The Underlying Sound: A Conversation with Papadosio’s Billy Brouse

By Carey Hereford

Photo courtesy of the artist

In a career spanning more than a decade, Papadosio has built a dedicated fan base. With the release of its fifth studio album Content Coma last September, the quintet has put both its songwriting skills and genre-bending versatility on display. On Thursday, February 14, Papadosio will perform at WorkPlay Theatre. Heavy Pets will open the 8 p.m. show. Recently, we spoke with Papadosio keyboardist/vocalist Billy Brouse by phone.

Birmingham Stages: Tell us about the writing process for Content Coma​.Billy Brouse: Well, we went a little different route than we did with the album before this one. There were no lyrics on the last album – it was all pretty much electronic. With this album it is full-length – we used these programs called Splice and Ableton. Splice is a program that we all have access to songs we are working on and are able to make our own changes and edits and it saves as a new track, as well as giving feedback and a easy way for all of us to learn our parts if we are not all together. This program is really amazing – the future is just so cool now. We also got together sometime to hash things out, but the studio of the future is just so endless nowadays.

Birmingham Stages: Why might Content Coma be considered Papadosio’s best album to date? What makes this one different from the rest?

Brouse: I don’t know if anyone considered it the best – Content Coma is different I guess. It’s hard for me to categorize them as different because they all have the same underlying sound. I think this one sounds more polished because we usually do everything ourselves, all of the recording and mixing and everything. This time we got to go to a really nice studio and record some of the parts for this one so it sounds a little bit different. But I would say this one sounds the best.

Birmingham Stages: How is the music scene in your hometown of Athens, Ohio?

Brouse: Well we are all from around Ohio, but we all met each other in Athens. Athens only has one college there, which is Ohio University. There is a big bluegrass and indie scene there, as well as a pretty good bit of jam bands there, too. I would say Athens has the cool and most diverse scene in Ohio as far as colleges go. But we used to have an excuse to stop there but now there are not any venues which kinda sucks.

Birmingham Stages: How do you make your songs stay fresh after playing them night after night?

Brouse: Well, we do not ever repeat a setlist – I have never ever done that. So that ultimately makes every show different. We have about 90 songs to choose from our whole career, but even after having a different setlist we do not play the same song the same way every time. We will change the way they are played in the middle of the show. We usually talk about it, but sometimes it can just happen and small parts will change. We also rework some of our older songs – we will put a new version out and play that.

Birmingham Stages: How do you define your genre of “space rock”?

Brouse: Yeah, I don’t know. I thought I made that up, but I did not realize space rock is an actually genre. So I have been trying to tell our PR team to stop using that [laughs]. I thought it meant to me that we play rock and roll and then take it way into outer space sometime. It will come back but it is not always straightforward. I thought that was a good definition for space rock, but apparently there is a whole ’70s space rock actual thing. I guess our genre is progressive rock and roll.

Birmingham Stages: How did Papadosio form?

Brouse: It would have been 12 or 13 years ago in Athens, Ohio. There was this thing at a venue called open jam night, which was a open mic type of thing for jam bands. Everyone had a bunch of instruments and we would jam out and it was great. So a couple of us started going consistently and playing together in a rotation, and it felt great. Then from there we came to the decision to start a band.

Birmingham Stages: What has been Papadosio’s biggest challenge as a band so far?

Brouse: Being gone on the road for a long time really sucks. I mean it is really fun at the beginning – and I love playing shows – but when it gets to a month and you’ve been gone, it can get a little bit tough on us. So we try not to do that as much anymore unless we really have to. Also, just trying to not play too many shows but at the same time to play enough. So far it has been weird to find the line you are supposed to ride. We could play all the time, but we can just get a little bit burned out sometimes. The whole social media aspect has kinda been daunting. It really sucks sometimes to read a bad comment or a bad review. But we have realized that is just part of being in a band.

Birmingham Stages: How do you think music has changed in general since Papadosio formed?

Brouse: Obviously, social media has been one big thing that we have had to adapt to as well as Spotify becoming a way for music to be put out there easier. [Funk band] Vulfpeck especially – they saw a huge opportunity and ran with it and have made a huge impact that way. We grew up with Myspace, and I do not know how we would have done anything as a band without Myspace. So we were right there in the beginning when that happened and it was nice for us. But since then, Spotify has come about and there was nothing like that when we had just formed. That alone has changed everything with being able to put music out. Youtube has also been the same way – it could greatly help you as a band and could also bury you. Also, the rise of EDM [electronic dance music] has changed concerts and festivals so much.

Coder-R Productions Presents: Papadosio with Heavy Pets at WorkPlay Theatre on Thursday, February 14. Showtime is 8 p.m. Advance tickets are $22 – $25 day of the show – and can be purchased at