Behind the Beat: Gothic Americana

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Paper Hill Casket Company

Having finalized its current lineup and started its career as a live unit in the fall of 2011, the Americana-inspired Paper Hill Casket Company is also one of many New England-based bands whose members claim residency in multiple states across the region.

Evolving from the longtime musical partnership between founding members Luke Cheadle (banjo, guitar) and Zach Webb (vocals, percussion), who live in New Haven, Conn. and Northampton, Mass. respectively, the group also includes Anjanine Bonet (violin, viola), Nate Venskytis (guitar), Bryan Torralba (drums, percussion) and Kate Walker (cello).

“We typically practice and play frequently in New Haven, Conn., but Zach and Kate live in Northampton,” Cheadle says. “So we like to claim dual citizenship with Western Massachusetts, and try to play in the area every chance we get.”

But the band’s affinity for the Pioneer Valley doesn’t end at booking gigs in the area. In fact, the name Paper Hill Casket Company actually was inspired by Webb’s living in close proximity to a similarly-titled local business.

He says, “I was living next to the Florence Casket Company at the time that we were coming up with the name, and got that phrase stuck in my head. Then we worked to find words that would go with it and mesh well with the overall feel of our music.”

Cheadle adds, “It was important to us that our name was an accurate reflection of the music that we play. Our songs are lively, energetic and full, while the vocals express dark themes such as desperation, murder, and poverty. We felt the name Paper Hill Casket Company playfully reflects those qualities.”

Indeed, the material on the band’s debut full-length, Undertow, can be dark at times. Opening track “Plaster” even includes repeated mentions of cockroaches and “the other side,” while “Wraith” creates a vision of a modern day ghost story. Still, the group is able to balance its ominous subject matter with driving rhythms and compelling vocals that reach out to a listener much like a mysterious hand from a graveyard.

“Gothic Americana is a pretty accurate description of our music because it reflects both the instrumental sound as well as the lyrical themes,” says Cheadle. “I also sometimes describe our music as an energetic mix of bluegrass and rock.”

Next up for the Paper Hill Casket Company is work on some visuals to go along with its music.

Cheadle says, “We just released our debut album, Undertow, in October, and we are now promoting and supporting the release. Look for us at a venue near you. We are also working on a music video for a song off of the album and actively writing songs for our next release.”

The band returns to Western Mass. with a Feb. 15 stop at The Elevens, 140 Pleasant St., Northampton,•


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