Over the past 25 years, The Paperboys have found themselves ahead of a few notable trends in the music world.
It speaks to the Canadian folk band's savvy that they've been able — whether intentionally or not — to insulate themselves from some of the tectonic shifts in the industry that have stymied other artists.
The Paperboys emphasized their exuberant, foot-stompin' live show light years before slumping record sales forced artists to double down on touring to make a living.
"It's a band that's really thrived on the live show," explains frontman and songwriter Tom Landa.
Their wildly diverse sound, drawing on everything from bluegrass to Celtic jigs, to experimentations in Mexicali grooves and other Latin American styles, predicted the eclectic tastes of today's attention-challenged generation raised on YouTube and iPod playlists.
Part of that wide-ranging sound can be traced to the band's multicultural makeup; Landa was born and raised in Mexico City, and The Paperboys also count members with roots in Chile, the U.S., and Scotland. But it's also simply a reflection of what the band enjoys listening to.
"Vancouver as a city is a multicultural place. The world comes and lives here. So it was not hard to imagine finding people from other parts of the word to come and join this band. But that diversity was also very much by design," Landa notes. "I think the music we play is very much a reflection of the music we listen to. Myself as the principal songwriter, I'm influenced by all kinds of different music."
The Paperboys first emerged onto the Canadian music scene at an opportune time, when Celtic music surprisingly found its way onto the pop charts.
It was us and Ashley MacIsaac and Great Big Sea and all these bands that became incredibly popular in Canada. I can't think of any other country where Celtic music became Top-40 material," Landa recalls.
The band's Celtic leanings also made them something of a novelty to audiences south of the border who were more accustomed to seeing plaid shirts than plaid kilts.
"This was at a time when grunge was really starting to happen and it was all about angst and really crunchy guitars. And we come in smiling and playing whistles and bagpipes and banjos, so I think we stood out in that sense," says Landa.
The Paperboys have flirted with major record deals in the past, but have remained "mostly independent" over the years. It's an approach that has seemingly panned out, with Landa taking a DIY approach to the business side of the music.
"I think there's a reason we've been around for 25 years, and that's because we've kept it small and sustainable," Landa muses. "That's not to say we wouldn't have liked to have been affiliated with a big label and have someone's tens of thousands of dollars invested into the band, but that never happened and I'm a firm believer things are the way they're meant to be. In our case that's what was meant to be."
The Paperboys will bring their remarkable career full circle on Dec. 15 for a show at the Maury Young Arts Centre. Doors are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25, available at artswhistler.tix.com.