Don’t Quit Your Day Job!

Faded Paper Figures

I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.

Several years ago as I started working in the newspaper industry, a client suggested that I read a book by Zig Ziglar called See You at the Top. She thought it would help me to become a more competent salesperson. Well, she was right. Not long after starting to read the book my sales numbers grew dramatically. Along the way I learned that success meant more than just better sales numbers. The quote above should help those who never heard of Ziglar understand his approach throughout his books. It may also be of help to many aspiring young musicians in the world. Usually, success within the music industry is almost always equated with fame and fortune and being consumed with nothing else in life but music. This weeks’ featured group provides a different angle to look upon success as a musician. This week I chose to feature the group, Faded Paper Figures.

Faded Paper Figures (FPF) is an American indie pop electronica band from Los Angeles, California. FPF is known for their electro-organic sound and consists of three members, R. John Williams (guitar and vocals), Kael Alden (bass, guitar, drums, etc…), and Heather Alden (vocals). The band formed in February 2007 and released their début album Dynamo in 2008. Their second album New Medium, was released on May 25, 2010. Their third album The Matter was released on October 22, 2012. Their latest album Relics was released on Aug. 5, 2014.

Electropop music is not my first choice for music listening, but Faded Paper Figures really has a sound I found appealing. Like many musical groups, FPF seems to have grown to work with each other effectively and therefore create even better music. Nevertheless, it is their story of how they formed that may be most interesting.

Faded Paper Figures met in early 2007. John Williams and Kael Alden were discussing music. Kael was composing music for TV and film with his older brother’s company, Robot Repair. John already had some experience as a musician and songwriter. Both full of ideas for a new sound, they decided to record some material together. Over the next few months they wrote and composed a number of songs, experimenting with blending traditional guitar with electronica. The songs went up first on a new MySpace page under the name of Machine Discourse. Heather Alden joined in as a harmony vocalist, rounding out and softening the band’s sound. Not long after the band’s name changed to Faded Paper Figures, and with a growing song list and a mounting audience, the band’s sound solidified.

More Interesting than the group’s start, has to be their individual activities while not playing music. Heather Alden is a physician. Yes, she finished medical school. John Williams is a full-time professor of English at Yale. Kael Alden composes music for TV and film. When you look at the stellar careers of the members of FPF, it gives new meaning to the advice many give to aspiring musicians, “Don’t quit your day job.” They did keep their day jobs and continued to record music. Music is much more than a hobby for Faded Paper Figures. By 2013, FPF’s music seemed to be circulating everywhere, with millions of plays on Spotify, LastFM, Hype Machine, and Pandora, and appearances on everything from ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” to MTV’s “The Real World,” NBCSports, and E!

Kael and Heather previously married in 2005, and shortly thereafter moved to Irvine, CA, where they met John, who was also in the area doing a PhD in comparative literature at UC Irvine.  After FPF released their first album Dynamo, the band started playing some shows in southern California. FPF won “Best Electronic Band” at the OC Music Awards, and was listed by the New York Post as a “new music must-have.”  NPR called the band’s debut album “clever, intriguing . . . even beautiful.”

When John graduated and got a job at Yale, and Heather was accepted to medical school at UCLA, the band realized they’d either have to carry on via long-distance songwriting, or else end the band. During the next three years, the band sent tracks back and forth online, video chatting, and emailing notes to write two more studio albums, New Medium (2010), and The Matter (2012). Then, just as the band was contemplating a fourth album Kael and Heather discovered that they were expecting a baby.  Many fans wondered whether Faded Paper Figures would be able to maintain its songwriting work with so much going on. There are many musicians who get married and start expanding their families by adding children, but not too many also have other jobs, or in this case careers.

Faded Paper Figures’ story sounds like the epitome of the saying, “too much on their plates”. Somehow they have made it all work. Relicswas successfully released and fans are loving it. As for the trio of Faded Paper Figures, they have returned to their day jobs. They are limited to only a few live performances because of their demanding schedules. They are enjoying success in various aspects of life. I wonder if they read Zig Ziglar’s book too!

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