Gear Talks: The Paper Kites

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Gear Talks: The Paper Kites

The Paper Kites
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

They're a little bit country, folky, and rocky and they've been making waves on the international stage for some time now.

The Paper Kites’ sixth album At The Roadhouse is out today, having been written across multiple solo and rehearsal sessions, ultimately culminating in recording sessions in mid 2022 with producer Matt Redlich. Coupled with the album, a feature-length film edited by lead singer and songwriter Sam Bentley will premier on September 1st in Melbourne.

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

The band recorded at Sound Recordings in Campbells Creek, just outside of Castlemaine, Victoria, hoping to harness some of whatever magic comes from developing ideas in the studio as a band. We had a chance to chat with Dave Powys, The Paper Kites’ own guitar slinger about writing and recording At The Roadhouse.

Dave, congrats on the release of At The Roadhouse. How and where did the writing for this album begin?

Thanks so much! The concept had been in the works for quite some time, and it always felt like we wanted to push the idea to its absolute limit. Sam wrote a handful of songs and brought the demos to us in late 2021. We continued to write and arrange the tunes at our rehearsal space in Coldstream right up until recording in July 2022. This album holds the most co-writes between us of all our other releases.

How does a Paper Kites song usually start?

Most commonly, Sam [Bentley, vocals & guitar] writes alone in his studio. Demoing and arranging parts and ideas into ProTools sessions. He brings the mostly finalised songs to us, some of which are totally done, and others which need arranging or additional written parts. We used a Zoom H4n in rehearsals to capture any live moments or solos that ripped for reference later. Our bass player lives in Perth too, so we sent all the live demos to him to rehearse to.

How finished were the songs when you hit the studio? Do you like to hit the studio with finished ideas or do you leave room for magic?

We finished the songs completely before we arrived at the studio. As the aim was to capture the songs live, as they were. Of course, there is always some magic that presents itself once everyone is in the studio together and really vibing. Some of the solos were improvised in the room too.

Why did you choose Sound Recordings in Castlemaine to record?

It seemed like a no-brainer, as The Roadhouse bar was right out the front of the studio! We love Alex who owns the studio, and it really felt like the right room to squeeze the whole band into and track each song all together. 

Why did you choose to record mostly live? How do you think recording live informed how the album ultimately sounded?

It’s always been something we’ve wanted to try, and this project seemed like the perfect chance to do it. We had a few extra musicians, which brought our band up to 8 members. So, the magic of 8 people in one room tracking all together felt so authentic and magical. It helped us relinquish control of all the little imperfections, and just sound like a real band playing good songs. With all the tiny imperfections and personality that makes a song great.

The Paper Kites 2

Is there one piece of equipment that made the record what it is? 

Our producer/engineer Matt Redlich has a ‘58 Tweed Fender Princeton that just sounds so great when you plug straight in and dime it. I paired it with my ‘78 Silverface Princeton for some tracks, and for me, those amps were critical to my guitar tone on the album. The Greco ‘Beatle Bass’ was integral to the vibe, as was Sam’s ‘75 Martin D35. We tracked some mean organs through the old Leslie speaker too. So glorious!

Thanks for your time! As a closer, have you got any funny stories or anecdotes about making the album to share? 

Some days tracking just flew by, while others felt like real grind. Of course, the most delicate songs were the trickiest to get right, but they came out real nice. We had one really long day tracking BV’s [backing vocals], and by the end of it we were all SO exhausted! It was then that I realised I still needed to track my lead vocals for a song called June’s Stolen Car. I just jumped straight into it, and you can really hear my voice at the end of its tether! But I think it had just the right mojo in the end.