Moody melodies and harmony-drenched dreams: States is the evocative debut album from Melbourne five-piece The Paper Kites. Following on from the band’s Woodland and Young North EPs, across 13 tracks Sam Bentley (lead vox, guitar, harmonica), Christina Lacy (lead vox, guitar, keys, mandolin), David Powys (vox, guitar, banjo, lap steel), Josh Bentley (drums, percussion) and Sam Rasmussen (bass, synths) go on a journey of delicate, folk-inspired landscapes, worlds rich with lyrics and a raw sonic beauty.
Throughout States there’s nods to Simon & Garfunkel and Dylan (stripped down duet “Never Heard A Sound”); energetic pop odes to angry individualists (“Young”); hazy, psychedelic Korgs and chords (“Living Colour”). There’s vocal layers and musings on mortality (“Gates”); cinematic tales of twisted and tragic romance (the delicate “Tennenbaum”); rough and messy rock (“A Lesson From Mr Gray”). Seven minute closer “I Done You So Wrong” finishes the record off, an album as unique as it is captivating.
“The title refers to states of mind, not actual places,” explains frontman Bentley. “The album is a lot darker than a lot of our previous work; we really pushed our soundscapes and composition. I’m also interested in the things beyond a song: textures, adding strings, brass, touches like that. Those things can really pick a song up and take it somewhere else. The strange little noises are what sets this album apart from what we’ve done before and puts it on a whole different level. It’s an eclectic listen, but people can expect sincerity.”
Co-produced with ARIA-winning Wayne Connolly (You Am I, Josh Pyke) at Melbourne’s Sing Sing Studios and Sydney’s iconic Alberts, sessions for States kicked off in February 2013. “It’s the second time we’ve worked with Wayne now, and we really wanted him for the album,” Bentley explains. “He’s great because he lets you have your creativity, whereas some producers are very, ah... assertive. We kept bringing in more and more stuff and Wayne would always get really excited – but yet he knew how to draw the best out of us.”
The Paper Kites wanted to take their time in making their move. In January 2013 Bentley packed up his car with every instrument and recording device he owned – “two or three keyboards, my desk, my computer, all my guitar, amps and drum kits” – and headed east of Melbourne. Holing up on a friend’s property, he began to write.
“This shack next to their house had one of those triangle roofs, like an attic,” Bentley recalls of his living quarters, “and it was during a period in January where VIC was really hot – like, 40 degrees for a whole week. I was dying. Literally my sweat went into these songs!”
Once reunited, The Paper Kites sifted through the best material and got to work. They enlisted the help of friend and collaborator Tim Coghill, a composer (and former drummer with Matt Corby), who appears on six tracks. It was Coghill’s touch in the studio, which saw further additions of colour, including musical boxes and bowing cymbals (on first single “St Clarity”), clarinets and brass sections (“Portrait 19”), violin, cello and violas (closer “I Done You So Wrong”) and other soundscape additions.
Perhaps one of the most startling things heard on States is the gorgeous, hypnotic vocal of Christina Lacy, as per the excellent “Living Colour”, the back-and-forth “Cold Kind Hand”, the sweeping “In Reverie” and more. “I would never write a song for myself, but then give it to Christina to sing,” says Bentley of their songwriting process. “Because then it’d be my story – she wouldn’t be able to relate to it. Every song I wrote for her was discussed. We really wanted Christina to sing a lot more on the record, and she knew exactly how she wanted to sound. She has this really lazy, beautiful tone to her voice.”
Having supported Bombay Bicycle Club, Josh Pyke and Boy & Bear across Oz, The Paper Kites make their North American tour debut in September, as the special guest of City and Colour, followed by their first headline tour in the US & Canada. With a huge word-of-mouth following and six million YouTube views so far, the band recently collaborated with director Natasha Pincus (Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”) to deliver the magical music videos for singles “St Clarity” and “Young.”
“We listen to so many different styles of music, and that comes through,” says Sam Bentley of States. “It’s not a safe album – but we don’t want to be safe.”
States was released on October 1 via Nettwerk Records.