Words by Grace Griffiths.
Lead vocalist Sam Bentley recently spoke with Grace about the release of the band’s debut album States, as well as their upcoming tour.
With the recent growth in the ‘indie folk’ genre, many people might be quick to compare you guys to bands such as Boy & Bear, Bombay Bicycle Club or Of Monsters and Men. Who would you say ‘The Paper Kites’ biggest influences are?
It’s hard to pinpoint any one sort of influence on our music. We all listen to so many different styles and often that’s why our songs turn out the way they do.
I usually get influenced by what I’m listening to, but it also really depends on what kind of song I want to write – I might be listening to Nick Drake and wanting to write something really stripped back, or I could be listening to Elbow or Massive Attack and focus on the composition and the sonic side. Or I might listen to The Vines and feel like a pansy and want to write something with some guts. It’s totally subjective to the mood you’re in, we certainly don’t have one single underlying influence, other than we like music.
Most of our readers will probably know that you’ve actually supported some of those bands as well as some other notable acts (Boy & Bear, Bombay Bicycle Club, Josh Pyke). How do you think the support tours have helped you guys?
We’ve definitely had a great run of support shows with some bands that we really love. I think going on tour with a band bigger and more experienced than you are, always helps show you how everything works. You get to learn the benefits of having a good team and you often learn what it takes to be be playing at that level.
But on the other side you also make some great friends and I know in our case we had a lot of bands passing on things to us that we really valued and take with us when we tour. It’s also just great to be put in front of different audiences too.
As well as playing some really cool support shows, you’ve also had a string of sold out headline shows. First of all, congratulations! Secondly, were there any really shows/cities that were particularly memorable?
Thank you. Well I guess there’s always memorable moments and shows are memorable for different reasons, some better than others. We always like going to Sydney to play, the crowds there are always really great. But everywhere you go the crowds are different, I used to be sort of negative sometimes and focused on the bad things that happened rather than appreciating the good things. But lately I’ve just really been enjoying playing.
Your hometown of Melbourne sold out on your last tour, do you believe in the ‘home ground advantage?’. Do you think the home crowd gives off a different vibe to other cities?
Yeah definitely, playing at home is always one of the best things – mainly because all your friends and families get to come – my parents very rarely miss a show. So there’s certainly something special about playing in your home town.
A lot of bands say that they actually prefer to support rather than headline shows, is this true for you guys?
I don’t think so. We’ve loved the support shows we’ve done but you need to be able to assert yourself as a headlining band at some point. We’ve always wanted to hold our own as a band and we love doing our own tours. It’s nice not having to worry about how long we play for, and getting our gear off stage as soon as we’ve finished, and not annoying the tour manager, haha. Support slots are good to do and beneficial, but you need to be able to stand on your own feet.
Speaking of touring, The Paper Kites have been pretty flat out playing shows since 2011, what do you guys do when you do eventually get some down time?
Well it’s not flat out all the time, it sort of comes along in sections. We might have a month or two with nothing and then have to record or tour for the next few months – it can be a little unpredictable. Everyone’s got their own wind down thing when they get free time. I love my movies so you’ll usually find me in the cave that is my bedroom with a stack of movies.
Personally, I feel as if some of your songs have a noticeably ‘feel good’ vibe. That’s something some artists purposefully strive for – to write uplifting music. Is that the case for ‘The Paper Kites’ or are you guys just really happy people?
I’d say you’ve been musically lead astray, haha. Lyrically, with the exception of ‘Bloom’, most of our songs are actually pretty depressing. I wouldn’t say happiness is a theme in our music. But I certainly wouldn’t disagree if people felt hopeful from our songs, I think music can be very therapeutic depending on your situation. A lot of our songs have come from difficult times, but again it’s therapeutic to write it, to vent it in that way and get it out. For the most part, lyrics aside, we’re pretty pleasant people.
With 5 people in the band, would you say that your creative process in regards to song writing is mostly collaborative, or is it down to one person with collaboration coming later?
So far there might be a few songs that have been a collaborative process between a few of us. But generally I do most of the writing. I’ll bring songs in that I’ve written and they usually have most of the music there, and then the floor is open for changing things if we want to. If there are parts that need to be added then we’ll do that together most of the time, and work on sounds and the arrangements together.
The video for your new single ‘St Clarity,’ directed by acclaimed director Natasha Pincus, was released last month. It’s really interesting and tells such a nice story. What was the creative process like in regards to the video? Did you, as a band, have much of an input?
We didn’t really have a whole lot of input in this video like we had in the last ones. Natasha has a brilliant mind and I really trusted her vision for it. The only input I had was meeting up with her, discussing the meaning of the song and I showed her Sylvain’s (Letuvée) bubble work. She really loved it and went away and wrote this great narrative for the video. She got in contact with him and got him over to Australia and they shot the video over a few days. She’s a perfectionist in the best kind of way, so we couldn’t see it until she was happy with it – but the end result was beautiful. She was wonderful to work with.
The actual song itself showcases the awesome experimentation with texture and layering in instrumentation that your songs are known for. If ‘St Clarity’ is a clear indication of the direction of the album, your fans won’t be disappointed. What else can we expect from the August album release?
Well we wanted to release that song first because we felt like it was a great lead in to the sounds and direction on the album. But having said that, the record itself is a very contrasting record, each song is different from the last one. So it’s difficult to try and explain to anyone what to expect. I think all we can hope for is that people are open to some new ideas about our music. We’ve tried to put a record together that still held the sound of what some people might perceive as ‘The Paper Kites’, but sort of wanted to stretch it much further in to areas that might be a bit different. But it’s still us.
Can you describe the album in 3 words?
No I can’t!
Your music uses a range of different instruments and your live shows see band members frequently changing instruments, how did you all come about being so multitalented?
We’re just really good at pretending we can play lots of instruments, the truth is we only know one song on that instrument.
What are you guys listening to? Would you say that individually your music tastes reflect the music of The Paper Kites?
Right now I’m listening to Paul Kelly, and we sound nothing like him, haha. There’s always elements of the music you listen to that creep in to your songs, and as I said everyone has their own tastes – which often results in clashes when it comes to putting together a song. But it helps keep everyone open minded when we all like different things, there’s somewhere in the middle that we meet on what we perceive as a good song.
What are your plans post-album/tour?