. We actually found our current drummer on Craigslist, who’s originally from Washington.
BC: What’s the story behind the band name?
JT: I actually tell this differently every time, but the truth is that I woke up one night with it in my head and thought it sounded cool. So I immediately registered the name on MySpace and found a stock photo of a windmill, which is all the profile had on it for the first few months. I was pretty stoked to have all that locked down.
BC: How would you describe your band?
JT: We’re kind of like a band of Andy Bernards. Except our drummer is Blake from Workaholics.
BC: What’s your “sound”?
JT: It’s actually changed a lot since we recorded Happy Belated, after finding a bassist and a couple different drummers, but overall I think it’s very rooted in pop music, no matter how we filter it. We have pretty eclectic influences, but I think pop is the great equalizer. We try to have the pop song as the foundation and fill things out around that with just about anything we can think of.
BC: Where do you see yourself fitting in the Milwaukee music scene?
JT: We’re still sort of finding our footing. Even though I grew up here, this entire year has been a learning process about Milwaukee as a music scene and for us as a band. One thing I can say for sure is that there is a lot of really good music being made here, and I hope we fit into that somewhere for people.
BC: Tell me about your debut album Happy Belated.
JT: Happy Belated was a collection of stories that happened to turn into songs. Some of them had been floating around in my head for years. Things I wanted to say to people, to myself. In some ways, the album sort of summed up my teenage years, which I wasn’t really aware of at the time, but it also outlined a lot of the themes that I keep coming back to in songwriting, and life in general. At the time, it seemed so powerful and cathartic to be able to take all of these feelings and messages and not only bring them all together, but also to share them with people. Working with Andy was what really turned all of these ideas into songs.
BC: What have you learned from Happy Belated? And what are you taking from it as you look towards the future?
JT: Happy Belated was my first experience with writing songs, recording them and then actually putting them out, so there were so many things I learned during that process and that I’ve learned since that I’m hoping to apply in some way going forward. Specifically, we’re really looking forward to getting back into the studio and recording with the full band, and being more hands-on with the production of the album.
BC: Speaking of the future… What’s in store for the band?
JT: We’re actually headed to SXSW in just a couple weeks, which is insane. We didn’t find out that long ago, so it feels like it really snuck up on us, and we’re really excited to go down there and be a part of that. And thankful to Milwaukee Home and Festival City for giving us the opportunity. We’re also playing Yield on the 7th with Boy Blue, which is kind of our SXSW sendoff show.
BC: What are you and the band most looking forward to down in Austin?
JT: Apparently Austin has some really good BBQ, so we’re definitely going to check that out. I was hoping we’d get to see Julian Assange speak, but we’re actually getting there too late for that. We’re looking forward to all the music, and networking opportunities and tech shows and all that, but, more than anything, we’re looking forward to being warm.
BC: And performing, of course?
Definitely. Actually, most of the artists we’re going down there with from Milwaukee are artists I’ve never seen, so that’s cool, too. It’ll be cool to see how Milwaukee represents itself with so many people down there. Hopefully, we’ll be able to change some of the perception that Milwaukee doesn’t have any good music.
BC: Post SXSW: What’s after that, music wise?
JT: We’re hoping to start recording a new album shortly after we get back from SXSW. We’re really anxious to get back in the studio and get new music out to people. Ideally, we’d like to do a mid-summer release, when it’s still really nice to be out and going to shows and the city is really alive.
BC: Describe your band in one word.