With the long wait for The Paper Kites‘ sophomore album twelvefour release almost over, I recently got to chat with the band’s front man and lead songwriter, Sam Bentley.
The interview begins with me nervously waiting for the telephone operator to connect Sam Bentley and I together on a crystal clear phone line. I jokingly ask Sam if I’m his last for the day (I’m 2nd last), while coolly resisting the urge to tell him it’s actually my first ever phone interview and that I’m beside myself. Assuming he’s never heard of my little site, I give Sam a bit of background on The Garb Wire, which leads to him telling me about a hole in his jeans and how he’s blasted the crotch off many pairs. Disappointingly, I learn that the current hole resides at his knee, which I decree a “hipster hole”. He quickly responds, “Hey, I’m from Croydon! There’s no way.”
The Single – Electric Indigo
From crotches and Croydon we move on to talk about Electric Indigo, the band’s first single from the forthcoming album, twelvefour.
I tell Sam the video and song itself conjurs moments of young love and countless eighties films, and that my friend compared the vibe of the song to Air Supply and Fleetwood Mac. I check Sam knows who they are first, and we continue. I ask him if there were any obvious influences for him with this track. Sam says, “Generally speaking, I AM a big Roxy Music fan. I love The Cure and Joy Division. I did want this track to be a nod to the eighties era and guitar-driven anthems, not the usual eighties synth sound. Same with the video… which is the first of a trilogy, actually. The trilogy will consist of different stories, couples and locations, but with the same nostalgic feel. The second one is being shot in Minneapolis right now!”
I ask him if Dance or Go is a real venue, or just a fictitious club created for the video? He hesitates, then tells me coyly, “Um…it’s a little like Fight Club. We’re not allowed to talk about it… but it’s out there.”
The Album – twelvefour
On the overall creative concept for the twelvefour album, the theory is that musicians are at their most creative between the hours of 12 midnight and 4am, I tell Sam that his theory isn’t lost on any creative, night owl types, and ask why at first he found it hard to stay awake during the writing process?
“I’m normally up late, but I found that it was the last two hours between 2 and 4am that things got a bit loopy. I definitely went through a period of adjustment. It’s the same for anyone in the creative field, right? The mystique of those early hours in the morning. Finding ideas in that lucid, sleep-deprived state.”
I ask if he’s the type of person who leaps out of bed, and is kept awake at night by ideas? He tells me he’ll often grab his phone and record ideas as they come, no matter what time it is. “There’s this endless list of weird bits on my phone”.
On the trailer for the album, the band can be heard doubting Bentley’s new material. Ultimately though, they were united in their goal to make a great record. I ask him how he navigated around those feelings?
He tells me Matthew J Cox the director wanted to show how sharing new material within a band isn’t always easy. He wanted it to be a candid portrayal of the process.
“We went through all the demos, and there were far weirder songs that didn’t make it to the album. As a band, we had conversations about what we could do / what we were comfortable playing. As the lead songwriter, I have to show respect to the other band members.”
I ask him if he’s managed to let go of the rejected songs, and he jokes about bringing out Sam Bentley’s Greatest Hits in the future. He tells me that he’d written enough material for three albums, so they (the band) had a rough time editing it down to an album’s worth.
“The process of building an album is a lost art for some, but not us. We wanted it to be a cohesive story from start to finish.”
When asked if he feels comfortable pushing the band even when they can’t share his vision, and whether he has moments of self doubt, Bentley tells me, “the biggest challenge is always pitching new songs. It’s like selling a picture you’ve painted without actually showing it to anyone.” He continues, “I get so set on my ideas, and my band mates can be quite opposing. I do enjoy a bit of conflict and pushing boundaries a little.”
I ask if there any pearls of wisdom that keep Bentley motivated and determined – advice from a parent, someone famous, or his own mantra? He says that he doesn’t really have any quotes, but he thinks about artists he loves, and all the advice he’s been given along the way.
“I consider myself quite perceptive. I wouldn’t put something out without thinking it through very carefully.”
He continues, “over the years, from my own experience… it’s about being sincere. Great music will prevail. Look at Simon & Garfunkel. Their music stands the test of time and still moves people now. I think it’s just important to be sincere.”
I ask where Bentley wants to take The Paper Kites, in an effort to find out what their ultimate glory is. He says, “you set goals for yourself, sure. I always wanted to play at The Forum, and we got to do that. It’s like Nick Cave says, ‘push the sky away.’
We’ve always been described as a slow burn band. I want to keep doing this. We don’t follow the hype train. We want to be consistent. Part of it is maintaining our lives outside of the band, with our family and friends.”
And after a brief pause he adds, “I’d love to do music for films. Tell that to Hollywood.” I promise him that I will, and that it’s as easy as that!
When asked if he ever feels that the ‘Indie’ tag puts a ceiling on a band’s projectory, he tells me how “the pure meaning of Indie has completely changed since, say, the 90s. It’s more a reference to a style of music now. I mean, we’re not an indie band anymore. Yes, we do a lot of things ourselves, but we’re signed to a major label.”
He continues, “I read an interview with Kevin Parker recently about ‘syncs’. He said he got paid more for a sync with Blackberry than he did for his last album!
“As musicians, I think sometimes you should take what you can get, if it means you can make a living.”
Sam Bentley recognises the goal posts are definitely moving on that front. He feels that what was once viewed as a sell-out is changing, people need to make money. He tells me that the band has had a few fights over syncs.
The operator interrupts and tells us the interview must now come to a close. I start talking faster than I ever have, and ask Sam for one last statement about the forthcoming tour.
“We’re really excit…”
The Paper Kites is Sam Bentley, Christina Lacy, David Powys, Josh Bentley and Sam Rasmussen. The new album is out on 28 August, 2015.
Pre-order twelvefour here and receive your instant copy of the single, Electric Indigo
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