Most artists go to great lengths to seem original and distinctive, but Kicking Bird aren’t afraid to admit it: “Everything’s a rip-off.” This is made apparent on the band’s debut record Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Fort Lowell Records), a collection of upbeat, bouncy indie rock goodness.

Even if everything in music is derivative, it doesn’t take anything away from the finished product, and according to Kicking Bird, that’s the most essential aspect. Stolen chords and melodies are unavoidable, but it all depends on how we interpret the work that came before us that we have been exposed to and, in some instances, idolized. Each track on Original Motion Picture Soundtrack sets out to satisfy our innate need and desire to dance. They can be both fiery and intimate, urgent and tense, but also charming and delicate. Not too bad for five guys who formed a band in a shed beside a river in Southeast North Carolina.

Just for today, we put all the music talk aside and chat about the joys of cannabis with singer Shaun Paul for our latest edition of High Huddle.

When did you first smoke marijuana? What was your first experience like?

Shaun Paul: “In twelfth grade, I played in a punk rock band named Dale. The other two guys were more experienced than me when it came to pot, and I had generally taken a pass at partaking with them. My parents had left me alone for the weekend, and I invited both of them over to hang out and finally smoke. We built a bowl out of tinfoil and stuffed an emptied cigarette wrapper with weed, and despite the amateur attempts at consumption, we smoked enough to get extremely high.

“We went down to the basement and played music for what seemed like an eternity (even though it was probably only an hour), and I remember thinking I’d never heard sounds in that way before. Everything was fun; everything was peaceful; I felt like I was helping create something amazing right there in that moment. I think that was my initial attraction, the way I felt pulled into the notes and chords we were playing. I was very present and aware of what was happening all around me in a way I had never experienced before.”

What’s the biggest misconception about weed?

“People think weed makes you dumb. It does not. My life with weed has been extremely productive. There have definitely been times when I melted through the floor and couldn’t stand up even if the earth tilted with me, but generally, there is nothing I can’t do stoned. There are, however, half a million things I don’t want to do when I’m not stoned.”

You get to smoke with anyone, alive or dead; who is it?

“I would love to get high with Elvis Presley. Not cool, young Elvis, but late-stage paranoid Elvis. Then we could use all his connections to go fly a plane or drop 30,000 in a Vegas casino. I would want to just keep smoking joints until he was chilled out in the Jungle Room, then we would sing some gospel songs and Hank Williams tunes.

“After a good laugh and walk on the grassy fields of Graceland, we would settle into the kitchen for some fried bacon-peanut butter banana sandwiches. We’d talk about how he just needs to get away from everyone for a while, the colonel, the entourage, all his business partners. Then I would try to convince him to fly us both down to Jamaica for a few months to start writing some new tunes and building up the mystery before a worldwide tour, a-la Rolling Thunder Review. Then Elvis would be cool again.”

If you could pick one person who you would like to see smoke up, who would it be?

“I’d really like to see Neil Armstrong get baked. I don’t know for sure that he saw things on the moon that he’s never been able to speak about, but I do believe he thinks he has. I think a stoned Neil Armstong would tell the best stories. They would be a mix between reality, ’60s anti-communist propaganda, and an Ed Wood-style look at space culture. I’d ask him loads of questions like, ‘What do you think is at the bottom of the sea?,’ and ‘Is Doctor Who a real guy?’”

Shaun Paul eating pizza

What’s your favourite thing about weed?

“I love the warm feeling of relaxation that creeps over me when I get high. I like the way it slows down time and brings minutia into focus. I like the flavour in my mouth of a clean piney hit. I love how it can sink you fully into an experience by removing barriers to sensation. Going for a walk on the beach and feeling wind hit your body is such a simple sensation, but when you have the chance to heighten a moment like that, it really becomes so much easier to appreciate how little it takes to feel good.”

Smoke or edibles, which one do you prefer overall?

“Definitely smoke. Edibles can be fun occasionally, but it’s unpredictable. I love that feeling 30 seconds after a hit when everything feels warm and cozy. It’s also a more enjoyable group occasion when you can pass a joint or bowl and all share in the moment together. Also, you really can’t beat that smell.

“However, I once went to the circus after two gummies that Tom gave me. It wasn’t one with animals, just acrobats and clowns, and I remember feeling like there was no one on the planet who could do the things those people did. When the gymnast leapt from the trapeze, I audibly gasped so loud, the family beside us got scared with me.”

Shaun Paul’s paraphernalia

Do you have a preferred time of day to smoke, and if so, when and why?

“It has to be the morning. I love breakfast, I love sunrise, I love coffee, and I love being high first thing in the day. It’s when I’m most productive creatively and just around the house in general, so I love to get stoned, then go sit with a guitar at 7 am or clean the bathroom and go for a bike ride. It’s fun to smoke at the end of the day, too though. Shaylah and I will normally enjoy a bowl together, then play cards or listen to records, so honestly, there’s no bad time.”

How do you get your ganja; Dispensary, bud-buddy, government (yes, some countries sell it
direct), self-grown? Maybe you have a range of options? Share!

“Unfortunately, weed is not yet legal in North Carolina. I have a friend based out west who usually can get really great buds sent to me on this coast. I’ve been fortunate to try a bunch of new strains in the past few years, but still, to this day, my favorite leaf is Bubba Fett.”

Artwork for the album ‘Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ by Kicking Bird
Artwork for the album ‘Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ by Kicking Bird

How do marijuana and your form of music jive for you?

“Our band makes fun music to dance to and have parties with. Being stoned makes it more fun dancing with everyone. It’s not some deep cerebral joining of minds or diving into the subconscious; it’s literally shaking ass and getting sweaty in a group. I love to see people passing a joint before we play; it means they are ready to cut loose and just be carried in the music together. I wouldn’t say I need weed to enjoy music, just enhance it.”

Apples, homemade water bongs, pop cans… What’s the strangest or most creative way in which you’ve ingested pot?

“We once built a gravity bong out of a ten-gallon water bottle, and we used it in my neighbour’s swimming pool. It took two people to hit and operate it, but the best part was after taking the biggest hit of your life, you could just jump right in the pool. In high school, there were multiple times when we would roll joints with blank pages from the back of hymnals from church.”


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