Before he was the bassist, guitarist and occasional keyboardist in Arcade Fire, Tim Kingsbury was a frontman, handling the writing and vocals for a series of groups that made the Ontario university rounds.
Throughout his time as the swing man in indie rock’s biggest band, Kingsbury never lost the drive to create his own music. It’s just that, as he explains over the phone from his Montreal home, “Arcade Fire is a pretty full-time job.” So when a rush of creativity hit him toward the end of 2014’s Reflektor touring cycle, the former choir boy took the fortuitous timing as a sign that he was ready to become a frontman once more.
"I was touring around with a mini-synthesizer, a mini-nylon string guitar and a laptop," he recalls of the writing process, which often involved spending nights jamming along to musical loops until he found the phrasing he was looking for.
Some two years later, Kingsbury is set to release his debut album, Yeah You, And I, under the nom de guerre Sam Patch. Produced and written by Kingsbury, the album also features the vocal and playing talents of fellow Montrealer Basia Bulat and the drumming skills of Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara, as well as guest appearances by Tortoise’s John McEntire and Doug McCombs.
Below, Kingsbury gives us a track-by-track breakdown.
‘Must Have Been an Oversight’
"It took me a while to figure out what the song actually was. One person that kept popping into my head was Gord Downie — I'm a big fan of his and the Tragically Hip — just his delivery and stuff. I wasn't really trying to emulate him, but he just kept popping into my head so I asked myself what I thought he would do. I don't think it sounded anything like a Gord Downie song, just spiritually that's where I was at."
"'100 Decibels' is about a very unself-aware, loud person. That song may be the fastest I wrote. It's kind of a rough song but I like that it's a combination of a bunch of things: it's got a bit of an ABBA thing to it, but it's also kind of raw."
“'St. Sebastian' is the theme song of the record. I got a Copicat Tape Delay from the '60s and you can hear it all over that song. Lyrically, it just came out of nowhere. When I sent the song to a friend of mine, he asked if I'd ever heard of St. Sebastian, and he started drawing parallels between the story of St. Sebastian and the song. Mostly just in terms of the symbolism but also not knowing where you're going and facing a lot of hardships. Sort of moving forward and having faith."
‘Waiting to Wait’
"This is a whimsical song, in many ways. It’s fantasy or sci-fi to me, in terms of the setting. It feels like it's taking place on a different planet. Basia came up with the coral breakdown in the middle, which might be my favourite part on the record. She was in the studio and had to leave in about 10 minutes so I asked to her to try something and she really quickly layered all those vocals on top of each other and I was really blown away."
"I co-wrote the lyrics with my wife Natalie. It's about that feeling that you're listening to what somebody's saying but in reality you're not really hearing it, and vice-versa — that communication block that can happen between people. I feel like it's pretty ubiquitous these days. If you look at the state of politics, particularly the kind of divisiveness and the echo chamber."
‘No No No No’
"When I wrote this song I heard an ‘80s ballad with a Ramones song. I know that's not what it came out like, but that was the idea I had in my head. I also liked having a hook that went on for way too long but was also pretty catchy. Lyrically, it was an idea that evolved over a long period of time and it's best to leave it for the listener to take what they will from it."
‘Never Meant No Harm’
"When I was writing I was thinking a lot about my ancestry, the effects of previous generations on me and the direct line between my great grandparents and me. (My family has been in southern Ontario since the mid-1800s. Before that they were from England, there's actually a Kingsbury castle in southwest England). So it’s about the combination of what you inherit genetically and what they were conditioned to do and believe, and the impact that has on following generations. It's been fascinating to me for a while.
"For this and the last song on the record I got to go to Chicago and do a couple days with John McEntire, who's a favourite drummer and producer of mine. I was always a big Tortoise fan and I really liked the production he did with Stereolab. And Doug McCombs also played some bass and baritone guitar."
‘Up All Night’
"‘Up All Night’ was the first song I wrote. I actually recorded it on tour in my hotel room. I put the vocals and nylon string guitar. I went to dinner with a friend in London and afterwards I just came up to my room and wrote that. I came up with the parts and words super fast. Lyrically, it's fairly self-explanatory."
Sam Patch is set to tour Canada and the U.S. later this year (with stops in Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City and Toronto). Arcade Fire recently released a stand-alone single, “I Give You Power.” Though that song won’t appear on the group’s upcoming album, Kingsbury says the 2017 release will be “really different than other stuff we've done.”