The Paper Kites have been labelled as Australia‘s quiet achievers – they’ve put out four albums and two EPs in the eight years they’ve been together, with their most recent ones On The Corner Where You Live and On The Train Ride Home released in the last three months alone. And a couple of months ago, to almost no fanfare, The Paper Kites’ song ‘Bloom‘ sold over 700,000 copies and hit gold status in the US, meaning that the humble five-piece from Melbourne joined a club consisting of INXS, Kylie Minogue and AC/DC.
The song was released as a single in 2010, before their first EP, Woodland, with very little expectation for it to go anywhere. It’s now got over 150 million streams on Spotify alone and has transformed into a piece that’s no longer only owned by the band, so to speak.
It’s been almost two years since The Paper Kites toured Australia – the last time was supporting Passenger on his national run in the start of 2017 – so PEDESTRIAN.TV recently caught up with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Sam Bentley to chat about the international recognition, touring outside of Aus, the power of streaming, and how they’ve progressed as a band since ‘Bloom‘ blossomed in the ears and hearts of people across the world.
‘Bloom‘ hit certified Gold status in the US a couple of months ago, and Sam says that it’s given the band a surprising perspective on how long the life of a track can really be in a time where streaming allows punters to trawl back through a band’s catalogue.
It’s only just now that the record label’s picked up on it. But yeah, it’s cool you know. It’s a pretty old song so I think we were just always surprised that the shelf life that it has. But yeah it’s amazing, it’s been really cool. Apparently, our plaques are on the way so that’ll be a good one – I’ll probably give mine to mum, she’ll love it.
We never really put the song on a record, but there’s plenty of bands that have had the same situation. Like I know some of The Smiths‘ songs… those sorts of songs were never on an album they were just these little singles that were released that just became these big hits.
I don’t think for us we’re too focused on the fact that song got heaps of streams or hits or anything like that, it’s always about where we’re at now and what we’re doing now. I know a lot of bands would say the same thing but we’re still really proud of the song, we still love it, and it’s been a gateway for a lot of people to discover our music and I think that’s always good thing.
Over the years, ‘Bloom‘ has transformed into something larger than what Sam and the band ever thought possible – it’s tapped into the intimacies of life, and Sam’s stoked that a song that he put together nearly a decade ago can still have so much resonance and sentimental value.
A lot of people love that song and it’s really ingrained into a lot of peoples’ lives and it sort of becomes their song, I think that’s great and we’re still really proud of that.
When a song surpasses the point where it’s your song, it totally becomes other peoples’ song. Everyone’s got their own special memories and things that they associate with the song and I think that’s the best thing that can happen to any song.
If love could be concentrated down to its purest form into a sound, it would be the song bloom by the paper kites
— sav ???? (@sameverlark_) October 5, 2017
Being able to create music that goes beyond the listening experience is something that Sam tries to do with all of the music The Paper Kites produces, with their latest albums heavily influenced by mood albums from the 50s – music that evokes a feeling of loneliness, romance, longing, and pensive thoughts.
Even though the music sounds nothing like that, it’s still the same kind of feeling to me and you hear the saxophone soak through the album every now and then.
You would have seen some of the covers before, they’re like these paintings of women looking out into the night looking really pensive or sad or lonely, or you know guys kind of standing in the street with a cigarette or something like that.
With the artwork – we got Gina Higgins on board to paint the colours – I gave her these old albums and said “can you make it feel this way?” I wanted it to look like one of these old 50’s albums.
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ARTIST SHOUT OUT: A few people have been asking about the album cover – which is actually a PAINTING by American Noir artist Gina Higgins. Gina has been a huge part of this record, and has been collaborating with us on this project from day one. She spent a good month working on this painting, and is currently working on the album cover for ‘On The Corner Where You Live’. She’s painted these pieces with such care to make them feel right and really immersed herself in the songs even back when they were just demos. She’s a true artist and a kindred spirit – we love working with her.
The albums were written and recorded on opposite sides of the world, with On The Train Ride Home done in Melbourne with Big Scary and #1 Dad‘s Tom Iansek, and On The Corner Where You Live in a huge restored home in a very quiet town in Connecticut in the US. Having the recording experience in two very different places challenged the band, and Sam says that living and breathing the process in the US made for an inspiring five weeks.
What came out of the polarising sessions were two albums that Sam thinks leans right into the solidarity that only the late-night gives.
It’s a really kind of solo listen, I think those sort of bands [Iron & Wine, Bon Iver], surely you’ve had those kind of bands you listen to and you feel like it’s kind of your secret and almost like you don’t want to talk to anyone about it, because this band or song makes you feel a certain of way and it’s very personal to you. It’s something that you’d really only listen to by yourself because that’s when it really speaks to you.
I would very much love to be that kind of band or write that kind of song or have that kind of album that is a solo listen.
After almost two years of writing, recording, and playing overseas shows for the most part of the last two years, Sam says that the band are keen to play for punters in Aus, with plans to jet off on a tour next year sometime. We’ll keep you updated because hot damn you can bet I’ll be at that gig.
On The Corner Where You Live is out now, get moody with it wherever you listen to your music.Image: Supplied