Interview and photos by Winnie Surya. The Australian mates from The Paper Kites brought chills to our backs with their impressive performance at Toronto’s TURF festival. With that being said, we decided to get to learn more about this five-piece indie band. Fortunately, we met up with Sam Bentley and Josh Bentley a day after the festival at Alexandria Park in Toronto, where we also got to watch the rest of the band play with a Frisbee that was given by City and Colour’s Dallas Green under the summer sun. As much as we wanted to join the game of Frisbee, we were focused enough to talk about subjects that ranged from the group’s works in progress to the cold Canadian weather.
Since you’ve only been in Toronto for a couple days, did you get to go out and see the city?
JB: Yeah! Only today actually… We’ve been wandering around the streets: up to Queen Street and Dundas Street.
SB: Kensington Market.
JB: Yeah! That area, which is pretty cool!
SB: I didn’t get to go there last time because I couldn’t find it. Everyone else went there and was telling me how cool it was. So, I was really determined to see it this time. It was great! I loved it.
You guys are going to play some Canadian dates on this tour before heading back to the States. So, what should fans expect from this tour?
SB: We just finished a tour in Australia and we’re sort of taking the same show to the road. But I think it’s a little bit louder than the last time we were here. We’ve got a few more songs from States, the album we put out. We’ve been messing with the songs a little bit. When you’ve been playing them for so long, you want to do things to keep it interesting as a band. So, we’ve rewritten sections and stuff like that. Some people have been like: “Oh! I didn’t know that was that song until you – “
So, it’s pretty much rearrangements?
SB: Yeah! We’ve done a lot of rearranging and it’s been really fun to play the songs. People seem to be enjoying it, so it’s been cool!
You guys played TURF the other day, did you get to catch any other bands?
JB: Not really, unfortunately. We saw Noah…
SB: Noah Gundersen.
JB: Yeah, we saw them play and they’re really good. But after that, it was very in and out for us: we came in and had to unfortunately rush back straight out to Lee’s Palace to play our own show. So, we didn’t get to explore the festival that much, but it was a great festival!
SB: We saw Ladies Of The Canyon and they were a psychedelic all-girls band. That was really cool – I liked them.
What are some differences between playing shows in North American and Australia?
SB: It really depends on where you are. I know that even playing a show in Melbourne back home, where we’re from, is very different from playing a show in Sydney, which is up North. [It’s] sort of the same way that playing Toronto is very different than playing New York. Crowds in Canada are very respectful. They’re very excited as well, from what we’ve found. They’re really good people to play for. Sometimes in Melville, you might say something and the crowd doesn’t give you much because they’re very cool – they love their music and they’re very reserved, whereas people in Toronto are so excited to hear our music. They say: “We’ve been waiting to see you for so long!” They’re very lovely to talk to afterwards as well. No one’s been too cool or anything like that; everyone just wants to have a good time.
JB: I think being from Australia as well: like how often do you get to come here from Australia and back because that part is pretty cool.
You just released your debut album, States, last year. What was the inspiration behind it?
SB: A lot of people get the title confused.
JB: They think it’s like America.
SB: But no, it was more meant to be a “states of mind” kind of thing. So, every song is like a collection of memoirs and reflections – almost like you’re reading a journal, which is weird for someone because you’re putting something so personal. We like to write based on weird experiences and things that happened for me. So, that’s where it all kind of came from. Most of the songs are actually written over a two-week period, but we ended up having about forty demos. At the end of that, it felt like I got a little more writing than I needed to do. I went away for these two weeks and put those songs together. Most of the songs ended up being on the record and we were really happy with it. It’s great to have a full length record finally finished.
Will you be releasing any new music soon?
SB: I’m working on some at the moment. I’ve literally only started writing now. Since I’ve finished States, I actually didn’t write one song in like a year…
So you’re taking a break from writing?
SB: Yeah! A lot of people think that you need to keep writing as a writer, but I like to stop and refocus on what I want to do. It’s only just starting to come out, which is cool.
Are you guys focusing more on touring?
SB: Yeah, we’ve got a bit more touring to do this year and I think next year, we’ll probably start with working on the next record.
Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?
SB: We thought, when we started out – oh sorry, we didn’t think this, but we used to play in bands that thought this: you had to play shows all the time to get noticed, but it’s not really the case these days. I think you should play less and go about and try to do something. But a lot of bands get confused about the way to do things. They kind of get stuck in this little bubble in their hometown and they can’t break out of it. It’s a relatively simple formula just trying to create a good base in your hometown and then just finding people who can represent you better than you can represent yourself, like finding great management and finding a great booking agent. That’s what bands need to focus on and they’re the people that help you break out of things that you can’t do yourself.
Who are your musical inspirations?
SB: It’s very broad; everyone is very different in the band, which is why when it comes to making a record, we have a lot of intense discussions about what we think is best because we all love different things. Even me myself, I’m a bit manic with the music I listen to; I can’t narrow down to one thing. I love a lot of singer-songwriter stuff; I love Nick Drake and I love Simon & Garfunkel, but even bands like The Cure, The Smiths and Radiohead. All those guys are pushing the envelope at their time of beautiful ambient music. Even composers like Brian Eno [who] just focus on mainly instrumental – like cinematic kind of stuff. I love all of that and I’m going to try and bring it into this one thing. Like I said, we’ve all got different ideas of what we like, but it’s all in the interest of writing a great song.
It’s good to listen to different genres!
SB: It can be really hard because we’re all so passionate about writing great songs. It’s all to make the best music we can.
What is your guilty pleasure song?
JB: We sing a lot of random songs in the van. What did we sing the other day?
SB: We were trying to work out the theme from The Nanny. It was a big hit and we all loved that show. We were all trying to remember the words and we just broke into one big thing. There are a lot of great pop songs in the 80s and 90s.
JB: Sam, you’re a Hanson fan!
SB: Yeah! Hanson! I used to love Hanson growing up. But there’s this radio station in Melville called Smooth FM and they play a lot of 80s and 90s love songs. It’s just really nice to turn on when you’re driving home. They play Celine Dion and stuff like that – it’s hard to turn off! They’re really well written songs!
What are your pet peeves?
SB: I actually don’t like being in crowds; crowds really annoy me, which is weird playing in a band.
JB: I’m the opposite; I really enjoy a crowd. I’m a people-watcher – I love watching people!
SB: I hate being in a stuffy room full of people. I can’t stand that. So, when I’m watching a band, I hate standing in the crowd with really tall people in front of me. I can’t stand crowds, I like to have a bit of stuff, which is why you’ll probably find me side stage sitting all by myself somewhere.
JB: I hate the cold, is that something? I hate freezing cold weather. That’s not really a pet peeve though…
SB: No, you can’t really help that.
It’s a good thing you don’t live in Canada then!
SB: Last time we were here, it was so cold! It wasn’t even the peak of winter; it was November.
JB: It was like -40OC…
SB: It was so cold! I needed something to wrap my face up! Other than that, I can’t really think of anything…Dave gets lost all the time – forgets things all the time.
JB: We hate people who do that [chuckles].
SB: There’s always someone saying: “Where’s Dave?” He’s a beautiful, free-spirited man and he just wanders around and we can’t find him. There’s been numerous of times where we had to go on stage and Dave hasn’t been around because he’s been hanging out with these mates in a bar across the road. But other than that, we’re pretty tolerant people.
What’s next for you guys after this North American tour?
JB: A bit of a break. A few shows back home, maybe one or two…
SB: We actually never know until a month before, but there have been talks of doing more touring, maybe another tour in New Zealand or even an Asian tour, which would be great. We did the Philippines earlier this year and we’ve never been there before. It was fantastic! There’s this emerging market there for indie bands, so we’d love to get back over there. But we’re not one hundred percent sure…
JB: There are even talks of another American date, but that’s still not really –
SB: Yeah, we never really know… We have to get back really soon, fingers crossed!
Just hoping not in the winter!
SB: Definitely not in the winter.
JB: Hopefully, this time next year.
Maybe after your record!