Paul Thomas Saunders - Interview
Interview with Paul Thomas Saunders January 2014
Although only in his early twenties, this Brighton based artist has been creating his unique sound for quite a few years. His psychedelic tracks have been whirling around Leeds, the festivals and last year on tour with some big named bands; now Paul is ready to release his first single, 'Good Women', with high anticipation for the forthcoming album 'Beautiful Desolation' later this year.
Rejecting the band scene and getting creative with his high pitched vocals and keyboard as well as pulling inspiration from 1960s films, Paul Thomas Saunders has something new to bring to the table of the indie-pop scene of 2014.
Contactmusic: Hi Paul, how are you?
Paul Thomas Saunders: Hi, I'm good thanks.
CM: Your new single, 'Good Women', is released soon; can you tell us a little about it?
PTS: Yeah, I sure can. I think this is the most focused song I've ever written. The other songs were like films going into production and I feel that's how recording the other stuff sounded. With 'Good Women', we had a real solid grasp on how we wanted it to sound even before the song had been completely finished. The song is the most realised version of how we wanted to sound. The song itself is just a love song; it is not too ambitious. It is just about me and other people, and the observation of relationships.
CM: Am I right in thinking you are an ex-Leeds based artist?
PTS: Yes, I lived in Leeds for five years and I wrote the new album 'Beautiful Desolation' in Leeds. I'm now living in Brighton and I love it. I'm living by the sea; what's not to love? Although I do love Leeds too - I kind of miss it.
CM: Do different living environments help or hinder song writing?
PTS: I don't think it really makes too much of a difference, to be honest, as I usually like to write when I'm up in a room by myself, and usually at night. It is nice when recording or producing isn't going very well to blow off the cobwebs with a stroll on the coast; in Leeds I had a very busy ring-road which wasn't overly relaxing going out to and walking along the motorway. I've been living down here for about three months ago, so it's still fresh and new to me.
CM: Did you have other musicians in the studio when you were recording the new album?
PTS: Yeah, I had a couple, actually. I had my live drummer and a guy who produced the record with me, and I also had my keyboardist who sings backing vocals.
CM: As of now, which of your tracks are a personal favourite, and what's your favourite from another artist?
PTS: Well, I would say of mine 'On Into the Night' is a personal favourite; it will be the last track on the album. It just sounds like a song that I wouldn't have written years ago and it makes me feel like I'm kind of progressing a little bit. Of someone else's at the moment, that's a really hard question, as I am really crap at listening to new music. I think it would have to be 'Lizard State' by King Krule. The song has been out for a while and the video is just amazing; it's got a kind of Alfred Hitchcock feel to it.
CM: You have previously made a reference to 1966 film 'Blow-Up' - does film interest you?
PTS: Yes, that is one of my all-time favourite films; it's just beautiful. I can absolutely lose myself in films for days. It is scary because, sometimes, I just don't know how much time has passed.
CM: Would you ever consider scoring a film?
PTS: I think I would be interested in scoring a film in the future. It's just a medium that I respect so much. I believe it's much more difficult than writing an emotive song. It's something I would certainly love to grow to do.
CM: Timing and spacing seems critical in your songs; is that generally something you consider of importance when creating a song?
PTS: Yeah, I have never been one to write sort of frantic music. I'm way too lazy to be that energetic. I feel that the pace of my songs is just the way I write, and I just love the kind of space and openness in music. I tend to create that simply by piling stuff on top of each other.
CM: I was a little surprised to see you've recently played with Bombay Bicycle Club and The Staves, as I wouldn't necessarily put you as a musical pairing - Lanterns On The Lake seems to fit better - how was that?
PTS: Yes, I played a show with Bombay Bicycle Club. They were all really good to be around; I don't technically think I sound like the other bands either to be honest. They are all artists who have a following that really want to just listen to their music. Although they might seem like quite an obscure collection of bands to be put with, the common thread is that their live performances are a connection with the audience. People don't go there to party or wig out or anything and I believe that's what works, and I believe that's the same with my music as our shows only exist if the audience is attentive. They have to be in that mood, as our music kind of dips down and I think that's the dynamic.
CM: You were a student at Leeds College of Music, do you feel tuition helped you develop as an artist or was it quite a limited experience with regards to actual song writing?
PTS: I think that people get great things out of those sorts of colleges, especially when these courses were not available fifty years ago to study contemporary music. I personally felt like I was in chains all of the time. I feel that I was kicking back at college and, being at that age, I just didn't feel I was gaining too much.
CM: I believe you were writing songs before you started college. What age did you begin?
PTS: I think I was sixteen when I started writing songs.
CM: What sort of topics were you writing about?
PTS: I had this weird idea when I started that you could literally write about anything. I would write about the most mundane subjects and end up with stupid songs. One of the first songs was about a girl called Amy and she had a telepathic gun. Yes, that was the sort of thing I had, I was clutching at straws really.
CM: You released your first EP in 2010. Do you think your sound has developed or changed since then?
PTS: Yes, I do believe my style has developed over the past few years. When I first started, I really did not have any idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to structure anything. The lyrics and stuff was just me babbling really, especially on the first EP. But now, I feel that the lyrics are an extension of myself rather than just throwing words at paper.
CM: I read that you feel quite overwhelmed playing live, do you feel that has changed over the years?
PTS: Yeah, I hope it has changed. If we stop for a while, for the first few return shows I can be a bit of a wreck beforehand. I am one of those people who are quite comfortable in a studio, but I understand how necessary it is to play live and how much it means to fans to play live. However, if I never felt comfortable to play live, I would still make the effort to. I would hate it if I never got to see someone live who I adored.
CM: The moon and astronomy appear to be an influence in some of your songs, are you an amateur astronomer?
PTS: I'm just a keen astronomer. I think it's because when I no longer find music to be a complete escape, I always have that. With things in life, there's always a certain amount of pressure involved. It's just one of those things I can completely absorb myself into and a form of escapism.
CM: So you try to keep both music and space separate?
PTS: Yes, but I think with my genuine interest in that sort of thing there is a natural connection in my music and that sort of thing; almost awfully. I think with that album I was just trying to kind of soundtrack Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' - that was the thing I was aiming for.
CM: If you could learn one skill that you haven't already got, what would it be?
PTS: It would have to be first-aid, funnily enough. If I was Bono and I was a bit of an activist, the first thing that I would do is ensure first-aid was taught at school because I don't know first-aid and I wish I did.
CM: That's a very good point! Other than your album coming out, what should we be looking out for this year or next?
PTS: Well, from February we are playing live and touring, so hopefully people will be able to come out and see us live, if they like the record and song. We have festivals to play, and we will be releasing more singles, and obviously the new album. That's it, really; purely working on the album to get it out there.
Thank you for taking time to do the interview Paul.
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