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Interview: Sam Rasmussen from The Paper Kites

The Paper Kites

Melbourne indie-rock outfit The Paper Kites have had a busy few months making music, filming videos, and preparing for their national Australian tour kicking off in June. We had a chat with bassist Sam Rasmussen about the Renegade music video, coffee, and late nights writing their album twelvefour.

You just released the music video for Renegade last month, what was the concept behind the clip?

We did a three-part video series for the first three singles of the twelvefour album, and each one was [a different] story that took place between midnight and 4AM. The first two were a little bit more romantic, a bit more of a guy/girl relationship [storyline]. The third one features a bunch of ragtag teens who are just out to have a bit of fun and be a bit naughty, but at the same time, you know, pretty harmless. They’re not necessarily running from something, they’re more just chasing something a little bit more exciting and fun while still kind of being harmless.

In the middle of the night, they set their alarms, jump out their windows, ride their bikes – one of them is having a smoke, he’s too young to be smoking but he doesn’t care. They jump the fence and sneak into the cine-quatic which is a movie theatre where people float in the pool and watch movies. They basically break into there, and you kind of know they’ve done it before because they know how to turn the projector on. It’s just a bit of fun, really. It’s just a bunch of kids having a bit of fun and being a bit naughty, you know, just being kids.

That’s really cool, it makes a lot of sense when you explain it like that. Is there a reason why you guys don’t often include a performance scene in your videos? 

A lot, if not most of our videos, we don’t put ourselves in them, and it’s kind of an intentional thing. We rarely feel the need to actually be in our videos. We’ve always seen videos as a very important thing, sort of an artistic extension…or an accompaniment, perhaps, to the song. We’re playing the song, we’ve recorded the song, so we don’t really want to be in [the video]. We’d rather tell a story featuring whoever it needs to feature.

As for this one, it was shot in Minneapolis, Minnesota in America. Sam, the other Sam in the band, put it together. It was mainly his idea, because he worked with a director who was over in Minneapolis. I wasn’t really involved in it at all. Sam kind of put it together, worked with the director, and then helped with some of the editing as well, so he actually had a fair bit to do with it, but none of us actually bothered going to Minneapolis for the filming. We just did a lot of back-and-forth emails and file sharing.

It must have been interesting to see the finished product after the process was finished!

Yeah! Yeah, it was interesting for us because Sam did a lot of it, just between him and the director. When we got to see it, we knew what was happening and the ideas and everything, but we hadn’t seen a lot of the footage, so it was pretty interesting seeing it in those final stages. We were all really happy with it.

‘Twelvefour’ has a more energetic sound than your debut album ‘States’, was that a conscious decision you made?

Yeah, it was. Reflecting back on ‘States’, we’re very proud of it and we’re very happy with it, but we kind of decided that [for] our next step, we wanted to dynamically pick things up a little bit [and] work towards having a fuller sound. We wanted toup the tempo, and across the board dynamically we wanted to lift a little bit, so we worked on bigger sounds and just the way that the songs were written. We approached them a little bit differently. They were less moody, brooding, singer-songwriter [style] and more [of a] lush band sound – bigger drums, bigger vocals, wider guitars, and more layers and that kind of thing.

Were there any other artists in particular who inspired that change?

Yeah, there was, there’s always something we’re listening to but…I guess we’re not listening to music to steal ideas. [It’s more like] naturally as musicians, and more importantly, as music lovers, we’re just always listening to music, and we’re always into something, whether it’s a style or a sound. By osmosis you can’t stop it, it just sort of bleeds into your own music and your own creations.

I guess for us there was a bit of 80s music knocking around, [lots of] 80s bands. More steady influences for us over the years [have been people like] Bryan Adams, and there’s newer bands that we’ve been listening to like War On Drugs. Sam is very influenced by a lot of the very successful singer/songwriters like Simon and Garfunkel and James Taylor and Bob Dylan – the ones that everyone listens to and everyone appreciates, the great songwriters. [Our music] is just a mish-mash of all that kind of stuff, there’s no one act that’s been a stand-out for us. Through [our] different songs you can hear different influences, but it’s not because we wanted to copy them – it’s because we really appreciate them, and as a result [their sound] kind of bled into our music.

You say ‘twelvefour’ is a concept album composed between the hours of midnight and 4AM – what was involved in producing the album?

A good friend of Sam’s, who is a screenwriter, shared with him a theory about how an artist’s most creative times are between midnight and 4AM, and he was fascinated by that. When Sam gets an idea in his head, he’s like a steamroller. He shared [that idea] with us (he usually starts all the songwriting) – he said, “I wanna start writing this album between midnight and 4AM”, and we said, “Well, it’s a cool idea, good luck to you!” because, you know, I can’t stay up between midnight and 4AM every night for two months.

Of course not, you’ve got three kids!

Yeah, exactly, but he was determined, and when he gets an idea in his head he goes for it, so he went for it. For two months, he would wait until midnight to start writing and then pass out at 4AM and do it all over again the next day. Once the songs were written, once we started rehearsing and fine-tuning and started the recording process, we didn’t continue those hours. Common sense prevailed and we decided that we’d use regular human hours again rather than nocturnal hours, but yeah, it was an interesting process. When [Sam] gets asked, “How did it go? Would you do it again?” he always says, “I’m really happy with the results, I’m really happy that I tried it, but I’m not doing it again.”

Was there a lot of coffee consumed during the making of the album?

[Sam] doesn’t even drink coffee! He hates it, which is a bit annoying (laughs). He’s a big tea-drinker, though. I think he was kind of drinking a lot of tea at the time…but yeah, he doesn’t like coffee. He gets annoyed by myself, Dave and Christina [because we’re] big coffee lovers, bordering on coffee snobs. He gets really annoyed by us talking about coffee, like, “Are you gonna get one? We have to get one before we get to the venue.” He [starts saying things like], “Why do people need coffee?” He doesn’t get it.

Sam and I have that in common, I get where he’s coming from.

Right! Well, you can see his side. He never drinks coffee, so that’s probably why he doesn’t want to, but he drinks a lot of tea. I think that’s probably what got him through each night.

You guys are heading on tour in July, what aspect of that are you most looking forward to?

We’re really, really excited about the Australian tour because we’re doing something we’ve never done before. We’re doing the “midnight” tour, which is a seated theatre experience. [We’re still the same] band and we’re playing our songs but we’re doing it really differently. There’s going to be a lot of visuals going on and we’ll be playing some songs in total [darkness]. There will be all sorts of stuff going on, and we’re really excited about that. It’s just the capital cities, so we’re playing in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth. I always look forward to playing in Perth because that’s where I’m from, that’s where I grew up, but each show is really exciting for us.

You mentioned that you’ve developed a performance concept involving stories playing out through apartment windows onstage. Where did that concept come from?

I’m not really sure, to be honest. We wanted to do something different. We didn’t want to just do another tour where we just write all the songs we want to play, jump on the decks and just play them. We wanted to try something different, and this idea…we kind of had a few brainstorming sessions and eventually this idea of windows – filming stories and projecting them into the windows – kind of came out. It just grew over a bunch of conversations. There were all sorts of crazy ideas that we were considering – some we’re still doing, others got chucked – but it’s gonna be really interesting. It’s very different.

It’s a Paper Kites show in that we’re there [and] we’re playing our songs, but we’re approaching it very differently. We’re playing a lot of older songs and quieter songs and drawing attention to different things. There’ll be a lot of visuals, more visuals than normal to accompany the music. Where the ideas came from, I don’t know – lots of conversations, crazy ideas – but we’re really excited about it.

Catch The Paper Kites on their Australian tour kicking off next month – don’t miss it!  

The Paper Kites ‘Midnight’ Tour Dates
w/ I Know Leopard & Luke Thompson

Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne
The Tivoli, Brisbane
Astor Theatre, Perth
Norwood Town Hall, Adelaide

Get Tickets HERE