An Interview With Page France
March 2nd, 2006 by Matt
Within the first five minutes of talking to Page France, it became evident that they’re all huge music fans. Between their rhythm section’s affinity for death metal and Michael Nau’s love of Dylan, I think they’ve got all the bases covered. But I guess it’s this kind of heart that keeps an independent band able to tour America, despite the fact that sometimes they might be playing only for bartenders and bouncers. That’s exactly what independent music is about: doing something just for the love of it.
And believe me, Page France is all about love.
It seems that a band like Page France should have some startlingly great beginning. Perhaps a divine decree or some other easily-identifiable starting point. But, strangely enough, lead singer Michael Nau is quick to point out that their formation was actually more of a gradual evolution, rather than the thunderbolt of necessity.
“It started out as a thought, and slowly churned into something a bit more in depth, I suppose,” Nau explained. “I had a batch of songs that I’d written in the spring of 2004, in which we [Michael, Whitney, Clinton, and Bryan] recorded in the summer of that same year. Then, before the recording of, Wind…, we joined up with Jasen Reeder and made that record.”
While the band may have developed slowly in their early stages, the release of their second album has thrown light on an otherwise under-appreciated group. Choc full of glockenspiels, organs and the ever-present acoustic guitar, Hello Dear Wind is a triumph of the music of the heart. Each song is dripping with emotion so pure and unabashed that you can’t help but identify with it. The story behind its creation is almost as interesting as the album itself.
In early 2005, Page France was almost ready to go into the studio and record their second LP. But shortly before doing so, Michael Nau backed out of it. “It just didn’t feel like the next best step for me,” he explained. So, with their self-imposed deadline approaching, Nau flexed his songwriting muscles and got to work. Over the next few weeks, Hello Dear Wind was recorded by the band, quite literally, as he was still writing it. “We’d be recording a song, and Michael would be in his basement, writing the next one,” said bassist Jasen Reeder.
Curiously, this songwriting strategy seems to work for Page France. The band has regularly stated that they prefer this rushed approach, with multi-instrumentalist Whitney Magraw even going so far as to say that “it has to be last minute or it’s not getting released.” And while some might see this as poor planning, it seems that it’s just Page France’s modus operandi. Apparently pressure does make diamonds.
Michael Nau’s speedy approach to album writing has had one interesting side-effect – there are many uniting melodies or bits of lyrics that run thematically through the entire album. “I sort of remained in one mind-set throughout, for the most part,” Nau explained. “The repetition had a lot to do with the fact that the album was written, essentially, all at once.”
So while Hello Dear Wind might have been strengthened by uniting themes or melodies, it’s also led to one of the band’s biggest annoyances for that very same reason. When online giant Pitchfork Media review the band’s album, they focused primarily on the reoccurring themes of Christianity that run throughout the album. And while there are an undeniable number of Christian themes and symbols that pop up (as well as a song entitled ‘Jesus’), Michael Nau swears he’s not trying to be the next Sufjan Stevens.
“The ‘Christian band’ inquiry wears me out, to be honest,” Nau said in response to numerous articles which have painted Page France as just that. “As for the Christian symbols in my writing – sometimes I don’t even realize that they exist until someone points them out to me. There’s really no reason; it just rolled out that way.”
In spite of being poorly labeled by journalists and busy with numerous tour dates, the members of Page France are still poised to have an amazing year. First on their schedule of releases is a “duet of an EP” this Spring, the two parts of which are entitled “Pear” and “Sister Pinecone.” Shortly after the EPs’ release will follow a 10″ vinyl that has yet to be named. And, while they’re trying not to look that far into the future, the band are hoping to put out their third full length album sometime in the winter months. I guess this level of commitment is to be expected. After all, when you’re doing something for the love of it, it stops being work. That’s when the fun begins.
And believe me, Page France is all about fun.
Don’t forget, if you look at Page France’s tour dates, you’ll see that they are playing an 18+ show at The Dame this Sunday. Local favorites Petticoat, Petticoat are opening, and I’ll be making a delightful mix for between the bands. If you do come, be sure to stop me and say hey. I’ll be the shaggy haired, big nosed kid.