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Tutor to Beck, prolific Paleface sticks to playing newer stuff


This article was published April 25, 2013 at 3:01 a.m.



Paleface recognizes his status as a musical cult hero, and he’s happy with it. A native of New York who lives in North Carolina, he says that moving south was not easy.

“It was definitely different when we moved to Concord, N.C., outside Charlotte,” he says. “I hadn’t driven a car in quite some time. It was a pain … to have one in New York, and now we can’t do much of anything without one.”

A singer-songwriter-guitarist, Paleface is accompanied by his girlfriend/drummer, Monica “Mo” Samalot, and the duo have added an electric guitarist, Soren Mattson. All three members sing, and the set list is all Paleface originals, and recent ones, to boot.

“The older ones seem to fade away, slowly,” he says. “I’m a cult artist, I realize, and I’m always writing new ones, and my fans are not demanding to hear the old ones.”

Paleface got his start in the late 1990s, when his approach was considered “anti-folk,” which he suspects was a fancy way of saying punk musicians making folk music were not that welcome back then. He had been taken under the wing of a musical friend, Daniel Johnston, who taught him the art of songwriting. Paleface then did the same for one of his friends, Beck, before he was a star in his own right. Others in the scene at the time included Regina Spektor, The Moldy Peaches and Langhorne Slim.

Music impresario Danny Fields, who had worked with The Doors, The Ramones, The Stooges and MC5, discovered Paleface and got him a record deal with Polydor Records and a gig as an opening act for the Crash Test Dummies. Magic did not happen, however, and Paleface instead sought sustenance in alcohol abuse, which nearly killed him, leading to hepatitis and a long recovery.

“I was 21 at the time and being on the road, you can tend to have a couple of drinks every night,” he says, “and after a month and a half, that can turn into three drinks every night, and that can take its toll.”

Paleface met his girlfriend/drummer while still in the New York scene. She had been a fan who would come to shows and gradually decided to get a drum kit, learn to play and give up her day job in an office.

“She wanted to be where everyone was having fun and doing what they loved, so that’s how we got together,” he says. “Now we are on the road more than we are at home in North Carolina.”

The move to North Carolina was primarily to get closer to Paleface’s record label, Ramseur Records, a project of The Avett Brothers, who recorded a Paleface song, included him as a guest on three of their albums and took him on tour as an opening act.

“We got to open for them in Radio City Music Hall, and that was a really awesome place we had never even been in,” Paleface says.He has also opened shows for The Breeders, Billy Blagg and The Judybats.

The prolific Paleface has released some 17 albums since 1991, the most recent of which, One Big Party, was the subject of a 2010 documentary film, The Making of One Big Party.


Opening acts: Prizehog, Iron Tongue

9:30 p.m. Friday, White Water Tavern, West Seventh and Thayer streets, Little Rock

Admission: $6

(501) 375-8400

Weekend, Pages 34 on 04/25/2013

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