LA-based post-rock band, French Mouth, is all about pointing their anger in the right direction and basking in self-awareness. Those energies combined are present in the four-piece’s 5-track debut EP, Paper Tiger, out now. The EP was engineered and mixed by Josh Franks at JFM Studios and mastered by Nick Townsend. All songs were written by French Mouth.
The expression “Paper Tiger” is an allusion to the Chinese phrase “zhilaohu,” a term dating back to the 14th century that refers to something appearing to be more threatening then it is in actuality. This false threat is not powerful, and actually unable to defend itself against challenge. Songwriter, guitarist and vocalist, Dee Frank explains his personal “paper tiger” and the meaning behind the lyrics of the debut single and title track, saying:
“The song is inspired by my struggle with mental health and trauma that manifests itself throughout my day-to-day. When I dig deeper, it is not an outward enemy, or a metaphorical female tiger, as described in the song; but myself and my fears I have to come to terms with and face. This song is a reminder to take care and check in on myself.”
The accompanying music video takes the lyrical theme and turns it into a visual metaphor, as band members face themselves in a game of chess in between flashes of waves crashing, glances in the mirror, and of course, cathartic moments of rocking out. Most of the video is black and white, and the use of color only builds onto the introspective symbolism.
Dee Frank sheds light on the inspiration behind the video, saying, “The video for Paper Tiger depicts the story of self-conflict even under times of duress. Fighting against the darker side so to speak. Additionally, the video is a homage to Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, where a Knight finds himself in a chess match with ‘death’ during the end of days as he questions existence.”
The rest of the EP dives even deeper into Frank’s personal life and into culture at-large. “Teal” is based on real life events that occurred in both his life and his father’s. He explains, “As a young boy my father was in and out of the California penal system which directly affected his mental health and as a result ended up in prison for four years for armed robbery. I was raised visiting my father and sending him letters. The lyrics are partly me talking to my mother about him, partly him talking to his mother about himself and me wondering if the same rebelliousness lives on in me.”
Misfit anthem “Electricité” is all about being an outcast among outcasts. Frank says, “Being an alternative kid even among the alternative crowd in Los Angeles can be tough… the ‘cool kids’ didn’t want me around so I wrote a song for em. The songs lyrics run like a chant waiting for the listener to echo, “too cool for you.” If you can’t join em’, beat em is what I say!”
“Hunting Season” feels especially fitting for 2020, and serves as a song about the elitists’ rhetoric in our culture. Frank says, “It doesn’t matter whether it is left or right, foreign or domestic, extreme or conservative; If there is hate at the center of your being, it must be cut out. Otherwise, we are left at each other’s throats. I despise divisive behavior. “In another world, we’d feed the weak, teach the young and be set free”. I wish this world existed here and now. But unfortunately, the culture remains and it is still in fact, Hunting Season.” And so it is, and the Paper Tiger EP is here to scream and make noise about it.