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Paper Parlor does the best they can with where they are

Andy Ellis | A&E Editor | 04-17-2013

There are many ideal places in the country to start a band.  In Minnesota, if you start in the Twin Cities there are almost endless opportunities to begin your journey from obscurity to a band for which people stand in line.

There are also the less than ideal places to start a musical journey, like northern Minnesota.  It’s a region full of small towns that are separated by long stretches of paved or dirt roads with nothing but open fields or thick rows of trees on both sides.

Despite the challenges of living in a rural region, there is one band making the best of what they have, or more appropriately, where they are – they call themselves Paper Parlor.

The journey from creation to completion of the trio started with Kirdan Wenger, the band’s vocalist and guitarist, and Wilson Johnson, the bass player.  “Wilson and I spent a lot of time hanging out, and we’d usually end up jamming,” Wenger recalled via Facebook. “We started writing songs and realized we could probably go somewhere with it, so we adopted the moniker Paper Parlor.”  The band became the trio it is today when drummer and percussionist Judah Chezick joined the band two years ago when they started playing live shows.

The name of the band, Wenger said, represents a concept.  “I like to think of an office or a study with a lot of books and paper for journaling my thought life.”  He said it’s what his band’s music is an outlet for.

When it comes to influences, both Wenger and Wilson found inspiration from the singer-songwriters of the 1960s like Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel.  “They displayed a form of activism that isn’t often seen in music today. We don’t always display that, but it was something that made us want to make music for other people.” Wenger said .

He went on to say their sound is “heavily influenced by indie and folk artists” because their location in northern Minnesota leaves them in a place where it is not easy to set up or attend live shows.  Given that situation, they learned a lot from their favorite studio albums and interjected what they learned into their own recordings.

Even though they’ve played a lot of local shows, including coffee shops and talent shows, their location has required them to do a fair amount of traveling.  Their first out-of-town shows were the Sonshine festival in Minnesota and the Cornerstone festival in Illinois.  Fortunately, Chezick currently resides here in Bemidji and attends Bemidji State University, so they’ve been able to get into the scene here and introduce their music to people.

“Of the people in the area that have heard us by now, we’ve received a very warm welcome,” Wenger said.  The warm welcome has come in the form of everything from “likes” on the band’s Facebook page and the purchase of their music to general friendships and new connections in Bemidji’s musician community.

As far as future plans for the band, they’ve already done a national campaign for college radio stations and are currently working on licensing for television.  They’re also hoping to go out on the road in late March and April.  So if you’re in the area, stop by because you might just find your next favorite band.