by: Kate Myers
We caught up with Dave and Sam of The Paper Kites before their set at the Ryman last month. Here’s what they had to say!
So we’re gonna start off with something fun. I want you guys to each introduce yourselves and your role in the band...without saying what instrument you play.
Dave: My name is Dave, I am the eldest in the band and my role is being the only one who speaks Spanish.
Sam: My name is Sam, I’m the second oldest in the band and my role is to help with organizing stuff sometimes, and be the logistical voice of reason sometimes amongst the excitable bunch of creatives, and, oh the peace keeper/mediator/bringer of the good times.
Dave: Bandaid applier.
That’s awesome - are there lots of bandaids on the road then?
Sam: Always a few. If you took 5 or 6 of your friends and locked yourselves in a van for an average of 10 hrs a day for 5 weeks and deprived yourself of sleep, changed your diet, and had to make a hundred decisions over the course of those few weeks, you’d probably find there would be a few roadblocks along the way. But given what we go through on tour, I think we do pretty well.
So has your diet changed a lot, for everyone, or just a few people?
Sam: It’s just really different from being at home.
Dave: Just always buying food instead of making food at home.
Sam: Yeah. Most of us value eating well and being at home and cooking, etc. So it’s just a bit different being out. We’re getting pretty good at it though. In the early years, it seemed to be takeout, burgers, fast food all the time, but now I think we’re getting a lot better at it and getting more organized.
So tell me about how the band got together in those early days.
Dave: It’s nothing terribly riveting, but a few of us knew each other from different bands in the music scene. A couple of us actually grew up in different cities in Australia. We sort of all met through common music scenes and playing with each other’s bands and becoming friends through that. So when Sam and Christina started the paper kites, initially as a duo, and wanted to get a full band behind them, they contacted us. Within a few shows, it was the 5 of us playing together in small shows here and there, and then it became sort of official and we went from there. Josh and Sam (the drummer and singer) are actually cousins, so they’ve known each other for a long time.
So what is the music scene like where you all grew up? What was that soundscape like when you were beginning to get into music?
Dave: For 3 of us, I guess that began playing in bands the most, we grew up playing in like a punk, punk-rock scene. (As all great musicians do, let’s be honest)
Sam: (Laughing) Yeah it’s an easy place to start.
Dave: I’d say most of us, we had the chance to play in church as well. All of us are Christians and we’ve been playing music in church, and I still play at church. That’s also a big part of the music we’ve grown up playing as well.
Sam: I think I started playing at church when I was 12 years old. It’s not terribly common for someone as young as 12 to be able to get up and practice playing on stage and playing with other musicians and that kind of thing. But yeah, Dave is right, we all kind of went through that punk stage.
Dave: Like when I met Sam, we were both in punk-ska bands and Sam was also in a pop punk band, so at least for the two of us, that’s our music heritage.
Do you think that background brought something to the group that wasn’t there initially?
Dave: The good thing about the punk scene, I think, is there’s so much energy, determination, and this hunger for live performance. It was always really exciting playing shows. And also, you didn’t have to be great to be in a punk band so it was kind of a leg up to performing in front of people.
Sam: It’s funny, we absolutely loved our kind of punk days, but in a funny way, it actually kind of paved the way to, like a real honesty. Like when we started The Paper Kites, a big reason we were doing it was because we’d all been playing this loud, fast, you know, often meaningless kind of music. I remember some of the early sessions of writing songs with the Paper Kites… it was so exciting because we were doing this really new thing. I know for myself, I was finding myself and realizing this kind of music was so refreshing to play. And at the time, we were kind of bucking the trend of what was going on and we weren’t doing it to get signed or to be popular or to get on tours. We were simply doing it because we loved the music and I think prior to that, all of our bands had been about getting popular and getting signed, whatever it was, whereas this band started out of honesty and a passion for folk music and good songs. It’s funny how it switched like that and the band we weren’t really “trying” in was the one that got recognized.
So touring with Passenger... how has that been for you guys as far as the touring dynamic goes?
Dave: It’s been really refreshing. We’ve done a few of our own tours over here and in Europe, a lot in the last two years and the difference has been on this tour, especially because we’ve done some of our own headline shows in between some of these Passenger supports, is that its some much easier to turn up to a Passenger show because we’ve got a whole green room to ourselves. It’s quiet. You can hear yourself think. You’re not in the basement of some brewery somewhere with one globe flickering and 5 beers to share between the 6 of you. Its been nice. We sort of feel like we’re being looked after. We’ve been taken on this tour, there’s been really good hospitality. The venues have been amazing. We’re getting to play places like The Ryman, House of Blues, you know, venues that we wouldn’t play for a headlining show. We’ve been shown a great time. The only downside is that we only get to play like 6 songs. For me, the first 3 or 4 shows, getting used to playing for only half an hour was kind of strange since we usually play for an hour and a half. It’s been a really good opportunity. And there’s a new demographic that we get to play for as well.
Is that demographic difference pretty visible/notable to you guys? What are those fans like? The ones that came to see Passenger, but end up really liking you guys and becoming new fans before the night is over?
Sam: What I see, and this was more evident in Australia I think, but definitely evident here as well, is the age and gender profile seems pretty similar to our demographic, but the difference is, I’m generalizing here, but I think a lot of the people that come to the Passenger shows kind of come from a slightly different scene. Especially speaking for Australia here, but they’re kind of coming from the commercial radio/pop music side of things whereas we’ve always dwelled more on the Alternative, word of mouth, online side. We’ve never been a commercial radio, mainstream, Ed Sheeran/ Passenger-type act. We’ve always come from the other side, so it’s been really great cause we’re seeing the same age and gender fanbase that actually end up really liking our music, they just haven’t heard it yet since they’re coming from the other side of the fence. It’s working out quite nicely. I didn’t expect this, but I’m also seeing a few kind of older people at these shows. We don’t normally get terribly many older people at our shows, but I love seeing a group of middle aged friends at a show, I see it as a compliment.
Dave: I think that says something about the radio listeners as well. People in the older generation are not necessarily sifting through Spotify, listening to new playlists to find new music. Instead its “Lets go to the Ed Sheeran show” and they discover Passenger and then “Lets go see Passenger” and then they discover the Paper Kites, and so on.
So, for the two of you, what are some of your touring essentials?
Sam: (gestures with his coffee mug and walks to the other side of the room) If I can direct your attention to the bench here, you’ll see the two ugly brown bags here. So we actually make our own coffee. So we have these fancy contraptions here, called an aeropress and we buy specialty beans from different places, grind them. That’s gotta be our thing. Especially for Dave and I. Not everyone’s keen on that but about half of us are. That’s one of our main priorities. Get to the venue, find a kettle, and make coffee.
So what about gear? Go-to things you need on stage with you?
Dave: I actually built my own pedal board, exactly how I wanted it. I can totally nerd out on that kind of thing. So I had a case made and eventually we’ve just built our own boards. I had to play one show without that, end of last year. Delta delayed some of my gear, so I had to play our first show at the Gramercy Theatre in New York without my effects pedals and one of my guitars, so that was a good test for me. I had to borrow some gear from other people. I think one effects pedal I couldn’t do without is an overdrive pedal called “Hotcake” by some guys from New Zealand called Crowther Audio. It’s fairly sought after now, back in the 90s it was a bit more common, but it’s just one of those boutique pedals that I chanced upon. I found it secondhand and it’s the one pedal I’ve used for years now, and I don’t know what I’d do without it.
Sam: I play the bass, so it’s a bit of a different game, but I’m really passionate about my rig and having everything really cleanly organized. I have a bass, amp, and I play the Moog Sub Phatty as well. Everything goes in the exact same spot every night, and even the chords sit in the same angle every night. I joke about my feng shui and that kind of thing, but I actually do feel… there was one show late last year in Ottowa, up in Canada and it was a terrible show, if im honest. The stage was really weird. We always set up in the exact same position, but for some reason, the way the stage was set up, we had to swap things around and put the drums over on the other side and... I struggled to play. Even though it was just having the drums on a different side, I felt like I was going to fall over or something. I’ve always played a Fender precision bass and have had everything set up the way I like it and that’s kind of the way we have to operate. What I find really interesting, in the early days, as far as electric guitars go, we had a strat and a tele and in our minds that was all there was. But now, other than my bass, we don’t actually have any Fender guitars.Two of them are custom made, and growing up, I thought all there was were Fender guitars.
Dave: You can hear it on the early recordings too.
Sam: Yeah, that Jangle-y kind of sound.
Dave: Yeah, I think on TwelveFour, I don’t think there is one Fender guitar.
It’s so cool that TwelveFour was written with the concept of an artist’s most creative hours being between 12am-4am. Were you guys part of the all-nighter sessions? If so, how long did it take you to adjust? Do you regret it?
Sam: Luckily we weren’t part of the all night sessions. So it is true that every song was written between the hours of midnight and 4am, but it was the other Sam that went through that process, I think for about 2 months. He’d start writing at midnight and go through til 4 am. I think it was talked about, perhaps just joked about, that we might rehearse all the songs in those hours as well, but it was quickly decided against. Wasn’t gonna be a good idea. But yeah, he did do that and it took him a while to adjust. It definitely brought about an interesting result. It sounded different that what we were used to.
What do you guys think about that different sound he was able to create?
Dave: I think I would kind of separate it into two categories. I think he was looking to create a mood for the album and I think the dream he had was to create a mood that felt like this comforting, late night romantic soundtrack and I think he sort of went to that extreme to create that mood. So he wanted to create that mood, but also, in writing those songs, he kind of released his creative inhibitions. I think the two worked really well together. So depriving himself of sleep and not critiquing his writing as much affected the way the songs sounded.
So do you guys have any other hobbies you like to pursue while either at home or on the road?
Dave: Christine has been painting a lot on this tour. I really love coffee, so that’s my day job when I get home, and that’s the one thing I love doing. So it’s great that I can do it both at home and on the road.
Sam: I don’t work in coffee, but I certainly enjoy making and drinking it. I also really enjoy cooking. I have 3 kinds at home, so they take up a lot of my time. They’re more fun than a hobby, really.
So any final thoughts you’d like to share with the readers?
Sam: We often get asked by people we meet “What the secret?” “How do you be heard?” “How do you get heard?” and I always say the same thing because I really do believe it. It’s all about honing your craft. It’s all about you songs and your sound. Music should be created out of your heart of out of passion. Everyone is made with gifts and abilities and talents and we should be living life exercising what comes natural to us. So I always say work on your songs and sound, whatever comes out naturally, and everything will take care of itself. Chuck it online, make a Facebook, meet some people, it’s all important, but really focus on your songs and your sound. If you don’t love it, then don’t do it. I say that about music, but really I think it applies to everything in life.
TwelveFour by The Paper Kites is out now! You can find it on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music and more! Stay up to date on all things Paper Kites by following them on social media! Links below: