Sacrifices pile up as The Paper Kites score US success
WEDDINGS, birthdays and births.
They are the moments which bring meaning to life, but overseas success has meant Melbourne folk and pop quintet The Paper Kites have missed their fair share this decade.
And after about 12 months of downtime, the cycle is about to begin again for singer Sam Bentley, whose partner is due to give birth to a little baby girl in coming weeks.
“Then I jet off on tour a month later,” he tells Watch, a touch ruefully. “A few of the other guys in the band have had kids. They’d been around for the births but they’ve had to jet off really quickly.
“Watching kids grow up, some of the guys have missed (that).
“You miss a lot of things (being in the band). That’s the trade off.”
Luckily, The Paper Kites are a tight bunch with very understanding partners who realise the time is now for the band. With more than 500 million Spotify streams and almost 200 shows in just under three years, their smooth, contemplative, riff-heavy numbers are being gobbled up, both home and abroad.
“They understand that we love what we do and we’ll probably never get to do this again if we’re not doing it now,” he says.
Bentley has spent much of the past year writing two albums, bookends On The Train Ride Home and On The Corner Where You Live.
“We’ve appreciated being home and having that family stability for the past 12 months,” he says. “It’s just nice to be around for a good chunk of time, I think we all needed a bit of a break.
“And it’s really difficult to write on the road.”
In fact, Bentley finds it easiest writing at the movies. When he’s not on the road he’s working at “a little cinema in Melbourne”, but won’t say where.
“You can be going as well as you could be in Australia, but you often still have to work jobs when you’re home,” he says.
“That’s the nature of mid-level success. But I love it, it’s a great job, I absolutely love film. I always wanted my music on a film.”
Bentley would be out back finding his own inspiration while the films rolled on.
“A lot of the album (On The Corner Where You Live), I was kind of messing around with while working the late night shift,” he says.
Tune It’s Not Like You off On The Train Ride Home, was written on the back of a receipt.
“It can be a bit of romantic place at night when you’re by yourself and the credits are rolling and you’re in your own head,” he says.
“I came up with a few songs there.
“I literally scribbled all the lyrics on a receipt I found lying around. And I’ve stuck that in my lyrics book, I should probably give it to the cinema in case things really took off and tell them this is where it all started guys.”
That day could be coming soon, with The Paper Kites flying high in the US.
Early song Bloom – which Bentley describes as his “little song that could, it just keeps going”– has gone gold in the states, with 700,000 sales. They also earned good exposure on season eight of Grey’s Anatomy, with Featherstone used for the finale – each trip to the States, Bentley has noticed little signs of further success.
“Each time we’ve gone back the venues have gotten bigger, more people seem to be coming out,” he says. “To me it’s felt very organic; we’ve never ever had a rocket to success. It’s always been a slow burn. I almost feel it (overnight success) does more harm than good.
“When it comes time to back up that album or that single, it’s a lot of pressure to try and deliver the goods.”
It might surprise but Bentley came from a far different musical world – he and Kites bassist Sam Rasmussen met through their love for fellow member Dave Powy’s punk and ska band.
“We were like little punk kids,” he says.
But when Bentley met future Kites singer Christina Lacy, his tastes changed and The Paper Kites were born. “I kind of decided punk rock wasn’t really for me,” he says. “I think I’d prefer play to an audience that was listening to me than jumping around and climbing the ceiling.
“Before you knew it, it was overtaking everything.”
Sniffing something was in the air – and
after playing a stack of mid-sized venues – they earned a slot at the ionic Corner Hotel in hometown Melbourne.
It proved to be a “game changer” for the group.
“It’s a real rite of passage for any band in
Melbourne,” he says.
“They gave us a shot, I think the capacity is maybe 800, or 850, and we sold it out. For that many people to show up without any industry backing, it felt like it was going well. I’ve still got the poster of that show hanging in my house.”
No matter how big the band gets, Bentley wants to maintain the personal connection with the listener.
He says their music is very much a “solo listen and a solo experience”.
“It’s just you and your stereo or your headphones. Almost like your own little secret, and
nobody understand your love for this group the way you feel it,” he says.
“That’s what I would love to be for other
On The Corner Where You Live is out on September 21