The Transformation of Jerry Paper, 2016-2019
by Bri Lien
I was first introduced to Jerry Paper at the end of 2015, and was able to shoot one of his performances in a small skate shop in Orange County the following January. In front of a crowd of about 35 people, Paper stood alone wearing a colorful lei, purple silk kimono, and some long black socks and began to play his ballads at a tiny synth and mic. He started to sing and move around and I was awestruck.
Who was this guy? How did he do this, make this music, dream these dreams?
Electronic synth-pop philosopher Jerry Paper (moniker of LA local Lucas Nathan) is not new to the scene--he put out his first collection of music in 2009 under the alias of Zonotope after some years of vying to joining and play in other “cool bands”. Paper ended up going solo after reportedly being rejected by a number of bands for having too “nerdy” of an appearance. I say it was all for the better! Since the Zonotope releases, he has released nine albums as Jerry Paper, exploring every one of his 11 dimensions, and taking into consideration many mathematical concepts such as fuzzy logic, or the infinite space in between 0 and 1. Paper sees music as a particular form of communication that can’t be matched by any oral or written dialect, and thinks of his own music as a series of symbols structured together to make the audience feel something. He channels this not only in his wavy, mellow synth beats and bass lines, but also in his live performance; typically consisting of upbeat hopping and meandering limb-waves around the stage. In the past, he has related this style of physical interpretation as a pro of having an alter ego: he has to be Lucas Nathan, polite member of society by day, and Jerry Paper, a lawless pop cowboy with no fear of judgment by night.
Though I have seen Jerry Paper perform several times throughout the last couple years, I was finally able to shoot him again at his sold-out performance at Zebulon in Los Angeles last month. The show was a few days before Christmas, and this time as he took the stage, Jerry Paper was backed by a full band, all donned in cartoonish striped pajamas. Jerry Paper traded his kimono for a green velvet dress in tune with the Christmas spirit. With limbs free to flail and new synth-pop beats to boot, he let the packed house into his world, and for that I am still exceedingly grateful.
These last three years have looked great on Jerry Paper, and I’m excited for what else is in store for him.