The Paper Kites Land In North America, Bringing Australian Indie Folk With Them
Anna Cieslik ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
Here at Emertainment Monthly, we’ve come to love quite a few bands and artists from down under. So when Melbourne-based band The Paper Kites came onto our radar, I was more than happy to check them out. The quintet has a fun, upbeat sound that is decidedly indie rock with a wide range of other musical influences, from bit of electronic to a whole lot of folk. Their concert at Brighton Music Hall here in Boston earlier this month was a fun one filled with lots of dancing, singing, and clapping. The band created a relaxing atmosphere for the audience to lose itself in, perfect for a carefree Saturday night show.
Not only did I get a chance to enjoy their live set, but I also was able to sit down with band member Josh Bentley beforehand. We discussed plenty of stuff, like the band’s influences, aspirations, and even their patronus. Oh, and there were plenty of jokes and lots of laughter throughout. Read on to learn about what exactly is going on with The Paper Kites and their music.
The Paper Kites definitely has a folky sound. How did that come about? Is there a big folk scene in Australia?
I guess we do. We don’t really go with the flow, though. We try to buck the trend and write what we want to write, and play whatever we want to play. I guess we started off in kind of a folk scene with Woodland, our first EP, and then moving into Young North, our second EP. But States, our new album, is kind of drawn away from that a bit. Which is a good and a bad thing. It’s good for us, it’s what we felt was the general consensus for us as a band. We just decided to write songs we were happy to play and felt comfortable with. Our new album’s a very eclectic bunch of songs. But going back to the folk scene, yea, I guess there are a lot of up and coming folk bands in Australia, particularly in Melbourne. There are a lot of smaller bands just starting out that are trying the acoustic guitar and floor-tom-hitting-the-hell-out-of-it sort of thing [laughs]. Personally, I guess we don’t really see ourselves as a folk band. We’ve kind of moved away from that and I think we’re happy with it.
You’ve said yourself your sound has evolved a lot since the first EP, especially with the full-length. Did that development happen naturally, or was it a conscious decision?
Pretty naturally. We didn’t sit down around a table and say, “Right, this first EP was a folk EP and now we’re going to move away from that and do whatever we want, whatever you call the next album.” No, it was a natural progression. Sam [Bentley, guitarist and singer], who does majority of the writing, just came up with a bunch of new songs, getting influence from different kinds of music across a broad range of genres. So that was probably the key motivator behind the new album; lots of influences from different bands, different artists, different types of music as well.
Sam went away for three weeks by himself to mull over a lot of songs and write some stuff. It wasn’t a conscious decision to change genres or change the way The Paper Kites play or the way we sound. It was just a natural progression. It felt natural for us. It may not feel natural for others, but for us, we’ve been playing the songs for a while now. A lot of people pick up the EP Woodland like a couple of days ago and expect us to play all of the songs when really, we’ve got a lot of new music out there too.
Has there been any one band or artist in particular that you’ve really been digging lately? Whether it’s just you or the entire band?
Um, to be honest, our taste in music within the band is completely different. Which is probably a good thing actually. It means we all bring something different to the table when we play. But back home, the band we look up to not so much for their music but the way they conduct themselves, is Boy & Bear. They’re a pretty big act back home and they’re pretty influential in the way they go about it, and writing as well. We toured with them last year, I think, and they’ve become pretty influential in the way we do stuff.
As for bigger bands, I guess Sam, who does most of the writing, is into a band called Elbow and Bob Dylan. There are a lot of different artists though. It’s hard to pinpoint one artist that sums up who we all derive our influences from. But me personally, I’m into Cloud Control, an Australian band. And the new Volcano Choir, Bon Iver’s side project, I’ve been listing a lot to that. So there are a lot of different influences which come across in the band.
What was it like recording your first full-length album? You had two EPs and then a full-length.
Good question. It was a long process, of course, being an album compared to an EP. We decided to record 13 tracks as opposed to a four or five-track EP so obviously it’s going to be a longer process. Coming into it we thought it was going to be pretty easy. Sam had written a lot of songs; I think we counted at least 30 songs, so we had a big catalog of songs to work through and decide what would make the cut and what wouldn’t. We actually sat down one night before we decided to go through with the album, and just had a night where we sorted through the songs. We had a voting process, very diplomatic. So that kicked off our album-recording process.
Then we moved into the studio about a month later and we worked in the same studio where we did our second EP. It’s called Sing Sing Recording Studio in Melbourne. That’s another big thing; we decided to do our album in Melbourne, at home, where we’re from. It’s just easier for us to walk into the studio each day, not having to leave loved ones or be homesick or anything like that. It was very convenient for us. We actually did our new album, States, with the same producer we worked with on Young North, Wayne Connelly, so he was like a friend as well.
So recording our album was very familiar to us because we went into the same space we did our EP and worked with the same producer. It was a little bit different because, you know, different songs, and it was an album as opposed to an EP, and we spent a lot more time on the new album crafting it a bit more, taking our time. We kind of rushed our first EPs because we wanted to get them out there and had a bit of a time constraint. But this time we decided to relax a bit and take our time. We wanted to get the sounds right. We experimented with a lot of different things. We had crazy instruments in like whirlies and different percussion stuff. You can hear that in the album as well. We used lots of pad sounds from the keys and pianos and different instruments, different drums. And we experimented with a lot of different guitar sounds as well, just sort of adding and making it a bit fuller.
But the process in itself was surprisingly a bit tougher. We were in the studio longer than we thought we would be, which is good and bad. Good because we wanted to get it right but bad because you can only be in a room for so long. We also did our vocals up in Sydney with Wayne in his studio up there. So the process in itself probably took three to four months to get it all from recording it in the studio to having the CD in our hands. But I would say the process in itself probably took just under a year, somewhere between six to eight months from Sam writing the songs to having the album out. But we’re really happy with it and proud of it as well so hopefully people like it.
You’ve been selling out a lot of these recent shows you’ve been doing on your first headlining U.S. tour. How does it feel to know you have such a warm welcome?
It’s really bizarre, being from Australia and coming overseas for the first time as well. This is the first time we’ve been to Canada and North America and South [America]. It’s crazy knowing that people overseas are listening to our stuff and enjoying it and backing it up by coming to shows. It’s been mind blowing. We thought we’d be lucky to get 30 people, 50 people to each show. But it’s been amazing to see fans and people actually smiling and singing the songs.
Now that you’ve been around for a few years, what do you think your biggest growth has been as a band?
I think as a band we’ve definitely improved our musicianship. We’re a lot tighter as a band, like we’ve improved the way we play and the way we conduct ourselves on stage. I think, personally, we’ve become a bit more professional if that makes sense. At our first show we looked like deer in the headlights, like “what the heck is going on?” But now we feel a bit more comfortable on stage. I guess we’ve come closer as friends and stuff as well. And then coming over here [to North America]. It’s a big thing for an Australian band to come over here so we’ve been lucky to come over here and do what we’re doing.
Going off of that, what’s the one thing you really want to improve on as a band?
Oh jeez, what to improve on? I think our production side of things. We’ve still got a long way to come in stage presence and stage look. I guess that’s more of a production thing. And a financial thing as well, we need to improve our finances as well, which every band does [laughs].
We’re very into an experience of a show. Rather than coming, standing, and going home, we want people to get involved. In Australia, we’re doing that quite well because we’re doing very well back home. But coming over here, we’d love to bring people along with us to help bring that production side of our show to America and overseas. So I think that’s somewhere we can grow. We can definitely improve the show, I think.
So last question before we go: If you had to describe The Paper Kites with one animal, what would it be?
Wow. I can’t get moose out of my head because we’ve been talking about them since we’ve been here.
Sam Rasmussen [bass and snyth], from across the room: Josh, what’s the band’s patronus?
JB: I think our band’s patronus would be a stag! I don’t know why though. I could say any animal. Yea, at the moment, I’m going to say a moose because we’re in North America. But that’s the only reason I can think of [laughs].
Whether you’re a longtime fan of The Paper Kites, you recently started listening to them, or you’ve never heard of them and just want to check out a band with a patronus as awesome as a stag, it’s about time you catch their live act. Their North American tour is over for now, but you can be sure the Aussie band will be back here soon enough to create bigger and better dance parties. Until then, you can create your own dance parties by blasting their music at full volume in your room at night. Because I can’t be the only one doing that, right?