Last week, Something For Kate, one of the great survivors in the Australian record industry, released their sixth studio album Leave Your Soul to Science. It’s not just the band’s most accomplished record; it’s an unexpected reward for 18 years of dogged determination and creative anguish. As Paul Dempsey explains early in our interview, this album didn’t take years off his life. It came easily.
Dempsey is relieved to finally talk about the new album, which merges the haunting qualities of his solo album with Something For Kate’s distinguished Australian rock. Dempsey is so used to releasing records, that he’s able to pre-empt his insecurities and in turn, explain them as they happen. “You finish making the record, then you wait and wait for it to see the light of day,” he says. “Then the week finally comes around and you feel like it’s all happening too quickly.”
It’s a feeling that Dempsey knows all too well. But he’s been around long enough to know that the creative process necessitates completion and that there are parts of every record that could have been better. “You have this internal freak-out, but then the reaction filters down and people like it and you start feeling pretty positive,” he says. Dempsey still lives in the south of Melbourne with his wife, Stephanie Ashworth, who has been playing bass in Something For Kate since 1998. When playing live, Dempsey, Ashworth and drummer Clynt Hyndman exude an air of confidence and trust that only time can forge. Dempsey in particular shares a special relationship with Australian audiences; his warm persona turns even some of his harshest critics into fans.
It’s a dynamic that manifests in the band’s new album. “This record was the easiest we’ve ever had to make,” says Dempsey, before explaining that while no record is a breeze, they’ve learned to stop sweating on the small things. “This one was quick, so maybe it was just because the arduous parts were compressed into a shorter space of time,“ he laughs.
Recorded in just a few weeks at Elmwood Studios in Texas, Dempsey explains that producer John Congleton (Modest Mouse, Explosions in the Sky, Chairlift) was largely responsible for the band’s reinvigorated studio process.
“There is no part of this album that took more than five or 10 minutes to record. If we were spending too long on a guitar line or something, John would come over, tap us on the shoulder and say ‘Get out of the rabbit hole’.
“We would have spent at least 18 months writing and over-thinking and procrastinating on every other record,” but since having kids they simply don’t have time to be over-protective of their material. “Somehow that’s been a really good thing. It has a really in-the-moment energy, because we didn’t have time to fuck around.”
It says a lot about the band’s maturation. They’ve weathered the storm, or as Dempsey puts it, “seen the era of powerful record companies, splashing money around to basically create success”, and amongst it all they’ve learnt to appreciate the little things.
“We’ve watched the record industry shrink. But as the industry shrinks, we learn to do more for ourselves,” he says. “We’ve never attempted some big, grandiose stab at success. We’ve kept our little cottage industry pretty simple and stayed focused on the music.”
Something For Kate play at The Corner Hotel on October 6, 7 and 8. All shows are booked out. Further details here.