Paper Citizen on Her Recording Process, New Music, and More
Paper Citizen, also known as Claire Goh, is an indie-rock icon from Singapore. After moving to Boston to pursue a career in music, Goh joined the indie-rock scene. At the end of 2019, she relocated to Los Angeles to explore the city's wild and diverse music community.
On April 23, Goh released her EP Wandering Ghost, an invigorating homage to her journey coming to the United States from Singapore. Wandering Ghost is a tasteful and electrifying blend of fierce guitar riffs, vivacious drum fills, and compellingly creative, thought-provoking lyrical content. The release reflects Goh's magnetic storytelling abilities; the tracks "Lifeline" and "Wandering Gohst" capture her inspiringly powerful energy, and "Won't Be Losing Sleep" highlights a vulnerable, intensely honest moment of the EP.
We talked to Claire Goh about her influences, recording process, Wandering Ghost, and more.
Read the full interview and listen to Wandering Ghost below:
Where are you based and what is the music scene like there?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and I moved to Boston in 2013 to study music. I began playing in the indie rock scene there; It’s a really supportive and close-knit group of musicians. I moved to LA at the end of 2019 because the music scene here is just huge… There are so many musicians of different ages–from different walks of life–and I’m excited to be a part of that.
At what age did you start playing music?
I started playing music at around age six. I started learning to play the piano, and a few years later I began playing violin. I started playing the guitar and writing original songs when I was in college, but I started out classically and then moved over to folk, pop, and rock.
How would you describe your sound?
My sound is indie-rock. There are a lot of organic rhythms, sparkling guitars, crisp vocals, pretty chords, singable melodies, and catchy beats.
Who are your musical influences?
It’s a big range; we’re so lucky to be able to get everything on our phones or computers now. I love everything from Debussy, to Joni Mitchell, to Wilco, to Ariana Grande, to Grimes–I love so many different genres!
Tell me about the name “Paper Citizen”.
The name is based on what it means to belong. Where is our sense of belonging? Going through the immigration process is grueling, and there’s a lot of paperwork and documentation that needs to be filled out. It quantifies our existence and allows us to stay in a place or not; I think about why we belong to a certain place a lot. Why are we allowed to stay in one place and not another, and even when we’re gone, where do we live on?
"Why are we allowed to stay in one place and not another, and even when we’re gone, where do we live on?"
Talk to me about your latest release Wandering Ghost.
Wandering Ghost is about my journey from Southeast Asia to the West Coast of the United States. It’s a lot of juxtaposition about being from one place and experiencing the other. A lot of the reason for this journey is music, so that's really the overarching inspiration for the release.
What were the songwriting and recording processes like?
I wrote the EP over the span of about a year and a half, and recording was really interesting. It started on my computer as demos and little songs I would write, and eventually I took it to the studio with some of my friends. We laid down the basics of the tracks; I knew that I wanted the arrangement to have a live-band sound. Shortly after that, I moved to LA; starting in one place and finishing in another was the most difficult part of making the EP. I had to find a whole new team to pick up where we left off from, but it ended up surpassing my expectations and sounding even more exciting than I had originally pictured.
How do you create your visuals/album covers?
I’ve created album covers from something DIY (like photoshopping something myself), I’ve had a friend paint or draw them... a few different things. For my earlier music, where it was more personal, I would have sketches or a silhouette of myself for my cover art. As of late, it’s moved to photographs and finding colors that suit the mood of the track–something that’s a little more out of my comfort zone to push my creativity to new levels.
Talk about your experience as a woman in the music industry.
A lot of us women in the industry know one another, and that’s awesome, but it’s also really eye-opening to see how few of us there are. I think that things are changing; art reflects life, and life reflects art. There weren’t enough of us given the opportunity to be represented in the past, but I think that’s changing now.
What advice would you give to young girls hoping to break into the industry?
Keep writing, keep playing, have fun while you’re doing it, and just know that you can do it. In the past, it was all about finding your big break, but that era is kind of over. Now everything is right at our fingertips, and anything can be that break. Just do what you love.
"Keep writing, keep playing, have fun while you’re doing it, and just know that you can do it."
What’s next for Paper Citizen?
New songs about things that have inspired me in LA, and a lot of shifting to modern pop. The way I write and hear these songs has really transformed. I’ve been writing a lot, and I have a music video for one of the songs on Wandering Ghost coming out soon. It’s sort of like LA’s in a dream-state, and it really reflects my dream of coming out here to play music. I’m excited to play and see live shows again, and I’m just going to enjoy the process of making music.