INTERVIEW: A Chat With Sam Bentley From The Paper Kites

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Paper Kites have freshly released their sophomore album twelvefour this yearI had the chance to chat to vocalist and guitarist Sam Bentley the album, their upcoming tour and the folk scene here and overseas. 

Alex: Hey man, how’s your day been going?

Sam: Hey, really good thank you. I’ve been doing interviews all day but it’s alright because I’ve got my tea beside me.

A: Oh lovely, so first question! So Phil Ek is the man who captures this awesome, American highway sort of sound… Did you choose him specifically for this?

S: I don’t think we picked him for his sound. I guess we did a little bit but we knew he hadn’t really done anything like what we wanted this record to sound like. I remember on the phone I had asked if he had done anything what we wanted to do and he goes something like “It’s not really in the question to ask me. I will make it sound like you want it to sound” and I think that kind of what sold us on using him because he wanted to work with us on getting it right. He is very notorious on turning down bands so he wasn’t someone we went to straight away hah, because he can afford to be like that you know. Like he is amazing at what he does and has worked with a lot of great bands. But he did get back to us and said he would love to work with us so we were really stoked to work with him. 

A: Yeah, that’s awesome. Well  twelvefour is a beautiful record and tell us about the process of writing during those unusual hours?

S:  Hah well it would usually start with me making a cup of tea then going in there at midnight and it was kind of difficult to adjust for the first little while but I tend to stay up pretty late anyway but it was more pushing through right until four a.m. Once I got it, it was okay but I had to stop for a little bit in the middle because I was getting kind of exhausted haha but yeah we ended up with about thirty demos. It was a very interesting little project;  I have been saying to people that I probably wouldn’t do it again because it was exhausting but definitely pretty lucrative… if that’s the right word.  Thirty demo’s is more than enough, so we had the job of cutting it down to about ten songs so there is a lot of discussions for what would be the “right” kind of record and what we thought wouldn’t work. I had this whole idea of what I wanted it to sound like, like late night, moody… but we did have to cut quite a lot of songs because they weren’t working with the other ones. It was really interesting trying to get the top ten but I think in the end we chose well.

A: Do you think the exhaustion was worth the creative peak? 

S: Yeah definitely! I think anything that is hard to do is worth doing. It was a weird time but thinking about it now I don’t really know how I did it for as long as I did…because really it was just two months of writing but it was over three months of staying up for so long haha; I tried not to relapse into normal sleeping time. It was weird… but fun!

A: Haha, so very worth it though! So did you do the entire writing then take it to Phil Ek or propose the idea to him first?

S:  I kind of explained to him how it was all done and he was sort of like “dude that is really dumb” or something like that hah, nah it was more of a question of why… So I had done the writing and then took it to the rest of the band and was just like “hey so this is what I’ve done, lets make an album!”

A: Hah love the support! So how do you feel this album defines you from the States record?

S: It’s a pretty different album to states.  I don’t think States was really a massive commercial album anyhow, but I think it was just a nice representation of where we were at the time and it’s just a nice collection of songs. So there wasn’t really any huge pressure on us for this one, like it really could be whatever we wanted it to be. But I do think Phil really pushed out a much bigger sound for us than we were used to, particularly vocally. If you listen to the vocals in States, they sound so timid hah. The vocals are a little bit more honest and a little bit more sincere, because that’s what he wanted to hear. It was an interesting way to work but when I listen back to it I can hear exactly why….

A: Oh sorry I think it just dropped out! This is my bad, I had to sneak out of work and Im in the back of my car right now…

S: Haha oh wait, where are you? Are you in Melbourne?

A: Nah, I’m residing in good ol’ Port Macquarie man.

S: Ahh Port Macquarie, right on!

A: Hah yes, beautiful part of the country! So you guys managed to headline your own tour before even releasing a debut a few years back. On this new tour can we expect any surprises?

S: Aww surprises… I don’t know actually. We are still putting the whole thing together but either the surprises, I can’t tell you or I just don’t know what it will be. I don’t even know hey, we haven’t even finished writing the setlist so I think once that is done we will have a bit more of an idea of what we want to do. We will do some of the older songs along with the newer stuff, so hopefully people will have an idea of how the new record sounds by the time we tour because when States came out, it was literally out like a week before we toured. So all of the songs people were still getting used to them, but at least with this one the record will be out for a good two months before we tour. 

A: Yeah, give people time to learn the lyrics and sing along! Do you have any pre-show rituals?

S: Haha well we sing a weird version of Cottoneye Joe.  We kind of change the lyrics to wherever we are playing and the name of the venue. Other than that it stays the same, everyone just jumping around back stage and things get broken when people get way too into it haha. I would always have to calm down at the end of it because I would have to go out there and sing really puffed out. So if I look puffed out when I first walk on the stage… you know why. 

A: Haha yes, I’ll just be in the crowd and sing Cottoneye Joe to myself. I know this is probably like asking a parent who their favourite child is… but do you have a particular favourite from Twelvefour?

S: Awww! Well  the song I listen to more than any other song is probably Revelator Eyes. But I think my favourite song would definitely be Neon Crimson, just because I think it sounds like “that” time of night more than any other song… it’s very lonely and very kind of sincere, very moody; which is what I really about it. 

A: Yeah definitely, it captures that very Frank Sinatra night-time sound perfectly.

S: Yeah exactly, thanks! I actually think we may be incorporating some Frank Sinatra into our set... maybe…maybe... I can only say it might half possibly be happening….

A: So what was the first time you experienced America’s folk scene like?

S: Well the first time we had ever been to America, we were supporting City & Colour on this massive tour laying in huge venues all through the south. We would just drive through Texas and Arizona,  it was massive. We were just so wide-eyed and loving it! But we have done our own tour then and sold out shows, not as big as Dallas’s shows though hah! 

A: How do you feel the folk scene over there differs from Australia?

S: well I don’t know if they have an imminently “just folk” scene, I think its all very eclectic. We did a lot of folk festivals but we kind of felt like the odd one out for not playing old traditional folk, which is what we should be playing if we want to be labelled as a “folk band”. I don’t really think we are a folk band just because we don’t play the traditional folk music. Im always going to love that style because that’s what I’ve grown up with and what I’ve always wanted to do. I think to try and exist in the “folk scene” is a very broad thing… like there are a lot of bands that play in folk festivals that aren’t very folk at all. Maybe it’s just the word changing and evolving as well, like “indie”… a lot of indie bands are no longer independent bands. Words change but I just think people are whatever they want to think we are. Essentially we are just whatever we put on out on the last record. 

A: What are some of your favourite places to tour?

S: Ahhh… favourite places. I would say New York is awesome, just because it is New York hah! It’s every movie you have ever seen, it’s amazing. But the crowds have always been awesome in New York and places like Toronto or Vancouva in Canada… we never even realised we had a following there. Then there is Australia, which is always amazing. It’s great in Melbourne because our friends and family get to come, but we only get to play there like once a year. It’s always good to play back home. 

A: The band has always been a hidden gem of the music industry but now the popularity is growing, how do you feel about that?

S: I still don’t think we are like a popular band at all, there are certainly bands that are much bigger than us in Australia. We have always cared more about the slow burning career, we don’t really want that massive shoot to fame… haha as all bands say that aren’t wildly popular “yeaah we don’t want that” haha. But we do have great, loyal fans that always come to shows and tend to go with us whatever direction we take. So yeah I don’t know, I think the slow burning career is what we will continue to do. 

A: Hah, you are very modest man! Okay well I shall let you go and enjoy the rest of your afternoon and your tea, while I sneak back into work from the longest “toilet break” ever. Thanks a heap Sam!

S: Haha, thank you... take it easy. 

Written by Alex Medd

You can catch The Paper Kites on the road this October and November. Grab your tickets here