While most know this retro, gospel-infused band from their popular single “Call Me,” there are many more compelling projects in store for St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Stevie Wonder meets James Brown may be the best way to describe lead singer Paul Janeway’s vocal style and stage presence, respectively. Originally from Alabama, they have definitely mastered bringing Southern soul and blues into their music. Their newest project includes producing a record that preserves their original sound all while working with a popular, unnamed hip-hop producer in order to remain as original as possible during what seems to be the most recent height of the genre. This may be one of the most innovative sounds of the moment, blending their traditional R&B soulful sound with contemporary hip-hop beats and flow.
PAUL: I am Paul from St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
WSN: So first question, how did you guys get started, how did you all meet and how did you develop into what you are today?
PAUL: I first started singing when I was four years old in church, so I’ve been singing a long time. Jesse, who’s the bass player in this band, we are really good buddies, so we were in a band previous to this, it’s the only other band I’ve ever been in and he worked at a music shop, which is kind of connected. So, he’s the one that really got all these guys together. We were in the studio to do our last kind of recording. We just wanted to make a recording of our musical relationship, so we got together and he knew all the guys that are in the band.
WSN: Okay, so it was through him?
PAUL: So he’d known them, it wasn’t through me. We started recording stuff and we thought, “Uh oh, we have a band.” So, it kind of spawned from there. It’s kind of wild to be playing festivals in New York and so on.
WSN: You guys only formed a band in 2012, but have really made a statement!
PAUL: I try! For me it’s one of those things where we’ve had a few lucky breaks and a few things happen and we work, obviously everybody works hard when we do this. You’ve gotta have a little good fortune and so on and so forth. So, for me it’s been one of those things that’s been a wild ride. I enjoy doing it, so I guess when I quit enjoying it, I’ll probably stop doing it. But it’s a blast right now.
WSN: Probably not going to happen anytime soon.
PAUL: Yeah, I hope not!
WSN: How do you feel being here in New York, at the Meadows?
PAUL: It’ll be nice. We played last night at the Brooklyn Bowl, which is a smaller show for us. It was a blast; it was a lot of fun, a great time. I love being in the city, you know when we first started we were in an abandoned trailer and driving through the city in an abandoned trailer is not a lot of fun. So, I had a very different relationship with the city. Growing up in Alabama, New York City was like “oh, it’s the big city!” you know? So, there’s things I love about it, there’s things I don’t love as much. But it will be fun, it’ll be great. Festivals and crowds here are usually really great, so I’m excited. We’ll see what happens.
WSN: That’s so exciting. If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing?
PAUL: Oh man … I don’t know. I think now, I was in accounting school when this happened. But …
WSN: Wow! Polar opposite.
PAUL: Yeah, I know. So, I don’t think I would go back to that though. I think … I really love art history. I think I would go into that field now, which is different.
WSN: Have you been to the museums around here?
PAUL: Oh yeah! Actually tomorrow … I’ve been to the MoMA before, but actually there’s also a Austrian and German museum that has Gustav Klimt, who did Golden Lady [Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I]. A very famous painting. It’s actually in New York.
WSN: Awesome! So you’re going tomorrow?
PAUL: I hope. I hope I get to. I started getting into art and photography and kind of understanding that. There’s some stuff at the MoMA.
WSN: So you would stay in the arts?
PAUL: Yeah, I would. I love it and I don’t know, to me that motivates me and moves me more than like coming seeing music, now. So it’s a bizarre thing.
WSN: That’s awesome. As you live and you grow, different things peak your interest as you get older … I can tell you pull your sound from lots of different places. Who would you say, maybe top two or three, who influences you the most? First of all as a musician and you personally, and second of all as a band as a whole?
PAUL: We are influenced by so much. Wherever we come from, like the Muscle Shoals Swampers is a big thing for us. It’s the studio band that played with Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett and all these amazing musicians. For me, as a singer, there are so many, but one that jumps out is someone like Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye, to me are amazing singers. Someone that I admire and that I love the way that they’ve done their career, someone like Tom Waits or Prince, someone like that. So, to me it all varies. It’s hard to pick one.
WSN: Yeah, it’s hard. That’s why I said maybe a top three.
PAUL: I would say, looking at people’s careers … I’d like to look at someone like Tom Waits or Prince, and Marvin Gaye and Otis are some of the greatest singers. And Aretha Franklin. They’re so effortless in what they did and to me that’s amazing.
WSN: With vocals, that’s really what you wanna aim for.
PAUL: Make it seem like it’s nothing, like it’s hard.
WSN: What direction is your band going? What are you working on now? Where do you want to be?
PAUL: We’re kind of an ever changing thing. We’re never like “oh, we’re this or that, or this or that.” So we’re constantly kind of evolving. We’re starting to record a new record, which is our third record. We’re working with a guy that’s a hip-hop producer, so we’ll see how it goes.
WSN: That sounds like it’d be really cool!
PAUL: Yeah, I’m excited to see where it goes. Ultimately, you try to be cool but everybody’s just a big music nerd. And that’s just how it goes.
WSN: That’s really how it is! And I think that’s a very smart move you’re making right now because hip-hop is right now. Everybody is going for that sound. It’s really what’s in. So meshing that is a great idea.
PAUL: The ideology of it is, what we’re into is some old school R&B and things like that. Hip-hop samples that now, and so it’s like this weird thing. So, we thought it would be interesting to approach it from someone who approaches it from hip-hop into us and then we approach it from us into that. It’s been a lot of fun, it’s been different. I’ve loved it.
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