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Getting to know: Paper Dragon

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Following on from the release of ‘Self Control’, ‘Loving You’ and ‘Be Free’, rising electronic music stars Paper Dragon are back with the release of their ‘Birds of Paradis’e EP.

Paper Dragon are a collective form Bristol fronted by Ruth Royall. With releases on the likes of Hospital Records, Shogun and Spearhead, Ruth has been nothing shy of a success in the UK Jazz scene and DnB circuit. More recently, her collaborations with the likes of Grafix for ‘Refuge’ with and Pola & Bryson for ‘Running in the Dark’ earnt her props from Earth, Wind And Fire for ‘‘Having of having one of the most versatile voices on the scene”.

And if that wasn’t enough, her recent #KeepItReal campaign, which was supported by ourselves, UKF and Drum&BassArena, saw Ruth put her stamp on the scene by promoting body and image positivity and challenging negative social media expectations.

Meanwhile, the other ‘Dragons’; Bruce Turner, Kris Burton and Jonathan Savage have worked with the likes of U2, Kate Bush, Massive Attack, Rick Rubin, Brian Eno, Underworld, KOAN Sound, TC, Distorted Minds, NAO, Mount Kimbie and Fred V & Grafix, to name a few.

With the EP including the already hugely popular hits ‘Loving You’, ‘Be Free’ and the recent release, ‘Self Control’, the ‘Birds of Paradise’ EP has gained support from Spotify on their New Music Friday, Run N Bass and Massive Drum and Bass. Now with the additions of ‘Send Your Love’ and ‘New Religion’, ‘Birds of Paradise’ offers a collection of genre bending Drum & Bass cuts.

About Paper Dragon

Hey Ruth! Thanks for chatting to us here at Data Transmission. For those who don’t know you already, would you be able to tell us about Paper Dragon? Where are you based? Who is involved in the group? Who are your influences? What are their backgrounds? How did you get to where you are today?

Hi Data Transmission, 

Thanks so much for talking to me today about Paper Dragon. I would love to tell you more! We’re all based in Bristol which has such musical heritage. We love it here! We can really feel something building here at the moment. Lots of our friends and peers who are making music all have some really good things going at the moment, we’re excited to be a part of it.

Paper Dragon is made up of myself and the three other dragons, (I like to call them my dragons, haha) Bruce, Kris and Jon. We have been working together on the project for over 2 years now and we are really happy to see it getting some love.  I met Jon on tour with Fred V & Grafix as he was their tour manager. The first time I ever met him, he actually came to me for some singing lessons so he could sing with his daughter, so god damn wholesome right?! Then after that he got me involved in the FVG tour. Towards the end of the tour I felt the urge to start a new project, so approached Jon and asked if he knew anyone that would be up for something, Jon had been working with Bruce for quite a while on various projects and they knew Kris who is an Abbey Road mix engineer and the Dragons were formed.

It’s quite a unique set up as we all bring a specialist piece of the music business to the party. I do a lot of the writing and the vocals, Bruce is a super musician and sound design specialist, Kris has amazing ears and his mixing and production skills are phenomenal and Jon manages and oraginsies everyone. It works really well and means we can stay very independent as a project. 

From the first day we got in the studio we could feel a good energy in the room which we hope translates into the music. We have a wide array of influences and we were recently quoted as being EZ Rollers, Meets Reprazent, meets London Elektricity, with some Fleetwood Mac rolled in. Nice 🙂

We’re heavily influenced by the Bristol scene; Massive Attack, Roni Size, then wider jazz, soul influences and lots of other dance and electronic musicians. We have all had the opportunity to work with amazing musicians, from Earth Wind and Fire, Nao, Kate Bush, and many more. It really pushes you to be the best creative you can be.

We have got to the point we are today by pushing this ourselves, when we first started we spoke to some labels and played them tunes, everyone liked the music but it didn’t fit with what they were doing, our music was drum and bass inspired but wasn’t dancefloor, it was to song based and almost too cross over, so we decided to do it ourselves. We had the knowledge to do this, so created our own label, set up the distribution and went about promoting it ourselves, starting with our local scene and then pushing outwards. The real breakthrough came when Spotify started to show us some love and we feel like people are starting to take notice now. 

Bristol’s Drum & Bass Scene 

You guys speak highly of Bristol. Tell us why you love it and how it’s helped your career? How do you keep connected in comparison to those living in London for example? Are there any limitations to living there? Any night out recommendations post-pandemic? Is there anyone we should be keeping an eye out for as Bristol’s next new DNB artist?

Yes we love Bristol, the vibe here is close knit and we are all  involved in various parts of the Bristol music community. We have a great network of supporters and other musicians we call upon to be involved in the project. Grafix is Bristol based and as well as me doing solo tracks with him he has helped share what Paper Dragon are doing it has been a massive help. 

Now we have made a little name for ourselves, we are in a good place to keep moving forward and we are really thankful for the support Bristol has been giving us. 

We have all also worked in music education, Kris and Bruce teach at Dbs Music. Dbs have been really supportive and it has given us the opportunity to share our music with the students and get the students involved in things like remix competitions. We met Circumference through this. These guys Kit and Finn are definitely an act to watch out for, they have just been included on a Soulvent Records compilation, where I also feature with Ruckspin from Submotion Orchestra, who are another massive influence for me. 

The scene in Bristol has a large reach but the people are all close to us so it is really helpful to have amazing people around to bounce ideas with. We stay very connected to people around the globe. It is easy to do this now with social media. Our biggest listener base other than Bristol is actually London and New Zealand! Once the pandemic is over we hope to get over to there to play some shows. 

We are yet to see any real limitations to being Bristol based, but we have been affected by COVID. The pandemic has meant we are yet to play live outside of Bristol. In fact we have only done one actual live show. Things have really taken off for us during the last 10 months. It has been a really weird time to break through. We should have been out doing festivals and networking over the summer, but have had to move lots of that online. For the time being this is the future of watching live music I guess. 

We have something brewing that may be a year or so away in terms of a live show. As with all of our stuff it is going to be a little different, that will definitely be our post pandemic recommendation… Watch this space!

Lockdown Diaries 

How has it been in lockdown for you in the West Country? Assuming you don’t all live together…how did you guys connect with each other during these times? Were you still able to make music? Did you find you were as productive? Any tips for boosting creativity as we approach winter?

Lockdown came at a potentially good time for us, as we just about had the first EP in the bag. We were able to do a lot of remote working and all stayed in touch with regular video calls.

I also had a lot of solo work come in and was able to work from my home studio. As well as dropping the Paper Dragon singles I had some great solo features over this time and it really helped build the profile. We were all super productive over lockdown, we could see things were starting to happen and it really drove us forward. 

We did all really miss our regular studio hang outs, but we adapted a workflow and are all fortunate to have work spaces at home, but it definitely makes the process longer as there is more back and forth with ideas, where as if we were together in the room we could show each other the visions in our brains!

My tip for staying productive is to set up a routine and run the process in quite a business-like manner, set yourself achievable daily goals so you can tick them off as you go and feel like you are making headway. We also had days when we didnt feel as good and it was important to respect your own mental state. We are all very supportive of each other in that way, it is super important to have a good team of people around you.

‘Birds of Paradise’ EP

Paper Dragon recently released the ‘Birds of Paradise’ EP following a string of successful releases including Self Control and Loving You, can you explain a bit about the creative process you went through to create these tracks and the meaning behind them? What support on the release have you had? Do you have any remixes coming up? 

We are really proud of ‘Birds of Paradise’, the EP is about love, life and emotions. We have all been through things in our private lives that have inspired this EP. It is truly a collaborative process. Jon and I created a lot of the words and ideas for the songs and Bruce and Kris shaped them into something that is sonically engaging. But then we all sit and tweak them together, talk about their meanings and shape the lyrics and soundscape as a group. 

Each track takes you through the different emotional phases of love. Weather that’s romantic love, self love or pure love! And we titled it ‘Birds of Paradise’ after the birds because of the courtship dances they do for each other, we sat in the studio watching nature videos of the birds dancing which was a fun moment.

‘Self Control’ is about the power you hold within yourself when dealing with difficulties and differences.

‘Be Free’ is about the moment you leave the past in the past and start to become yourself again.

‘Loving You’ is about the enjoyment and emotions you feel when you have fallen head-over-heels in love and all you want to do is be with that person!

‘New Religion’ is the balance between dominance and subordination. How you must be true to yourself when overcome with feelings of lust and desire. 

‘Send Your Love’ is about the moment you open your heart to another person, asking them to love you in return. 

We felt that giving the tracks some connected meaning helps you create something heartfelt and relatable and we have had amazing feedback from fans on this, telling us how the tracks helped through hard times or celebrate something good.

We’ve had amazing support from Spotify and our distributor AWAL. We have been on some mega Playlists and the last two singles have been included in New Music Friday! this blew our minds… On the day after ‘Loving You’ was released and we found out, I had to lie on the floor for a bit..I was too excited. We have just started to get some great radio play.  Rene Lavice has been supporting us on Radio 1 in the UK and we have had support from Aston Shuffle on Triple J in Australia and Dan Aux on George FM in New Zealand. Infectious PR has played a big part in us taking things to the next level, as we are doing this independently we needed a solid PR company to help us spread the word. They have shown faith in our plan and really supported the music. Massive respect to those guys.

The support from people listening has been the biggest achievement, we were all very happy with the music we had created, but for real fans to tell you how much they love it, that is really what it is all about. Also support from inside the industry, our friends and peers fellow musicians have all been really supportive, thanks guys!

We have some great remixes on the way to the end of the year. October 15th we have the Coastal and Sakkura remixes of ‘Self Control’, these are both bangers!! We also have an Emba Remix of ‘Send Your Love’ out on the 20th November.

We would also love to announce our next single ‘Closer’ which will be out 6th November This is something totally different and forms a part of our plan to push our sound cross genre!! We will be excited to see how it goes down.

#KeepItReal 

You recently ran a campaign called Keeping It Real with the aim of improving body positivity for women in the scene. Tell us about this. Why do you think this is so important? Have you experienced negativity yourself? Was it successful? What’s next?

#Keepitreal was something that just came to me and has really helped me get my head in the right place and feel happy about who I am. Social media is a massive part of the industry but it can play tricks on you. I realised I was not truly portraying myself and this was not a message I wanted young people entering the scene to get. We are told we need to look like this or that or have this body or that body. I have had some negative experiences but the main thing I’ve struggled with is my own self doubt, Social media comparisons haven’t helped this and have fed this feeling. Apps allowing you to achieve this physically unachievable that make other people (and yourself) feel bad because they don’t look that way, it is a vicious circle. 

I did a post about it when I decided to stop using filters on my instagram. I never planned to set up #keepitreal, it was just a personal decision. All of sudden lots of people were commenting and agreeing on the ways it has also affected them, this then grew into a community of people from the scene and further a field, it spread from women to men as well and just keeps growing. That’s when I decided we needed a name. 

From there, we decided to do an instagram takeover and managed to get the hashtag trending! There are some other excellent groups doing a similar thing there is #dropthefilter which has just got some national coverage. I am looking to engage with those guys and widen the campaign along with launching a podcast to create a positive space to open the conversation. I want to keep it as diverse as possible and keep this very important conversation going!

Paper Dragon ‘Birds Of Paradise’ EP is out now. Check it out below and grab yourself a copy from here

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