Arcade Fire's Tim Kingsbury Talks Basia Bulat, Mavis Staples and "Buddy Band" Sam Patch

Arcade Fire's Tim Kingsbury Talks Basia Bulat, Mavis Staples and "Buddy Band" Sam Patch
Photo: Gordon Dunhill

Tim Kingsbury is a member of Arcade Fire and, while they maintain a demanding touring and recording schedule, he still felt compelled to start his own band.
 
Consisting of Kingsbury, Basia Bulat, Matt Brown, and Arcade Fire drummer/multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Gara, the outfit is called Sam Patch and their debut record Yeah You, and I, is out February 17 via Kingsbury's own Dep Records imprint.
 
"When you're touring a lot, it's creative in a certain way, but there was a whole part of my brain that was not engaged and over time it builds up," Kingsbury tells Exclaim! from Montreal. "I had a little guitar with me [on the road] and found myself wanting to play and write all the time. By the end of the last tour, I felt like I had to go make a record and get this out.
 
"After tour, I decided to treat it like a full-time job and set up a studio and would go write every day. I did that with the idea that hopefully something complete would come out if I gave myself my time to do it."
 
The result is an infectious blast of rock and pop with a real emphasis on the human voice.
 
"I really love singing and I always have," he explains. "Over the last few years, [my wife] Natalie has introduced me to old country duos and music that I didn't grow up with. And then her and I learned to sing country harmonies together and that's really informed my vocal sensibilities a lot.
 
"I think a lot of the record is about communication in general," Kingsbury adds. "That was something I was thinking about — how everyone is constantly communicating."
 
It's telling in some ways that Kinsgbury has surrounded himself with other notable songwriters like Bulat and Gara in Sam Patch. They too are quite adept at conveying ideas and emotions within songs. And yet, for Kingsbury, it was mostly a social convention.
 
"For me, they're just people I see all the time and it was like, 'Hey, do you wanna do this?' I've worked with Jer forever and Basia and I have become friends over the last eight years. It kind of is a buddy band. I wanted a situation where I knew what I was getting into and that it'd be fun.
 
"And then on the record, singing with Basia — she's obviously got a great voice. I'd be like, 'Can you just try something here?' and then she'd layer the most beautiful vocal harmonies down right in front of me in ten minutes. It was very exciting."
 
The Sam Patch tour schedule is quite busy in March but, for a band getting the word out about a new record, they haven't announced many more dates yet. That's at least partially because Arcade Fire have begun to rumble to life.
 
More European Arcade Fire tour dates were just announced and, after a collaborative single with Mavis Staples called "I Give You Power" came out the day of the U.S. inauguration in January, expectations about a new album went into overdrive.
 
"Yeah, she's amazing," Kingsbury says of working with Staples. "We've met her a few times at different shows and festivals and when we played in Chicago on the last tour, she came and did a song with us, which was amazing. Her voice is so huge and beautiful and she's so generous.
 
"It's definitely a stand-alone thing," he says of "I Give You Power," as a single. "It felt like the right time for that.
 
"We're getting ready to put out our next record," he continues. "I don't even know the exact date yet but it will definitely be this year. We've booked a bunch of festivals already. There isn't much I can say that isn't already out there. But there's a reason why the Sam Patch tour is so short."
 
As for what it's like to take a solo venture out on the road when you're also in one of the biggest bands in the world, Kingsbury says a previous Sam Patch tour was really fulfilling.
 
"It's fun. So far, every show we've played, there's been some people there. For me, it's rewarding. When we're doing shows, I'm almost as excited about getting to do some banter as I am playing the songs. It's just fun when somebody yells something out and I can respond, it's always an adventure."
 
Listen to this interview with Tim Kingsbury via the Kreative Kontrol podcast.
 

Order Arcade Fire's most recent album, 2013's Reflektor, on CD and vinyl via Umusic.