Melbourne's The Paper Kites have released one of the loveliest albums of 2021 with Roses - 10 songs, 10 guest vocalists. Dave Powys (guitar) and Sam Bentley (lead vocals) tell Harry Guerin how it blossomed.

Harry Guerin: When did the lightbulb go off in your heads, 'A 10-track album with 10 guest vocalists'?

Dave Powys: It was never a lightbulb moment, but more of a 'Imagine if we could pull off a collaboration album'! We hoped for as many collaborators as possible, and through the whole process we were left with 10 tracks we were absolutely in love with.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Were there touchstone albums that you referred to for inspiration - the ones that worked really well with a circle of friends joining the main artist?

Sam Bentley: Not really, the singers themselves were really the main influences for the songs. If anything, I was listening to their records, particularly with songs like Take Me Home - I knew Nadia Reid's music very well and just wrote a song in the style of the music that she already does. I knew she would sound beautiful on it. That same process really applied across the whole record: to listen closely to the artists we chose, listen to their music and their records and write a song that I think they could sing really well. They were all a big influence for my writing. 

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

How did you compile that wish list of singers? Were there many arguments among the five of you about who to ask?

Dave Powys: We cast the net very wide. November of 2019, we sat together in a Polish hotel room while on tour and wrote down every name we would love to work with - and emailed every single one of them. Some we never heard back from; some said no and most of the yeses made the finished product!

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Did some people unexpectedly arrive on your radar through word of mouth?

Dave Powys: Gena Rose Bruce was relatively unknown to us, even though she's from our hometown of Melbourne. During a Covid lockdown, a couple of us were watching the same livestreamed local music festival. Artists were performing from their living rooms one after another as part of Isolaid. We heard Gena and immediately imagined her voice on Lonely.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Did you have it cut and dried from early on the singers that would sing each song, or did they have input themselves into the song they'd like to perform?

Dave Powys: The songs were mostly written for specific artists, but some changes were made and new songs were written to suit. Walk Above the City is a great example of one song that Sam wrote specifically with Maro's voice in mind.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

If you had to choose a different adjective to describe each of the singers, what would they be?

Dave Powys: Maro - Flawless*

Aoife O'Donovan - True*

Lydia Cole - Winsome*

Ainslie Wills - Soulful*

Julia Stone - Hypnotic*

Amanda Bergman - Effortless*

Gena Rose Bruce - Treacly*

Nadia Reid – Profound*

Lucy Rose - Celestial*

Rosie Carney - Bonny*

*Including but not limited to!

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

What were the pitfalls with the process that you hadn't expected?

Dave Powys: There were some difficulties working within timeframes, given there was so much back and forth with a lot of different people. Creatives can be extremely loose on deadlines and replying to communication efforts - myself included.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

It's striking how seamless the album feels, and how beautifully it flows. Could you always hear it that way in your head?

Dave Powys: From the beginning of the project, we were always moving pieces of the puzzle around to create what we feel was the right sequence to create the experience of a cohesive listen from start to finish. I think it works.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

The title, Roses, is perfect for the collection. Where did it come in the process?

Dave Powys: Right from the start of the vision. There were a couple of different takes on the Roses theme, but we landed on simple and plural.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Do you see it as your 'pandemic album', capturing all the emotions of this time?

Dave Powys: In a way, yes. It really began out of the inspiration of touring, and meeting so many amazing musicians around the world. So many have inspired us that we wanted to harness some of the beauty that enthralls us amidst our musical affinity with others. However, by March 2020, in the middle of tracking, the album adapted itself perfectly to collaboration in isolation. We took turns going into the studio to track and sat on opposite ends of the couch in the control room, it was really strange at first, but it worked.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

What were your feelings as you first listened back to the completed album start to finish?

Dave Powys: Satisfied. I especially love that first listen through when the album is released. It’s been almost a year since I heard the whole thing through. I spun the LP from start to finish, and it really put wind in my sails.

Roses is out now

What has surprised you about the singers' responses to the finished album?

Sam Bentley: Well, I think they all really like the album. Everyone was really proud of their contributions and that it's finally out. I mailed them all a copy of the vinyl when it was done. It turns out it's quite expensive to send vinyl from Australia to Sweden and Portugal and rural Ireland, but it was a great feeling sending them all out. Everyone that was involved in the album is really proud of it. So, nothing surprising - just glad that we were all able to make it.  

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Are there plans to get everyone together for a gig when all this is over?

Dave Powys: We have just announced a national tour here at home so I'd love to think we'll have a few of our Australian guests on stage with us!

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Would you do another album with another 10 singers?

Sam Bentley: I don't know - maybe, I really enjoyed it, but we try to move forward with our music as much as we can try and do new things. So, I can't imagine that we would take the same idea and do it again. Each album we do we approach it as the next chapter and try to keep the story going. We're proud of what we've done and where we've come from, but there's a lot still that we want to do. We could do another album of collaborations, but I don't think we will. 

Roses is out now via Netwerk Records.

Click here for more music news.