Interview with Sam Bentley from The Paper Kites
Sam Bentley, lead singer of indie folk band The Paper Kites, is currently sitting on the cold floor of his Melbourne home. He’s listening to an old record player – covered in dust and mould – that he found in his fiancee’s parents’ house. The carpet has been torn up and moved to the rehearsing space, where the band will practice for their upcoming Australian tour. I had a chat to Sam about the late nights, the album, and what the future holds for the band.
Bridie: You have three weeks until the album release. How are you feeling?
Sam: It’s like having a big secret that you can’t tell anybody about, and then you’re finally allowed to. I’m really excited.
Bridie: You stayed awake between the hours of 12 and 4 am to write the album. How did this affect you?
Sam: Thankfully I didn’t lose my mind or get taken away! It was really weird and fun- well not fun at the time; it was hard. In hindsight, it was good to put myself in a place where I was uncomfortable and do something that I’ve never done before. It’s important to do that as a writer, although I probably won’t do it again. It was very physically taxing.
It was good to put myself in a place where I was uncomfortable and do something that I’ve never done before. It’s important to do that as a writer …
Bridie: Do you think the music resulted in sounding more intimate and melancholy?
Sam: Oddly enough it sounds bigger, grittier and more lush than anything we’ve done before. It wasn’t intentional, but the songs are definitely more electric guitar-based, with some big 80s soaks. Our producer Phil Elk pulled some big sounds, which you can hear in my voice. In the past I’ve always doubled my vocals to create an effect that I like to call the ‘indie double’, which would disguise all the little imperfections. We wanted to forget that on this record and make it more raw. Unlike other producers, Phil would shut down the session if he wasn’t feeling what I was singing.
Bridie: Was this intimidating?
Sam: Very intimidating! In the best was though. We would get into arguments about my vocals because I felt that I knew my voice, and he was asking me to sing things in a way that I thought I couldn’t do. The album has some big outos where I had to smash it out, which was hard but also really rewarding. A lot of my friends have said that they haven’t heard my vocals sound like that before.
Bridie: You’ve said that the album as a whole is an open letter. What’s the message?
Sam: It’s more about working things out as you go. When I started it, I hadn’t written a song in about a year and a half. When you let things brew for so long, it often comes out in a very explosive way. I wrote about 30 songs in quite a concentrated amount of time. The message is almost like being at a crossroad and making a choice of whether to be selfish and choose yourself or to choose somebody else. I came out of the record with a better understanding of that idea – it was very much a healing process.
Bridie: You moved to Seattle to record the album, where your bassist/ keyboardist cut his hand open while recording. How did this happen?
Sam: He was drumming a riff for an outro. It doesn’t sound like a big part or anything, he was just jangling on some symbols, but he got a cut on his hand and he was bleeding all over the studio. He was totally fine and we ended up using that take on the record.
Bridie: You had filmmaker Matthew J Cox capture your recoding process. How did this affect you?
Sam: Matt was really good – he kept completely out of the way. If he was in the way, Phil would yell at him. Even when Matt was staying up with me and capturing some of the Twelvefour writing, you wouldn’t even notice him. That’s the way you need it to be. He said he wanted to capture the real feeling, even in rehearsals where we were having arguments and doing stuff that wasn’t a pretty sight. It was still real and relevant to making an album. We do have disagreements because we all care so much about the record. I’m glad he was there to capture that.
We’re really conscious of putting on a good show and infusing the Twelvefour theme into the shows, bringing people into that late night experience.
Bridie: You have an extensive tour ahead. How’s the preparation going?
Sam: It’s been twelve months since our last tour and we’ve just started rehearsals. You always get back into the rehearsal studio after recording and everything sounds terrible! We’re really conscious of putting on a good show and infusing the Twelvefour theme into the shows, bringing people into that late night experience. There’re some big moments and some really intimate moments. I’ve been messing around with some 80s boom-boxes and I’m going to try and incorporate it into the show. It’s going to be a weird few weeks getting it all together, but I’m excited!
The Paper Kites play at the Woolly Mammoth on the 31st of October.