INTERVIEW | Chin-Wagging With Laura Paragano

The flair of "heartland surf rock."

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San Francisco-based artist Laura Paragano recently dropped her debut album Strange Curses. Paragano describes her sound as "heartland surf rock."

According to Paragano, "Strange Curses is a literal record of myself. Although I only started writing the songs for the album two years ago, I've been working on this album for much longer. Every song relates to a particular feeling that has viscerally impacted me. Some are very old feelings, and not putting them to words was burning a hole inside of me. It wasn't until recently that I found the right way and right people to externalize these feelings."

Because of her music's unique signature – cowgirl country blended with surf rock – Popdust sat down with Paragano to find out more about the creator of such a singular sound.

How would you describe yourself?

Quintessentially human.

What is the most trouble you've ever gotten into?

I grew up Roman Catholic and the guilt (or fear thereof) has stopped me from doing anything too crazy. Total copout answer.

What's your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

"Tennessee Whiskey" by Chris Stapleton. That vocal run!

Who is your favorite music artist?

Currently, Julia Jacklin. Of all time, probably Ben Folds or The Shins.

How did you get started in music? What's the backstory there?

I remember wanting to play piano before my hands were big enough for keys. But it was trumpet that really got me hooked. By high school, I was a band nerd—drum major of marching band, jazz band, pit band. I even got into writing my own full-band compositions. For a while, I wanted to be the next John Williams. But trumpets aren't conducive to dorm rooms, so I taught myself guitar in college. Then life happened and I went silent for a long time. It wasn't until a few years ago that I picked up the guitar and started writing music again.

Out for a Surf

What musicians influenced you the most?

The new influences: Angel Olsen, Best Coast, and Hazel English. The classics: The Shins, Arctic Monkeys, Fiona Apple, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Louis Armstrong, Sam Cooke, Death Cab, and the Decemberists.

How, if at all, do your musical influences shape and impact your music?

The most important thing to me is that my music is authentic. While I've picked up a few ideas on instrumentation and effects from my musical influences, the biggest impact they've had on me are to illustrate the different ways an artist can express themselves or an idea. I've tried really hard to allow my music the freedom to come out however it's meant to sound.

What kind of guitar do you play? And why?

Fender Telecaster Thinline. It's a semi-hollow, so the tone is clear but ethereal. Plus, it's really light.

You're based in San Francisco. What's the music scene in SF like?

There are so many great places to listen to music! You've got the big beautiful music halls, like The Fillmore, which pull in diverse and well-known artists. But you also have smaller bars that book local acts every night from jazz to folk to rock. That amount of diversity is so important to me.

You recently released Strange Curses, your debut EP. What's the story behind the title of the EP?

It's a lyric from one of my songs that's meant to reference the ways in which my anxiety manifests and builds on itself. But my bassist, Jerry, mentioned one day that it'd be a great album name. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The album has strong themes of desire for connection, belonging, growth, and independence. But the songs also deal with not having those desires get fulfilled—and in that way, each desire is also a strange curse.

Your sound merges surf rock, pop-rock, and country. It's a good sound, by the way. Is your unique sound the result of conscious consideration or did it just happen?

Thanks! I think it emerged naturally from trying to make the music fit the feeling of the lyrics. Surf rock and country both have a sonic wistfulness that moves me.

I love your version of Springsteen's "I'm On Fire." What made you decide to cover it?

I grew up listening to The Boss. Since the album was partly a way to process a growing bi-coastal identity, it only felt right to cover a Springsteen song. I picked "I'm on Fire" because my band and I came up with a good re-interpretation that made it our own.

My favorite track on Strange Curses is "Sick." What was the inspiration for this song?

Ha! A boy. He wasn't available, of course.

Who produced the EP? Are you pleased with how it turned out?

Sami Perez (from The She's) at Tiny Telephone mixed and produced the album. It was all done to tape, too, which 1) makes her work all the more impressive and 2) gives the whole record a nice warmth. The band has full-time jobs and took time off to crank out a 10-song album in 5 days. It was a real team effort, and I couldn't be more proud with what we were able to create in that brief time.

Will you be doing any touring?

I'd certainly like to! If any bands are looking for an opening act, hit me up.

Follow Laura Paragano Website | Facebook | Instagram | SoundCloud

Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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