I first met Jai Pyne, enigmatic frontman for the indie prunk group (that’s pop with a sweet funk underture) The Paper Scissors when he was a scrawny teenager whose greatest challenge in life was trying to slam-dunk a partially deflated basketball at an inner-Sydney playground. Not much has changed in the near decade since, except that his boundless energy has been channeled into a burgeoning career as a songwriter for one of the hottest bands in Australia.
Pyne draws upon a vast catalogue of musical styles to create the tastefully arty sound of The Paper Scissors. The band are an anagram of 80s Soho chic, all pointy collars, shiny shoes and a swing that starts at the foot and works its way through your hips and to your head. You can try it, but I guarantee you won’t stand still at a TPS show.
But I knew that some four years ago.
That was when I first got hold of an early demo that Pyne had recorded. Blown away by its maturity, boldness and originality, I shopped it to a major record label who loved it and practically signed him on the spot, thinking Pyne to be the next Beck. Problem was, all Jai wanted to be was liberated from any commercial expectations.
So the deal expired a peaceful death and Jai quickly tired of the solo life. He formed The Paper Scissors, a partially democratic four-piece with its roots firmly in the rolling hills of Byron Bay.
Which brings us to the present, and a relaxed Pyne answering a barrage of questions about his band’s newfound fame. Or should that be near-found fame?
I asked him how he would describe those days, looking back now, when he was just kicking off and looking for a break:
‘Ha, yes, those days were excellent. It was so fun starting a band. I think for me, it was the first time I’d been in a proper band. I’d been in my bedroom making demos for so long, it was such a new thing. The tenacity and fun that we had starting off was great. The only real goal then was just making music and impressing people. Now I think about the business side of things a lot as it is more serious and more full time, running a label and stuff. It was shit sometimes as well, playing to tiny crowds that had no idea who you were and were just there to hate you sometimes. But it was exciting, even if people were there to judge. I was always righteous enough to get past that and think they were wrong.
How’s the new skinman Ivan fitting in? Does he have the same manic energy that [previous drummer] Bryce had?
‘Yeah, Ivan Lisyak our new skinman. He is fantastic. He has more of a manic energy on his drum kit than Bryce actually, a different style, a bit more punk. He looks like a fucking crazy man on his kit. He wears nice shirts and has thick-rimmed glasses and just goes mental. It’s awesome fun to watch. It’s good because he’s also in a great band called Belles Will Ring and I can see him play with them, because usually I stand in front of him. It is working well with us, loosening stuff up. He’s a talented guy, very musical, plays lots of instruments and also makes beats and makes art. He’s a very fun and easygoing character, caring too. He is a great drummer, we were blessed to get someone who could even come close to filling Bryce’s. And Bryce has a shit load of shoes’.
The new video for your song The Bandit … traipsing across the san dunes. Tell me about the making of it.
‘We decided to work with Mark Alston again, who co-directed our last clip for Tipped Hat. He is great. He has a really amazing eye and vision. Such a hard working guy. He and I got together and nutted out a few concepts. I was always thinking that the song had a nautical feel to it. It has sea references and also the sound of the horns at the end to me feels like wind and rain and big waves, kind of in music form. So we developed the idea from that and Mark thought of the whole shipwreck thing. We were thinking ‘the Mighty Boosh meets Ulysees’. I’d become obsessed with The Boosh, and I wanted it to have an amateur theatre vibe. And Mark wanted to have a Cyclops and the arcade game. Shit, it was just a massive mish mash of ideas. I think with anything we do it has a purity of concept to it, but then a lighthearted piss take playing against (or with) that. It was fun but grueling, making it’.
There’s a strong mesh of art and music apparent with everything TPS do. Where do you take your lead from in that respects?
‘Wow, that’s nice you say that. I sometimes wonder if it comes across. Often I wish we had more time or money to carry this out in a more successful fashion, but it’s good when people get it. Ahhh, well musicians … Bowie would have to be one of the main ones. He was always toeing that line between art and music. The Beatles I suppose. I mean everyone says Yoko broke them up, but she is amazing. There are some more current people too, such as Broken Social Scene. They always have such great clips and artwork and their music is so self-indulgent sometimes, but so powerful and pure. Arcade Fire too, they always have a current running through their stuff, a great aesthetic and ethos. I suppose being a frustrated artist [Pyne dropped out of art school to do this music stuff] always influences our aesthetic directly. I do all our artwork and it allows me another outlet, a way to stay in touch with the visual aspect of things’.