‘No Ghosts Walk’, the third single from Paper Tigers finds the band pushing the boundaries of their alt-rock sound, exploring the new sonic territory, and is the band’s most personal song to date.

Formed in 2018 by Michael Smyth with Hayley Norton on vocals and Stevey Henry on bass. 2019 saw Paper Tigers come out swinging, gigging incessantly and releasing debut single ‘Gucci Smiles’ which earned them a nomination for the NI Music Prize Best Single. This was followed by sophomore single ‘Flames’, released at the very beginning of the global pandemic. The two songs have over 20,000 streams with accompanying videos hitting over 10,000 views. These releases earned them tours with Life and Hundredth, international radio play including attention from iHeart Radio as well as accolades from press with Chordblossom declaring ‘This is rock and roll’.

‘No Ghosts Walk’ opens with a chaotic soundscape, a cacophony of sound that serves as the entry point to the song. Driven by a hypnotic rhythm, lyrically the song deals with grief and loss. Trying to retain what tenuous links we can here amongst the living to our loved ones that have left our mortal coil, as Hayley sings in a pained reprise ‘It burns it stings, to watch you leave, not hold you every day’. The song is written to reflect the stages of grief, with the swathes of pedal sounds at the beginning representative of the confusion upon hearing of loss. Hayley guiding the listener through the void left and yearning felt with Michael’s ripped larynx vocals embodying anger and depression. The song builds to an explosive crescendo, a release of bottled up emotion. This single marks the last of the initial three songs the band recorded. It acts as a bookend to the initial period of Paper Tigers as they prepare to move forward.

Paper Tigers: FFO: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Royal Blood, Wolf Alice, Pretty Girls Makes Graves, Paramore, Marmozets

Rock N’ Load caught with these crazy cats to see how they have survived the “Zombie Apocolypse” to date and how their plans of world domination are working out …..

So for anyone who has yet to experience Paper Tigers, how do you like
to describe the band?

Michael: We’re an alt-rock band with a punk rock heartbeat, with a
penchant for infectious melodies and more drama in the music than a
Fleetwood Mac reunion with a free bar. Live we’re a tasmanian devil
whirlwind of sweat, energy and glitter. Live is where we really live
and thrive so if you want the Paper Tigers experience then, when it’s
possible again, come see us sweat and throw ourselves around the
stage.

Hayley: Sometimes I like to describe us as this epic rock ensemble
that’s a cross between Blondie, Nirvana and Lady Gaga topped with
experimental flare. As if the three parties birthed us at a Queen
show.

Michael: I’m sure from those very clear descriptions everyone will
know exactly how we sound…just go listen to the records!

How did the band come together?

Michael: I had a seance and just conjured up band members using
pentagrams and fake blood, I mean that’s pretty much it. I had only
really played in crazy loud heavy bands up to this stage but that
wasn’t really reflective of what I was listening to at the time. So I
started writing songs that weren’t just riff focused but really
focused on melody and hooks and always written with the idea that they
would have a girl vocal. A lot of the music I listen to has a female
singer, I’ve always been drawn to it and I think it’s a totally
different perspective from having myself do vocals which I’d been
doing up until now. So I tried to pull it together and had a few false
starts, people being flaky or just not getting it. Slowly but surely I
found people to come on board the good ship Tigers, though a few have
since fallen overboard. Over the year and a half-ish that we’ve been
practicing now the line up has changed considerably. I’m the only one
left from the bands original line up but Stevey has been a mainstay
and he’s been our only gigging bass player so he’s basically a lifer.
I kinda internet stalked Hayley(not as creepy as it sounds) after
seeing her sing Led Zeppelin on X-Factor and was like this girl needs
to be in the band. Lord knows how they’ve stuck me this long but this
is the band as it needs to be, we all bounce off each other and
everyone brings a very specific thing to the band that creates the
sound of the band. I’ve spent the whole time trying to capture
lightning in a bottle and that isn’t always easy but the pay off when
it happens is more than worth it.

Stevey: The origins of paper tigers is a mystery within itself, no one
quite knows how the band started, just that Michael has spent over a
year finding the perfect band members with the right synergy and
connection to really start a riot!

You guys hit the scene with a blistering single in ‘Gucci Smiles’
which announced your arrival with a bang, how did it feel at the time
and did it spur you guys on or present its own challenges piling the
pressure on to repeat the process?

Michael: The response we had to ‘Gucci Smiles’ was pretty amazing to
be honest, it was far far more than I had ever expected or hoped for!
It certainly got people to sit up and take notice and opened a lot of
doors for us. At the time we just wanted to go out and play as much as
possible and put the band in front of as many people as possible.
Right before covid hit we were playing some great shows and having
people sing Gucci Smiles back to us, that was pretty insane! It’s not
like 200,000 people singing it back at Wembley but that’s what it
feels like. That response can only spur you on. We recorded our three
singles all in one session and we have slowly been drip-feeding them
out. ‘Flames’ was released at the start of lockdown and now ‘No
Ghosts Walk’ just now as we enter a second lockdown, maybe we need to
stop releasing singles so the country can stay open! I don’t feel
pressure to live up to one song or another, each single so far has had
an amazing response, ‘Flames’ got a huge response from radio in
Australia, America, Uk and Ireland, and 18,000 streams on Spotify,
that’s crazy! I can’t really get my head around that amount of people
hearing our song. The only time I feel the pressure is the pressure I put
on myself to keep getting better as a songwriter and keep reaching for
more, making the new material bigger and stretching myself as a
player. I really just want the songs to be great and to make the band
everything that it can be, not limit ourselves to a formula or
homogenized sound.

Stevey: Really this song was just to get an endorsement from Gucci,
we’re still waiting for it to come through but we’re hopeful!
Regarding pressure, this band and our music is fun so it’s hard to feel
pressure when you’re constantly having a laugh with great friends.

Michael: WHERE’S OUR GOLD FRONTS, GUCCI??!!

Hayley: ‘Gucci Smiles’ was the first time I’d ever recorded anything
in a studio, before it was a pretty big deal to me that we were
releasing it together to the world and all the positive feedback was
really honoring. Performing it live with the guys just made it all
come to life even more with the supporting video and it only made me
want to keep making music and releasing more bangers to slay for
everyone.

Pre-Covid you guys were very active keeping yourself busy getting the
name out there, I’m sure it all feels like a lifetime ago now, you are
probably one of the most industrious people in the local scene,
lockdown no.1 must have taken the wind out of your sails?

Michael: Well thank you kindly, it certainly did make us have to
rethink things in terms of how we would approach the release of
‘Flames’ which was released in week one of lockdown. We had a lot of
shows booked north and south, support slots, festivals, and one by one
those things just slowly slipped away. So we had to tailor our
approach to the situation that was happening all around us, it was far
from ideal but given the circumstances, we made the best of it. Even
now we’re still unable to play and releasing another single in the
middle of a pandemic might seem crazy to some people but we don’t want
to sit on the material any longer, the song is about grief and loss
and an end, it also acts as a bookend to that particular period of
the band. We have a lot of new material written that I think will
surprise people, bigger more dramatic songs. So while things have been
stymied in the background we’ve been pushing on. I miss getting to
play more than I can express and I miss getting to talk to people
after the shows and hitting the road with the guys but it’ll come back
eventually and when it does we’re ready to go.

Stevey: We’re fighters and bar times when we had to self isolate and
do our part to keep people safe we’ve been working away! I think it
shows how strong and dedicated we are that not even a global pandemic
can stop us!

Hayley: We were absolutely on the ball pre-covid, and the desire to
gig is constantly burning up in me because I literally live for that
shit. So it’s pretty disheartening in that sense but I suppose it’ll
be a blessing in disguise, this has given us time to plan for the
future and where we want to take ourselves next. So when we can hit
that stage hard again, more people will be readily awaiting the Tiger’s
roar.

Post-lockdown then you guys got right back into it, tell us what you
have been up to.

Michael: We planned the release of No Ghosts Walk and we’ve been
working through that so it’s great to finally bring it to the people
and already have such a massive response to it! Again it wasn’t
exactly in the way, we had hoped for but it feels great to get new
music out there.
Writing, writing, and writing. We have so much new material ready to
go. Again we had to plan for things in a very different way and being
the glass half full kinda people we are, we’ve been planning for a
scenario in which we get to play shows again the entire time.
Unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet but we have 5 songs that are
ready and we’ve booked studio time 3 times now only to have it
canceled due to lockdown and some Spinal Tap type incidents!
Regardless of that we’re pushing ahead and we’re going to enter the
studio late this year/early next and record new material that will
show a very different side to us from the songs out now, they are a
huge step forward for us I feel. I’ve been planning a lot for next
year in the hope that things will improve and we can take the band
back on stage and on the road.

Hayley: We hit the rehearsal room again hard to prepare for recording
our EP however we’ve hit some bumps in the road, but that’s to be
expected considering how this year has planned out haha… but I guess
we’ve just been working toward tying up loose ends to be a fully
running machine again!

I don’t know if you have noticed but 2020 is a bit of a cluster fuck,
as a musician, creative, how do you see the music industry recovering,
and do you think changes need to be made to help support and encourage
new artists coming through like yourselves?

Stevey: It’s not just the music industry that’s crippled by this silly
virus it’s the whole damn entertainment and hospitality industry
sadly! But if we all come together and do our part we can get through
it! Music helps so many people and the great thing about it is you
can do it anywhere! So my advice would be to keep playing, keep writing
, and keep experimenting with absolutely everything! Personally, I think
we’re all in for a real treat when the doors open again and all these
great bands show up in huge forces! There’s gonna be so much new
music for us all to get in our earholes!

Michael: Were one step away from a Godzilla attack at this stage. I,
for one, would welcome him. It really has been a bit of a shit show
but there’s a lot of good has come out of it as well. More people are
starting blogs or playlists or even bands which may sound strange in a
lockdown situation. All these things help to keep an industry alive
that’s really been brought to its knees. Music will never go away and
neither will the music industry, if it survived Napster it’ll survive
this.  I think when shows can happen again people will really
appreciate that local show that’s in a bar across the road from them
and maybe instead of thinking ‘I’ll see them next time’, people will
get up and go see that band now. I think on a national level and from
the perspective of the government they need to do so much more, I
think the current ad campaign and comments from ministers are
absolutely disgusting. I can’t imagine having a life without
creativity, imagine a nation or a world without it.
I think more and more needs to be done to support local music and the
infrastructure to do so in Northern Ireland is a little lacking at the
minute. There are some great people doing great things but we need to
put things in place and support people who want to make this a viable
and nationally recognized scene.

So what’ is next for you guys, sadly we’re still in 2020 but what’s
the plan moving forward for you carry kids going into 2021 and beyond?

Stevey: New material and working together really. Our friendship makes
it pretty easy that we can just meet up and play and it just feels
right! We had a lot of stuff planned for this year that’s going to be
pushed into next year so that keeps it exciting! And I feel like if I
don’t look at my phone for a few minutes Michaels got some new killer
riff that needs deciphering and put into a song! I don’t wanna give
too much away in case this virus causes more chaos but if it pisses off
then we are going to absolutely rip it up!

Hayley: We are most definitely planning to get that EP down and out
for everyone to hear because who doesn’t love new music?! Plus it’s a
big evolving step for us as musicians. Another one on the list is a
tour, we want to reach out further and spread the Paper Tigers hype!!
It’s going to be an epic year for us providing all those other
annoying things clear off and we can take over

Michael: If things work out then all those things Stevey and Hayley
have mentioned, and more! I’m always planning and always writing so
given the opportunity next year we are going to seize it with both
hands. In all honesty, I’ve already started thinking about 2022 and
maybe an album.

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