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Paper Beat Scissors shakes again

Tim Crabtree's chamber-folk project continues to strike a chord as it returns to Halifax.

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Tim Crabtree's soft, sturdy songs have made Paper Beat Scissors your favourite bands' favourite band. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • Tim Crabtree's soft, sturdy songs have made Paper Beat Scissors your favourite bands' favourite band.
When Tim Crabtree—the brains and diary entries behind the vulnerable chamber folk of Paper Beat Scissors—pulled through the Cobequid Pass yesterday, “it felt like a homecoming,” he says, laughing into the phone as he talks about the feeling that swept over him as he stretched his legs at the rest-stop that marks the halfway point from the rest of mainland Canada to Halifax.

It makes sense that it all felt so familiar: Crabtree studied at Dalhousie University while music became a side project and, eventually, the main event for him. Soon, he’d move to Montreal and begin collaborating with the likes of sad-rock sultan Michael Feuerstack and Arcade Fire's Jeremy Gara—weaving an orchestral-informed sensibility into his work along the way.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the orchestral element of things and have really dove back into that. It’s a language you can do very basically and make it work. I like that word, ‘literate’,” he says in reply to being asked how he’s learned to make such additions to his sound. “It’s basic ideas and I’ve been very surprised how orchestral musicians have been so supportive of where I’m coming from.”

Having worked with orchestras and ensembles in varying sizes—and pairing with the Warhol Dervish String Quartet for PBS’ latest record, Parallel Line—Crabtree has made a career on songs as delicate and intricate as lace. Now, he’s hitting The Seahorse Tavern stage on Nov 7 to celebrate the new LP, which was released in September.

He’s also bringing a full band in for the show—including “two violinists to lean into the orchestral side of Paper Beat Scissors’ catalogue.” Splitting dates playing solo and with a backing band on tour, each show's a new beast. “There’s usually a 75 percent cross-over between solo and band sets and I enjoy that: Working on what works well with a band and what works well solo,” Crabtree says.

“There’s this one song called ‘Forgotten’ we play with the band—a very explosive version of that song. We played it in London recently, where there’s often a limiter on the wall of the bar and we were just like ‘can we trip this out?’ So, a spoiler alert is that we’ll probably end on that,” he adds.

When asked if sharing from his soft-hearted lyric book ever freaks him out, Crabtree replies: “I don’t notice it; I don’t think about it so much. But the first time I sung—it was at Ginger’s Tavern”—yes, the classic early-2000s bar on Barrington street that shuttered in 2009—“I was so terrified. But over time, that fear goes away. If I step back, it’s weird.”

While Feuerstack has maintained an almost-constant collaborator status, new partnerships Crabtree has taken on include Polaris prize shortlister Jean-Michel Blais and producer Dean Nelson, who’s worked with the likes of Beck and The Rolling Stones. (“If you’re playing in bands with people who’ve won Grammys, it’s like ‘am I allowed to be here?’” Crabtree says.)

Tomorrow night, though, it’ll be as much about working together with the audience to birth a moment sharp, small and perfect. “Then,” adds Crabtree, “I’m heading to Java Blend immediately after the show.”

Paper Beat Scissors performs at The Seahorse Tavern (2037 Gottingen Street) on Thu Nov 7, 9pm.

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