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Breaking: Paper Route

April 29, 2009 2:58 PM ET

Who: Electro-rock quartet Paper Route, who caught the eye of fellow Nashville band Paramore and the music directors at One Tree Hill and are making their major-label debut this week with Absence. With their heart-wrenching, lush and moody arrangements, Paper Route don't exactly define the sound of their city: "We tend to be the black sheep in Nashville," programmer/keyboardist Chad Howat says, "but we love it here."

Sounds Like: Melodic, emotional synth-rock that pulses with an ambient undercurrent reminiscent of vintage Boards of Canada or Aphex Twin. Paper Route are America's answer to symphonic-pop artists like Elbow, M83 and Air, especially on Absence tracks like the propulsive "Tiger Teeth" and anthemic, Doves-like "Last Time."

Vital Stats:

• Howat, who has spied fellow Nashville resident Jack White everywhere from the Home Depot to cheeseburger joints, had an almost-fatal run-in with another of the city's biggest stars. "I almost hit Keith Urban with my car once. I was driving to get some burritos with friends and he stepped out of this huge SUV in the parking lot and I was going too fast so I had to slam on the brakes," Howat says. "I yelled out the window 'Sorry, Keith,' thinking that it was just a Keith Urban wanna-be. But it was actually Keith Urban. He just waved at me at kept walking. Now I see him and Nicole Kidman at the movies all the time."

• After being in a string of rock bands, Howat decided he was finished with that scene and — after discovering Boards of Canada's seminal IDM album Music Has the Right of Children — plunked down money for a laptop to teach himself how to program beats. "I wrestled with insomnia, so once I got a laptop, instead of laying there awake in the middle of night, I'd record little song ideas," Howat says. After amassing a bunch of song ideas, Howat invited his friends and current bandmates singer/multi-instrumentalist J.T. Daly and singer-guitarist Andy Smith to flesh out the tracks and Paper Route was born. Originally conceived as a studio-only project, when drummer Gavin McDonald was recruited the band decided to take their music to the stage.

• Last year Paper Route toured with a seemingly unlikely Nashville band: Paramore. "I'd go this Italian restaurant every week, and the place was owned by the parents of [Paramore guitarist] Josh Farro, who was making sandwiches at that restaurant when he was 16. So we became friends through that," Howat explains. "Paramore actually shot their last video at my house."

Hear It Now: Absence hit stores and digital music service yesterday, April 28th. For more from the band, check out their MySpace page.

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Song Stories

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Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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