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High Flyers – My 15 minutes with Sam Bentley of The Paper Kites

The Paper Kites are definitely what you would call high achievers. After the release of their much-anticipated debut album States in early 2013, the Melbourne 5-piece have soared to dizzying heights receiving not only national but international acclaim.

Lead vocalist and chief songwriter, Sam Bentley, took the time to chat with Newcastle Live about the band’s upcoming national tour, their Youtube popularity, and a scandalous revelation that he’s never even had a paper kite (but, the boy can make a mean sailboat!).

Sam had flown back into Melbourne just a few days prior and was enjoying being back in his hometown. In a characteristically Melbourne homecoming, it was raining. However, Sam didn’t mind the cooler change after just returning from what he described as “a very hot, high intensity” festival in the Philippines.

The band is set to begin their Australian tour to promote their latest album, with their first stop at our very own Cambridge Hotel in Newcastle. The Paper Kites are no strangers to The Cambridge’s stage, and Sam comments about the venue’s deep tradition as a live music venue, “The history is literally peeling off the walls!” he jokes.

Sam was happy to have some time to just chill out at home, and rightly so. 2013 was a whirlwind year for the band, seeing them not only release their first full length album, but jet off to join the massively popular City & Colour on a tour across the US and Canada. While in the states, the band also performed a string of their own headliner shows, and it’s no wonder Sam had a few ‘wow, how did we get here’ moments.

“You start out by playing shows in your home town, then get excited to expand to Sydney and the East Coast, then the rest of Australia,” Sam says, “You always think about how cool it would be [to play] in the States… I almost didn’t believe we were going until we were on the plane,” he laughs.

“The City and Colour tour was amazing, and some of the venues we played were just beautiful, where people like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash have played,” Sam continues, “It was the best possible way to start our first tour experience of America.”

Being the main songwriter for the band, I ask Sam about how it feels to connect with people not only in Australia, but all over the world. I comment it must be a pretty surreal thing to see massive crowds singing along to his lyrics.

“It’s really weird actually, having said that though they don’t always get the lyrics right,” he laughs, “There’s this one line I keep seeing people writing down, and it’s totally wrong… But that’s okay!”

“It’s the power of social media these days that our music gets spread that far around…To be able to turn up in the Philippines, or Canada, or somewhere in the States and have people come up to you and tell you how much a particular song has meant to them [is] really flattering as a songwriter.”

But it isn’t just their dreamy folk sound and poignant lyricism that has captured the attention of audiences. The band’s music videos have collectively clocked up over 10 million views on Youtube, and have been a pivotal key to their steadily rising success and popularity.

“We always realised what you could do with a video, that it wasn’t just about having a band playing in a room but about trying to pull someone into whatever the story is, and make them feel something…capture their full attention.”

Sam has been heavily involved in the creative process for most of their clips, and likes to treat each new video as a work of art in it’s own right, “[we want to] create something that is a feat of achievement, that can stand on it’s own without the music.”

Praise for their innovative and mesmerising videos is never in short supply, and their sophomore single ‘Young’ from their latest album has received a number of impressive accolades, including a J Award Nomination for Australian Music Video of The Year and ranking 27th in Rage’s Top 50 Music Videos of 2013.

Sam informs me the video idea for ‘Young’ was not the easiest to hatch, “We were really stuck on that video…it was the first song that didn’t really conjure up any kind of story or imagery to go with it.”

With the help of director, Darcy Prendergast, they ended up with one of their most challenging but most impressive videos yet, which features over 4000 portrait photos arranged to match the lyrics, and involved countless hours of editing.

“We approach every video as a new challenge…and I loved [Darcy’s idea] because it sounded really hard to do,” Sam quips.

Although Youtube popularity and a digital presence has been pivotal in building the band’s momentum, Sam states being able to practice what you preach is the most important thing.

“You can’t just be a Youtube sensation. You have to make [your music] translate live as well, and be able to stand on your own two feet as a band.”

Though their killer live shows may prove they’ve got their feet firmly planted on the ground as performers, it would appear the sky is the limit for this talented Melbournian quintet.

As we reach the end of the interview, I figure it’s time to go in with the hard hitting questions, the stuff the people really want to know… Does Sam honestly believe paper is the best material a kite can be made from? “To be honest…” Sam pauses, obviously mustering up the valour to reveal his next confession, “I’ve never even owned or made a paper kite! But hey, in my defence, I can make a really mean paper sailboat.”

Catch The Paper Kites next Thursday 29th May at The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle. Rumour has it there’s a lucky door prize* to win one of Sam’s infamous origami sailboats!

 

* May or may not be a complete lie.

 

Written by Brittany Herron. Brittany is a content contributor to Newcastle Live, if you’d like to contribute your work to Newcastle Live please email rockon@newcastlelive.com.au

Written by Brittany Herron

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