The songs on Tender Madness came from a couple years of hard touring for PAPA.
The band—formed by childhood friends Darren Weiss and Danny Presant, who moved from New York back to Los Angeles in 2010—had a growing fanbase, but was just starting to realize a vision they had for the music.
Weiss, on drums and vocals, and Presant, on bass, grew up obsessed with the DIY punk scene embodied by Fugazi and formed the band in 2008 in New York. After moving back to LA they released the first PAPA EP, A Good Woman Is Hard To Find, in 2011. For the band's debut full length, Weiss says the band wanted to cast a new mold.
"Tender Madness is almost a hard record to talk about and that's proven to be the case with a lot of outlets, they don't know what genre it is. They don't know how to name it, which is something we set out to do," says Weiss during a phone interview from a day off in Burlington, Vermont.
"We wanted to make a record that didn't have a hashtag genre attached to it. We didn't want to do something that was obvious," "There are things that are influenced by hip-hop. There are things that are folk and county. There are things that are punk. We really took this album song by song, with comes across when you listen to this record. To me the record is really a reflection of our experiences and philosophies."
Weiss says a quote he gave about the subject matter of Tender Madness—"the holy trinity of insanity, America and women"—became misconstrued, oversimplifying what the band put forth on the record.
"I should have said the record reflects our time traveling the country and making lots of sacrifices to do it, including mental health and a lot of the people in our lives," he says. "(The album) seems to be about trying to find out what freedom means to yourself, what it's worth to you and what things get in the way of personal freedom. Those things seem to be what travel through the record, both sonically and lyrically."
Those two years of hard touring, making their way as a band and devoting themselves to art didn't come without sacrifice.
"There's s a lot of loss on the record, but some of the loss is ecstatic," Weiss says. "There are romantic loss songs that lead to ecstatic, lustful songs, but it all has to do with that time we were traveling and losing some things we'd known our whole lives to dedicate ourselves to the vision of this band."
Weiss, who drummed with the San Francisco band Girls and was a member of Simon Dawes (which later became Dawes), says making his way through other projects helped him articulate his own ideas for what PAPA.
"Other bands I've been in or other records I've played on, I'm very conscious of the work being someone else's vision and being very happy to see that vision through," he says. "In PAPA the vision is ours to see through. It's a different kind of process. The excitement is on a different level and the fulfillment is in on a different level."
Still, PAPA as it exists now is a different entity than the band Weiss and Presant first put together in New York.
"We've been doing this band for six years now, if the vision was still the same now as it was from day one, I'd be concerned with our ability to grow and change," he says. "To me the whole point of art is to not necessarily reflect what's going on in one's life, but art has to be transformed by the life you live. The art has to exist in such a way that it transforms the life you lead."
Still, Weiss says that when he listens to any of the recordings he's made that were an extension of his own vision, from high school solo records through the first PAPA demos, there is a quality that permeates through all of his work, something he's proud of.
"The things I speak about are the people I have connected with and those are connections," he says. "I'm proud of and want to nurture and part of that has to do with feelings of being an outcast in some ways. That is sort of the role of the artist, to be the fun outsider and to turn that experience into something beautiful."