Paper Mice is a three-piece whirligig from Chicago that blends a freakish range of influences into miniature, prog-punk puzzles. Started in 2008 by Dave Reminick, Adam McCormack, and John Carroll, Taylor Hales took over for Adam on bass duties in 2013, and the band has been writing and performing together since that time. The band is a fixture in Chicago’s tight-knit DIY community, performing their high-wire “stop-start mess of rhythmic tics and awkward face plants” for dance-soaked warehouse hounds throughout the Midwest and East Coast. Over the years, they’ve toured and/or performed with musical peers Pinback, NNAMDI, Meat Wave, Melkbelly, Oozing Wound, and The Spektral Quartet, amongst others. Influences include The Beach Boys, The Residents, Abba, The Talking Heads, Nomeansno, This Heat, and Susana Baca.
In May, Paper Mice returned with their third full-length, and second for Three One G, 1-800-MONDAYS. Still centered on their dense-but-slamming post-punk trio compositions, the arrangements broaden in scope, adding orchestral instruments and Beach Boys-inspired vocal harmonies, while the band incorporates new stylistic elements with occasional metal riffs and twisted Latin-tinged melodies. These choices cleverly tie in with the pun-strewn lyrics about bizarre true-life stories: a parrot who flies away from home and returns four years later speaking Spanish; an educator who secretly- and repeatedly- defecates on the school’s track; an arachnophobic driver who tries to kill a spider at the gas pump… with a cigarette lighter! The band also expands their sonic footprint, recording the album at famed Electrical Audio. The ten songs go by quickly, but repeated listens are rewarded with new details and new laughs- provided you don’t throw your neck out trying to bob your head.
To celebrate the release of this unusual opus, with a title track that tells an equally puzzling tale centered around an ’80s artifact, Ghettoblaster caught up with Paper Mice to discuss their top 10 favorite ’80s relics.
John: Merlin was the first game I can remember playing. The bleeps and bloops on this thing were awesome.
9.) 80s junk food round-up: Koala Yummies, Gushers, Pop Rocks, Hi-C Ecto Cooler, Bubblicious, Bubble Tape, Bubble Yum, Big League Chew, Oreo big stuf
Taylor: Probably 80 percent of kids at my elementary school had Hi-C Ecto Cooler in their lunch bags every day – except me. I still have no idea what it tastes like. Shout out to watermelon Bubble Tape (cue announcer voice: “6 feet of bubble tape– for you (not them)”).
Dave: Oreo Big Stuf was the greatest snack food of all time. I’m not talking about Double Stuf, which is just an Oreo with extra cream. I’m talking about BIG STUF – an Oreo the size of your f’ing hand! I could never understand why they discontinued them, except for the fact that each one had enough saturated fat to put down a donkey. Sadness. We shall never see their like again.
Taylor: Viewmaster helped get me through many long cross-country car rides in my youth. All facets of American pop culture were rendered: movies and TV, national parks and travel destinations, literature and comics, space travel.
7.) Slap Wrap (slap bracelets)
Taylor: There was a wave of kids who came to my elementary school with these, and they were quickly banned. You can still get them- my kid gets them in party favor bags pretty regularly after birthday parties. I’m glad the weirdly gratifying sensation is now intergenerational.
6.) See-through telephone
John: Items in my brother’s bedroom included Benetton bed sheets, soccer posters, and this clear phone. You know, the type of phone that was plugged into a wall. Shout out to the show PEN-15 for taking me back to those days.
5.) M.U.S.C.L.E. (Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere!)
Dave: I had like a hundred of these things. I loved them. I still don’t know why. The acronym is amazing though.
4.) Castle Greyskull (He-Man)
John: This thing was a hot commodity back in the day!
Dave: I had one next to my bed as a kid. Once I fell off my bed and landed on it. It didn’t wake me up, but the next morning I was all sorts of cut up. Good times.
3.) Donkey Kong II Game and Watch
Dave: As a kid I was so blown away by having a handheld game, let alone one with two screens. To be honest, the game wasn’t even that great, but I couldn’t stop staring at the shiny gold foil label (the Mario Bros Game and Watch had a similar label). To this day, if I see anything that remotely resembles these labels, I need to stop and stare for a while.
2.) The POWER GLOVE
Taylor: They had the Power Glove hanging over the register at a general store where I grew up, and it stayed there for years tormenting me. I never knew anyone who had one, maybe it sucked! I’ll never know, but my desire for it was boundless.
1.) The Garfield Phone
Dave: In many ways the Garfield phone is the epitome of ’80s relics, combining the outdated technology of a novelty phone with the decade’s inexplicable love of a sarcastic orange cat. For the past 30+ years, these phones have been washing up on the Iroise coast of France. It was only recently that their origin – a shipping container that fell off a cargo ship and got lodged in a cave – was discovered. The titular track on our new album – 1-800-MONDAYS – is about this story.
Order the album here.