INTERVIEW: The Paper Kites

I was digging around in my bag, desperately trying to find my keys. Locked out of my house with Sam Bentley from The Paper Kites on a conference call waiting for me to start an interview.

My heart was racing and I was thinking, ‘This can’t be happening . . . please let this be a dream’. To be entirely honest, I wanted to cry, but if I did things would have got more awkward.

Luckily for me, Sam found the whole situation rather funny (I like to think that he was laughing with me and not at me) … I fumbled my way through an introduction and told him that my heart was going to explode. He reassured me that it was all good and with a laugh we eased our way into an actual conversation. We chatted about their brand new EP Young North, getting lost on Google Maps, songwriting, kite flying and a man named Tendai.


You’ve literally just released Young North . . . what was the writing and recording process like for that? Did you feel as though there was a fair amount of pressure, especially after the success of “Bloom” and Featherstone?

I think from everyone else that wasn’t in the band there was probably an amount of expectation on what the new stuff was going to be like. But, I mean, we don’t really pay much attention to that stuff. We write the music we wanna write and we sort of just put it out and you always sort of hope that people will just accept it as it is. There definitely wasn’t any sort of particular writing process. We don’t really have a certain formula that we stick to. We were very lucky, I suppose, with how “Bloom” and “Featherstone” – how they were both responded to online, and stuff like that.

I think I read that “Featherstone” was in an episode of Greys Anatomy?

Yeah, yeah. It was on the season finale of the last season, I think it was . . . which was quite an honour. Christine is a big fan of the show, so she was pretty excited for that.

And you’ve just released the single – “A Maker Of My Time”. That’s such a beautiful song and the video clip is amazing as well. There’s this one line that really stands out to me – ‘all in all I need to get me through.’ That’s very powerful and I think a lot of people would be able to relate to that. What was the inspiration behind that particular song?

Um…well, I think…without going into too much detail, it was a song that was written when I was spending a bit of time  down at one of my friends properties, sort of outside of Melbourne. So I was by myself for that week. And I was sort of…just…the song as a whole is sort of about being responsible for the decisions that you make and what you do with your time. And I suppose, following on from that, living with decisions that you make, and you know, whether or not you regret them…um, I think that line was sort of like, I think, despite what’s happened…just pushing through and pushing yourself through.

So obviously the song writing process is quite therapeutic for you in some ways?

Yeah, absolutely. I think everyone’s got their own outlet. I think everyone needs some kind of outlet to get their thoughts out somehow, and for me I think song writing’s the best way to show people how I’m feeling about something. But yeah, I think it’s an important thing for everyone to be able to do.

Definitely. And like I said, the video clip is great. I read that you guys directed and produced it along with Jefferton James. Was the guy in it a friend of yours?

No, he was a guy named Tendai…um, and he was a guy that we just found on the Internet. I sort of just found him somewhere. I think it was on a talent agency thing. And we just thought he looked really interesting. And we’d never met him before, and I only really talked to him via email. So we sort of had no idea what he was going to be like – he didn’t really have any background in dance, which is kind of what we wanted…um, but he didn’t know he was going to be in the video clip. But he just really got into the headspace. He really rose to the occasion. He’d never done anything like that before. None of us had. We were like, ‘What the heck are we doing out here?’

Yeah, where abouts did you film it?

Umm, it was a place . . . sometimes I like to go for little adventures on Google maps and I got quite lost in a general sort of, Mildura area and I found this place. But I sort of knew what I wanted it to look like. This place just seemed great. And it was really exciting, driving up there to this pinpoint that I’d put on the map and not knowing what it was actually going to be like. It turned out perfect. I mean, the whole thing could’ve been an absolute disaster, since we’d never met Tendai before and we’d never been to the location. But yeah I think, what we ended up with was really, really magical…and like, it was really unusual. I mean, the concept from the beginning was always um – I think people were either going to get it or they weren’t going to get it. We were really happy with it.

The first couple of times I watched it, I was like, “Oh yeah, this is nice..” But then every time I’ve gone back to it I’ve taken something new away from it.

It was the same for us. I mean, when we watched it … I think you pick up something different every time and even in his expressions.

His face just changes, doesn’t it? He looks like he’s really enjoying himself.

Yeah, he was actually absolutely exhausted! We sort of had this conversation about whether people would find it boring or not, and I think we wanted it to be a bit…not necessarily controversial, but I think it all depends on what a particular individual would perceive as something really beautiful and something really artistic, or something just plain ridiculous. And something that didn’t make sense…I think we sort of wanted to challenge people’s perceptions and we’re really happy with the end outcome.

It’s had over fifty thousand views on YouTube and it hasn’t been up for that long. That must be really humbling for you.

Very, very much so.

I’ve been watching it on repeat… there was a comment on YouTube – I don’t know if you pay attention to that but someone said, “This is one of those songs you listen to when you’re driving at night and just want to clear your head.”  That pretty much sums it up, I think. It’s a good driving song.

Yeah, that’s cool. I think everyone probably – like with most songs – and most of our songs definitely, have different scenarios that that song works for them in. It’s always cool to hear what those are from different people.

And you’re just about to start the tour, or have you started the tour?

No, no. we’re starting soon. It kicks off in two weeks.

You’re covering quite a bit of ground: Wollongong, Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide, Fremantle, Perth, The Sunshine Coast, The Gold Coast, Brisbane, Melbourne and Ballarat. That’s huge in three weeks.

It’s a big tour! It’s a very big tour. I mean, it’s not the biggest tour – it’s not thirty shows or anything  but it’s certainly the biggest one that we’ve done. I think everyone’s pretty excited to start taking these songs on the road and I think yeah, everyone’s starting to feel like we’re really sort of coming into our own groove on stage and it’s always difficult when you’ve got five people and so many instruments to take on tour. It’s always hard to play a new set. But we’ve got a really good team with us on this tour and I think we’ve spent a lot of timereally crafting the set and I think everyone feels like we’re sort of stepping it up for this tour which is really, really cool. And we’re all really excited to play some of the venues that we’re playing. It’s going to be fun.

I saw that you’re doing just the one all ages show – I think in Adelaide?

Yeah, yeah. I’m not actually sure why we’re doing an all ages show!

Oh, you’ve got to cater for the little sixteen year olds.

I s’pose so… I think it’ll be interesting.

I used to get so upset when there’d be a band coming and I couldn’t go and see them.

Yeah, so did I. But I think when you’re actually – when you hit 18 – it becomes so much more exciting to be able to go to the gigs, because you’ve been denied them for so long, so I think it’s even more special.

I used to sneak in and my dad would pick me up at midnight.

I never did that! I never went to an overage show until I was 18, which is weird. Maybe I just wasn’t rebellious enough.

Maybe not . . . have you been to most of the places that you’re touring or will some of these be completely new?

No, we’ve been pretty much everywhere that we’re going. Because we did the Josh Pyke tour and then the Boy & Bear tour last year, and they were really massive tours – especially the Boy & Bear one. So we sort of went to most places that bands play. We haven’t been anywhere in the Northern Territory. I’d love to get up and play in Darwin. But yeah, everywhere else we’ve pretty much been. But it’s always really cool to go back there on your own headlining tour and sort of establish your own thing in those cities.

Definitely. It all just sounds really exciting. I can’t remember exactly how I found out about you guys. I think my friend showed me – or played me “Bloom” . . . this was quite a while ago and I was like, “Who are these guys?!” You didn’t really have much else at the time. So now it’s like, “Yep, I have their new EP and it’s really good.” But “Bloom” is such a great song. I’ve found all these YouTube covers of it. Some of them are awful. But some of them are quite nice.

But you know, good on the kids for getting out there and putting their covers up. It’s always very humbling for us to see people respond to the songs in that way.

Yeah, exactly. Actually a friend of mine, Ed had a gig not long ago and he did a cover of it . . of “Bloom.” And everyone was saying, “Oh I love this song.”

Oh, wow! Bizarre. I’ve been at a wedding where someone in the wedding band covered that song. I don’t think he knew that I was there or that I’d written it, but yeah, that was pretty weird.

Yeah, I can imagine . . . and I know it’s a bit like asking a parent who their favourite child is but do you have a particular favourite song on Young North?

On Young North? Um . . . it’s probably different for everyone in the band. I really like “Paint”, mainly because I think, lyrically, I’ve really pondered over that song. And it’s got a lot of words in it – it’s a very wordy song. But yeah, I think that sort of seems to hit home for me. But I think everyone felt really good about “A Maker Of My Time” which is why we released that one first. It had really cool vibe to it and we barely had to chat about it – everyone was like, “Yep. Let’s put that song out first.” Everyone seems to like that song a lot. But each song is really different from the next. So there’s almost like a different setting for every song – that that song would go well for. Even songs like “Leopold Street …you know, I really love that song as well. But obviously it’s really hard for us to choose one that we love. We love all of them.

Like I said, it’s the same as asking a parent… you secretly do have a favourite but you don’t to say, because you might upset the others.

Yeah, exactly!  . . .but I know that “Paint” always goes down well live.

I can imagine. I’ve actually jotted down some of the lyrics to “Paint.” I think that’s probably my favourite as well.

Oh, cool!

And you guys are playing at The Corner Hotel?

Yeah, yeah . . . we’re doing two shows at The Corner now. The 1st and 2nd of November.

Excellent. And you’ve got two support bands with you, as well. Art Of Sleeping and Battleships. Have you seen those guys play before?

Well, we’ve known the Art Of Sleeping guys for a long time. I mean, we used to play festivals together before any of us really had any triple j support behind us. Battleships – we saw recently out at Big Sound in Brisbane and they are amazing. They’re just one of those bands that you regret bringing on tour because they’re so good. But we’re really excited to have them both on tour and it’s funny playing at the top of the bill when those bands are playing before you. It definitely puts the pressure on to play a good show. But they’re cool bands.

I’m sure you guys will be just fine.

Yeah, it’s all good.  Any other burning questions?

Do . . . you like kite flying?

Oh dear! No, not that question!

Oh. Do you get asked that a lot?

Well, sort of.

I should have been more original.

What’s the most original question you can think of?

Actually, I’ve been asking this question . . . so, the best place to write a song is in your head. True or false?

Ohh . . . true or false. That’s a good question. The best place to write a song is in your head.  I suppose as a writer you’ve always got songs in your head. Constantly. I mean, I know for me I hear everything in sounds and noises, which sounds kind of dumb because obviously everyone hears things in sounds and noises. But I often have melodies in my head and it can be really annoying. I suppose when I go to write a song it’s just a matter of sitting down and fishing one out. So there’s stuff that’s always in there and I suppose song writing does start in your head. I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement . . . but it’s different for every song writer. I don’t think it’s necessarily a location thing. I think the location that you’re in affects your head space…so it’s still coming from inside your head, it can just be influenced by different things.

Yeah, for sure. Beautiful. Well, thank you so much. Hopefully see you soon.

For sure. Thanks, Grace. See you later.




You must be logged in to post a comment