There is something rare about The Paper Kites. Whether it’s the air of calm that surrounds their music or the fact they have mastered the delicate balance of progressiveness and subtlety, The Paper Kites have separated themselves from the monotony of indie folk.
With their second album, Twelvefour, about to be released on August 28th, I spoke to songwriter Sam Bentley about how The Paper Kites continue to march to the beat of their own drum.
In his search for an artistic trigger, Bentley stumbled upon the theory that the human brain is the most creative between 12 am and 4 am. Inspired, Bentley wrote the entire album between these times.
‘I had it in the back in my head, the curse of the second record. I just wanted an idea that I could separate everything from,’ explained Bentley. ‘It wouldn’t have really mattered if the record wasn’t that good, because it was a separate entity. It was just me looking for something interesting to put the record around.’
Bentley directly attributes the lunar atmosphere for defining the mood for Twelvefour. ‘You can’t really help feeling some degree of melancholy between those hours. It’s very isolating and a lonely time of night, which is what I loved about it; there’s something kind of romantic about it.’
Well... there is nothing kind of romantic about what I do between 12 and 4 am.
Nevertheless, Bentley’s night-time activities generated so much intrigue that it demanded its own documentary. Filmmaker Matthew J. Cox followed the band from the conception of the record to the finished product, highlighting the taxing routine that Bentley put himself through.
‘I remember Christina (keyboardist) saying "we can’t make a documentary, we’re nowhere near big enough to warrant a documentary," which is totally true,’ admitted Bentley, who said he quickly warmed to the idea of giving his fans an insight to this unique record.
‘It’s more we wanted to document the creation of a record. We felt like a lot of people will pick up a record and they will listen to it, and they won’t look much further than the songs they’re listening to. We kind of wanted to show what goes into making a record and the reality of being a musician.’
Indeed, the commitment Bentley put into his nocturnal song writing method catalysed a sonic and lyrical evolution for The Paper Kites. Working with the notoriously selective producer Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses), who Bentley credits for capturing the honesty and sincerity of the record, Bentley bended the genre boundaries of The Paper Kites and pushed the band for a wider musical scope.
However this decision didn’t come easily for Bentley, who searched for a balance of appeasing himself, his fans and his fellow band mates.
‘I’m always interested in pushing people’s ideas and our own ideas on what type of band we could be. I just never wanted to feel that we could never try a song in a different style. I just want the freedom to let the songs come out however they want to come out. I mean you have to respect your band, and you can’t just throw something at them that makes you a completely different band.’
Twelvefour was chosen from a selection of 30 tracks and Bentley admitted that there were difficult decisions for the band.
‘It’s always really hard when you have gone and written record and it’s tied up with a personal vision and you’re trying to explain that to someone else. We definitely do have creative differences only because we are 5 creatively opinionated people and our concept of what makes a great record is all based on different things, like the music we’ve been brought up on.'
However, Bentley is not some crazed advocate of musical tyranny and relishes the collaboration within the band for creating The Paper Kites’ music.
‘I think [collaboration] is a great thing. People coming together and bringing different angles of their experience. You need to have those creative arguments and discussions of what kind of band you want to be,' Bentley said.
'Even when I bring a new sound to the guys and they’re not comfortable with, they become comfortable with it eventually because I think they’re open to trying it. We care about the music we make, and I think a bit of healthy discussion, whether its heated or not, is a good thing.’
Bentley justifiably said that he views his musical progression as more of the next natural step for The Paper Kites and is confident that fans will see it the same way too.
‘We have a lot of fans that love our music and they’re genuine music fans who are on board with whatever we want to do and fans who really liked our first records, which were going on nearly five years ago now,' he reflected.
‘As a writer you’re in a completely different headspace and you’re interested in different type of music, different sounds. It felt really natural for me.’
Though Bentley admitted he is sure there will be ‘some who are like, "Where’s that folk band that I loved?"', he wants to rationalise to his nostalgic (see: stubborn) fans that 'there’s folk influences on all of our songs; there’s plenty of songs where it’s just me and a acoustic guitar. I think it’s a little bit silly to say its not there.'
Besides, Bentley won’t be losing any sleep over miffed fans. ‘You have to understand that as a band we’re constantly talking about the direction we want to take, and any band needs room to move and you can’t just be expected to make one style of music for the rest of your career.’
So with the album locked, loaded and ready for release, is Sam Bentley going to stay committed to the twelve-four concept?
‘There is definitely merit in the [theory], whether or not it’s true; there is some placebo effect at least… but I’ve been saying to everyone I don’t really want to do it again just because it’s so exhausting.’
However, don’t think for a second that Bentley would change a thing about The Paper Kites' second record.
‘It was a really fun thing to do and hopefully the results speak for themselves. It was a really great way to write a record. I don’t think I need to do it like that, I just wanted to see what happens. I’m always looking for things to push myself and expand as a writer.’
Alex Capper, once affectionally called by Ross & John of 3AW as the '7 foot fucker', loves the Essendon Football Club, stalking reddit and dabbing. He thinks he can speak French, but he can't.