Catching Up with The Paper Kites (Tonight at Underground Arts)

Australian folk-rockers The Paper Kites have been friends of ours for quite some time.  We first met them (or, more specifically, drummer Josh Bentley) back in November of 2013,...

Australian folk-rockers The Paper Kites have been friends of ours for quite some time.  We first met them (or, more specifically, drummer Josh Bentley) back in November of 2013, when the band was wrapping up their first-ever US tour, in support of their debut LP, States.  We caught up with Josh once again the following summer, when the band were doing their second run through the America.  They’ve returned to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection several times since, but I didn’t get a chance to catch up with Josh on the record until late last month.  The band has actually released two full-length albums this year, On the Train Ride Home and On the Corner Where You Live, which serve as sort of companion pieces, the former picking up where the band left off with 2015’s twelvefour and the latter experimenting with sounds that would seem to be a little new to the group.  The Paper Kites have been touring the states all month and are nearing the end of the dates with a show tonight at Underground Arts.  Here’s what Josh Bentley had to tell me about the past four years of The Paper Kites.

Izzy Cihak: So, I realize this is a big question but, considering this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city.  Any favorite memories?  I know you’ve played here quite a few times.  I was at your first US tour at Johnny Brenda’s in 2013 and at MilkBoy sometime later, but I know you’ve also played World Café Live and Underground Arts, as well.

Josh Bentley: Amazing city! Obviously the first thing that comes to mind is the Philly cheesesteaks. We’ve been fortunate enough to sample both Geno’s and Pat’s and I won’t disclose which one we prefer. We’ve been lucky to play in Philadelphia a few times and we’ve always had a blast here, from playing an extremely squishy gig at MilkBoy and loading out via the stairs to playing in a somewhat café space at World Café Live. The shows have always been random and exciting, the way we like it.

Izzy: And I last chatted with you in the summer of 2014, when you were on your second US tour, which I guess was quite some time ago.  You’ve done quite a bit since then.  What have been some of the highlights of The Paper Kites’ last four years or so?

Josh: Yeah, a lot has happened in the past four years. A few highlights that standout would be recording with two incredible Producers in Phil Ek and Peter Katis, releasing three albums, travelling the world, and getting the opportunity to meet new people in random places. I did the math and estimated that since chatting to us in 2014 we’ve played around 200 gigs. That’s pretty impressive, yeah?

Izzy: And you actually released two albums this year, On the Train Ride Home and, more recently, On the Corner Where You Live.  What have been your favorite reactions to the album?

Josh: Yeah, both albums were released this year. Earlier in the year we decided that we wanted to release two records that were somewhat related but could also stand on their own, respectively.

Honestly, we’re just grateful that people have been really enjoying our new music. It can be daunting releasing anything into the world for people to critique or scrutinize. We’ve been inundated with amazing comments about how the new tunes have influenced people or made them feel certain ways. The biggest kudos we often get is from people who have been listening to our music during a really tough time and they often say that it’s because of our music that they made it through the other side, which is lovely to hear.

Izzy: How do you feel like the albums compare to previous releases?  What would you consider to be their biggest influences, both musical and otherwise?

Josh: Before commencing work on new music we knew that the next record would follow a similar trajectory to twelvefour. We wanted to build on the success of twelvefour, so decided to take that similar sound and approach into a new project. Although On the Corner Where You Live could draw similarities from twelvefour, it’s a different sound and feel. It’s also designed to carry on from our earlier 2018 release of On the Train Ride Home. A lot of On the Corner Where You Live draws inspiration from ‘80s-style music, experimenting with synth sounds, drum machines, and dreamy reverbed vocals was a goal of ours and a lot of that stuff shone through on the record.

Izzy: Your upcoming US tour is relatively extensive.  Are there any gigs you’re especially excited to play, or just cities that you’re especially excited to visit or revisit?

Josh: Tough question. The US has been extremely good to us over our years of touring. Fans have always showed us support each time we have made the trek over from Australia and we’re truly grateful for that. Bit of a cop out, but every city we visit is awesome, each city is somewhat different to the next, so it’s never dull when driving into a new town. Having said that, we enjoy playing and re-visiting cities we’ve grown to love. LA, Seattle, Toronto, Boston, and Philly of course are all cities we have fond memories at. New York is also special to us because we spent heaps of time there recently when recording the new album and a few of the new tracks have been written with NYC in mind.

Izzy: What can be expected of the live show when you return to Underground Arts here in Philly?  It’s been about three years since I’ve seen you and I’ve never seen you at a venue nearly that size.

Josh: Yeah, this is the first run of shows we have done in well over a year and half. We’ve been preparing our set here in Australia for the last few months and we’re so keen to get back out and tour these new songs. It’s been a while since we’ve hit the stage, so to say we are a little nervous is an understatement. This time around we have been fortunate enough to bring with us our own crew that will enhance our stage design and streamline our set, which we are pumped about. Fans can expect us to play a fair bit of new material with a few classics thrown in there as well.

Izzy: And you’re touring with Wild Rivers, who I also dig (although have never seen).  How did the two of you get paired up?  Were you previously fans of theirs?

Josh: We actually stumbled across Wild Rivers on social media of all places. Devan from Wild Rivers messaged us and told us they were big fans, we kept in contact, and it just so happened that we were able to invite them out on the road with us. We’re really excited to get to know the guys and listen to them live each night.

Izzy: Finally, what do you have planned for the tail end of 2018 and the first bit of 2019?  Anything you’re especially excited about?

Josh: After our tour of the US we head home for the Christmas and New Year period, then in February we head over to Europe and the UK for a three-week run of shows before returning home for a tour of Australia. Next year will be busy for us on the touring front, we’re really hoping to be back in the US for a festival run in the summer so, fingers crossed, that will happen.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.