Caturday with Jerry Paper

Cordelia Speed

Post-modern artist Lucas Nathan, better known as his alias Jerry Paper, is an enigmatic multidimensional entity with a single mission: to express himself freely. Through the weird and wonderful world that he creates through his silky synth-pop, Lucas blurs the lines between the real and surreal. He refuses to be defined by the music industry and instead expresses what he wishes through the style of music that feels right. An existentialist by nature, his records transcend the societal structures which keep us from being liberated and offer alternate universes with freedom at their hearts. Whilst the dream-like energy of his records might provide an avenue for escape from the world, whilst on Earth, Lucas advocates for change and the demolition of the systems which enchain us.

CS: Firstly, to satiate my own curiosity, where does Lucas Nathan end and Jerry Paper begin? When did you first discover this other dimension of yourself, or has he always existed as a part of your own character?JP: Jerry Paper started as a mask of myself that I could wear to be more freely me. I started making music alone at home as a teenager and when I turned 20 I decided to try performing live. It was EXTREMELY nerve wracking and I felt I needed some way to ritualize the experience, to make a distinction between the person on stage and the person off stage. Essentially it was a tactic to avoid stage fright, but it gradually became a way for me to express myself in freer ways than I feel I can in my daily life. Particularly as the pandemic has made it impossible to tour, I am starting to realize how much I’ve relied on this compartmentalized freedom of self. I see now how the freedom of being Jerry on stage is missing from my life. So right now I’m trying to integrate that freedom into my daily life! It is very challenging, but I think every day I get closer to melding the two beings.
CS: You have proved yourself to be an artist who is unafraid to delve into the sub-conscious and explore the idea of existentialist anxiety through your records. In this uniquely unsettling present that we now find ourselves, living through a global pandemic which is set to change the world as we know it, how have you been adapting to this perplexing new reality?
JP: I mean, it’s been nuts! Just trying to take it one day at a time. Sometimes erupting in tears, sometimes erupting in joyous dance.
CS: The silky jazz aesthetic throughout your discography topped with abstract and existential lyricism is reminiscent of the works of Haruomi Hosono or Steely Dan. Who, or what, are your inspirations for your music?
JP: Hosono and Steely Dan are definitely up there. I think Steely Dan in particular really opened my eyes to the way certain modes of storytelling and image-making can elevate music. A lot of my lyrical inspiration comes from just living life and writing down my thoughts, but a lot of it also comes from reading novels and short stories. Don DeLillo was a really big inspiration for a while. When I was writing and recording Abracadabra I was really into Joy Williams (particularly the short story book “Taking Care” and the novel “Breaking and Entering”) and rediscovering Kafka (“Amerika” is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read).
CS: You have a special skill for making your lyrics feel like a composite part of your music rather than an addition to it. How important do you think it is that lyrics match the character, or vibe, of the music?
JP: I try not to dwell too much on “matching” the music and lyrics. I just make the music that sounds good to my ears and write lyrics that feel true to myself. The best way of making music for me is to not focus so much on the end product, and let the music and lyrics flow through you without the judge inside getting in the way.
CS:When listening to “Cholla” from your latest album, Abracadabra, there seems to be a certain nostalgia evocative of 70s style jazz pop. Do you think the exploration of eras gone by can help us to explore the present music scene?
JP: I don’t really know! I just listen to a lot of music from that era so my ear is acclimated to that. I also try to take every album as an opportunity to explore a new area of my broad love of music. There is so much music I love that it seems disingenuous to “pick a style” and stick with it. I just want to express myself!
CS: Do you ever feel pigeon-holed by the genre descriptions or labels people assign your music? It seems to me you use genre characteristics as a tool to further the broader message within your music, rather than sticking to any semblance of a defined or refined tradition.
JP: Yes I HATE genre and labels. I find the practice of placing music into boxes to be antithetical to music as an expression of self. Making ‘genre music’ is an expression of conformity, and putting music into genres often imposes conformity onto things that are simply expressions of a person or a group of people coming together to create something. I find it to be limiting and frustrating! Even when people call things “weird” it feels like a lazy way of taking something that doesn’t fit anywhere else and, instead of analyzing it and understanding it as the unique experience it is, dismissing it or placing it in a box of its own. It makes me sad!
CS: You talk about the ability for music to carry information that bypasses linguistic processing – what story, or feeling, are you expressing through your music?
JP: If I could express it in words I wouldn’t be making the music, haha!
CS: Something that is truly emblematic of Jerry Paper is your iconic sense of style – your flowing silk robes, flower garlands and liberated dance moves make you almost hypnotic to watch when on stage. What inspires your unique sense of fashion?
JP: Freedom from boxes is kinda my M.O. I’m just trying to present the freest expression of myself on stage so people feel comfortable accessing that in themselves. As I mentioned earlier, I have a very difficult time doing this in my regular life and it’s something I am trying to get better at.
CS: On Instagram, your cats feature centre stage. Have you always been a cat person?
JP: I think I have always been a cat person without knowing it. I never had a cat until I got Ernie in 2012, and it definitely activated something in me that I never knew about. Now Ernie is 8 and I have 4-year-old Poofy as well. Interspecies friendship is a very beautiful thing, and I just connect to cats in particular very deeply. I love my little boys!!!!!
CS: As someone who is constantly evolving and voices the need for a system change in society, what changes would you like to see in the world post-pandemic?
JP: Defund the police and reallocate funds towards community services! Invest in a green future! Collectively shift away from a punitive worldview towards a supportive worldview! We can imagine new worlds and we can bring those new worlds into being if we are open to learning, to being wrong, to learning to communicate effectively with each other! I mean, I could go on for hours.

Click to check out Jerry Paper’s playlist