Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

{paper bird}

I know a girl that makes paper birds by the thousands. She sets them, in their varying sizes, in my hand. I inspect them. They are resting just as much as they are poised in their perch; ready to propel up and away into the starry day.

Now I am looking at Paper Bird. A musical sextet, they resemble the birds that the girl placed in my hand: They are at once resting just as much as they are poised for flight. And while this band is too young to be seen as the kind of beacon that they will one day be, they have, by all accounts, left the nest. They have taken to flight. In test runs and scouting missions. Over the cliffs and back.

And oh my, can they fly…

More than any other act this year, I had heard more about Paper Bird before seeing them. Comprised of a perfect balance of the sexes, they are, in position on stage, a truly refreshing and exalted blend of today and yesteryear. They are, in sound and dynamics, an uplifting pendulum of rhythm and song and dance.

But what I’ve been asking myself, after pouring over their gorgeous and markedly unorthodox debut album, is: what kind of bird, exactly, is this collective of aviators? Are they a flight of cormorants? A convocation of eagles? A siege of herons?

Finches. Clearly, they are finches. Songbirds. Collectively, they are (fittingly): A charm or, a trembling, of finches.

And these paper finches’ provenance came in the shape of a serendipitous flood that fell from the open sky. After retreating to a cabin in July of 2006 for no other reason than to commune with friends and the elements – they forever walked out of that cabin and those woods very different. For upon arrival, several of the birds began singing their songs. Others joined. And nearly immediately the wheel was put into motion and instantaneously a chorus was created. After the formation of 7 songs the sextet (Sarah Anderson, vocals; Esme Patterson, vocals; Genny Patterson, vocals; Tyler Archuletta, trombone; Paul DeHaven, guitar; Caleb Summeril, banjo) began busking on the streets of Breckenridge.

Now, only a year later, and Paper Bird has spread its wings and taken to flight. And the flap of their wings has been heard long and far. Certainly those of us still earth bound in Denver have been buzzing with their praise.

Paper Bird is many things.

They are a 3-part female harmony up front and a 3-part instrumental in the back.

They are a family.


They are six strange and wonderful kids – you know those creatures you’ve seen playing leap frog down the sidewalk? Well, that’s them. Or maybe you seen some strange gaggle of geese in clothes playing follow the leader? Yeah, well… They’re young. But I’m not so sure that’s why they do what they do, in the ways they do. For this author, the Paper Bird family’s approach has to do with something else. A different paradigm that does not discriminate, or wither with age. In this, you’ll always find them smiling. In age and in vigor, they are youthful and not afraid of it. For this and more they stand a grand chance at creating something that is actually lasting. Actually virtuous. Actually beautiful.

Note to reader: Paper Bird gives good hugs.

The band has all been together as a unit for just over a year. Apparently that’s as long as it takes to create an irrevocable sense of family. Because that’s what seems to have happened. Through circumstance and intention, the sextet lives and plays together. And it all came about because all their individual flight patterns lead them to the same ledge. The same perch. At the same time.

And while it’s still too early to honestly make a bold prediction, the evident reality is that they are cosmically yoked together with an invisible string. One that binds them from heart to heart. Head to head. And song to song.

Just as all finches in the natural world have 12 tail feathers, despite their diverging backgrounds, the Paper Birds all possess a common flight plan: They are all concerned about notions of community. More than that, like their music, these passerines are proactive in their approach – in making what’s in their head – real. And not to belabor the point but what they do musically seems to mirror what they do and want to do, in life.

In process, the Birds’ are all singers. They’re all songwriters. They’re all musicians. And while (Esme) Patterson and DeHaven have taken the lead as the poets of the group, – all have dabbled with the pen and contributed lyrically to the pieces they presented to the group.

The members of Paper Bird are young. Real young. And so it all the more remarkable that they have tapped into the sound that they have. For their sound is the song of a million middle century charms playing as one grand symphony. Their sound is black and white twentieth century America at its best. It is the world smiling. It is the world singing. It is those inhabiting this marble – working and living and loving in earnest. With responsibility and poetry as their action.

So far their story is about a coming together. It is about the little community that they have created. It is, topically, a simple story only because it is still unfolding.

Admittedly, everything has come quick: the banding together, the songs, the love, and even a recent and nearly-tragic bus accident.

But it is on account of all of this and more we are fortunate to have the chance to watch these Birds’ unfurl their wings and take to the grand and mysterious flight that they were born to make.

Stay abreast of Paper Birds’ flight pattern, here: www.myspace.com/paperthebird.


1. Take a square piece of paper and fold it in half, so that it looks like a rectangle. Unfold.
2. Do the same thing the other way.
3. Make sure that two clear creases are showing, and fold into a triangle (and unfold again).
4. By pushing the two corners inwards, you should be able to get a rhombus.
5. Fold each side inwards (there are four) so that on both sides it looks like a kite.
6. Fold the top corner down to either side.
7. Lift only ONE layer of the paper upwards, making it look like a tall diamond. Do the same on the other side.
8. Fold each side inwards, like in step #5.
9. Fold the sides outwards, making the paper look like a fox's head.
10. Fold up both sides, and make a head and a tail, by shaping it anyway you like.
11. Fold the wings open and WHAM! you have a PAPER BIRD!