Ears Wide Open: Paper Pools

Paper Pools (Photo by Ryan Strongin)

Paper Pools is the musical persona of Allen Orr, a multi-instrumentalist and visual artist whose forthcoming EP tackles his vagabond upbringing and current life as a recovering Jehovah’s Witness.

His music, an amalgam of ’70s- and ’80s-inspired indie-rock and synth-pop, took a backseat for most of the eight-plus years he has lived in L.A. It was during his time in New York that he left behind Jehovah’s Witnesses before moving west to further his career as a designer.

This week, he introduced the EP, “It’s in Our Mind” (out Sept. 2), with the single “Turn on Your Lights” — a fitting metaphor for a collection of songs whose “key theme is the contrast between light and dark,” he says. “From a spiritual standpoint, the first half of my life thus far was completely opposite from the second half. There were many struggles to get to a more positive place.”

The thrum of the single’s repetitive lyrics injects urgency into what essentially is a pep talk. (Vocally, think a less gravelly and detached Mark Oliver Everett.)

“I think of this song as a message to people who get so low they begin doubting if they will ever make it through life’s struggles,” Orr says. “Of course, some people don’t make it through, whether that means losing their life or experiencing a different kind of death, like the ending of a relationship. Death in any form was not something I had any experience with growing up. As a Jehovah’s Witness, I was told throughout my childhood that I would live forever. So, I never had an opportunity to process the concept of mortality. That’s crazy, but it’s what I believed.”

Orr named his project as an homage artist David Hockney, known for his shimmering paintings of L.A. pools. “I’m lucky to live on a hill overlooking the city,” Orr says. “I wrote the music while staring across the skyline, which felt psychedelic.”

||| Stream: “Turn on Your Lights”