Interview: Paul Thomas Saunders

Think angst, think raw emotion and think simple beauty and you’ve got Paul Thomas Saunders.  After just releasing his stunning EP Descartes Highlands, Saunders’ music exudes an array of heartfelt passions and understated skill with an innocence yet maturity to his music which is extraordinarily compelling.

We were lucky enough catch up with him just before he headed off to Brighton for The Great Escape and then Holland for Walk the Line Festival, here’s what he had to say…

You’ve had quite a journey and brought out a couple of EP’s previously, what makes Descartes Highlands different?

Well recording it was quite different, before it had been quite spontaneous – we just laid down a basic acoustic track and started building on things, and we didn’t think about it too much.  I guess this one we were a bit more calculated in our approach and I don’t know, took a bit more time over it.  The way we approached it from a production point of view was quite different and I think that was because there was a bit of a theme in the EP.

What’s the reasoning behind the name Descartes Highlands?

It’s a part of the moon where Apollo 16 lands, the whole EP is about this aging lady and a sort of regret and looming sense of getting older and making the wrong decisions. And there’s this one part where she’s sort of looking up at the same moon she looked at when she was 16 and not really recognising who she is.

Oh cool. So you are based in Leeds at the moment, what are your thoughts on the Leeds music scene?

It’s really good, it’s always been really healthy, I guess because of the student culture and the abundance of new music. You know people say Leeds music scene – which I always find a bit off putting because it doesn’t seem like everything spans out as one sort of community as such it’s just sort of a wealth of all different tastes  of everything and I think it’s really good.

You are currently doing a mini tour at the moment with the Great Escape in Brighton tomorrow and Walk the Line in The Hague the following day, how has the response to the EP been so far? And how are you feeling about the festivals coming up?

The response has been really nice.  I think with the last one we definitely felt there was sort of a gap in the live sect, with the songs which we couldn’t play live and which didn’t necessarily work well live, so it’s been really nice to have songs to draw on. I’m feeling good about the festivals, pretty excited.

Do you have any recommendations of great new bands we should check out?

Erm yea, John Maus, he’s played a few shows with a guy called Loney Dear which have been incredible live shows – just one guy and a loop pedal, but not all this silly loop stuff people have been doing!

What was the best gig you ever played?

Erm, we played one in Paris recently and that was amazing, that was really wonderful and it was a really beautiful venue and we had never played a venue like that before really. So that, or we played at Bush Hall in London at the end of last year and that was really good…but then we played our first headline show  in London at the EP launch in this little church in Saint Pancras and that was wonderful and there was a really supportive, lovely crowd there!

You said you played in Paris do you think you get a different response over in Europe, are the crowds different to over here?

Erm, I think it’s kind of quite different in Europe, I obviously don’t have a wealth of experience to draw from but I think in England people are quite spoilt for entertainment musically and also shows and are quite reserved about giving themselves to something and kind of opening themselves up to new music and by default on the back foot.  But I think, we’ve experienced people are very open minded and welcoming to hearing new music and want to be entertained but not critique it really – not that people do that here!

Finally, if you were on a desert island and you were only able to take three things what would they be?

Erm…I don’t know…what would I take…

You could take people if you wanted!?

Can I take people? I’d take Robert Smith, Anne Robinson and Malcolm Tucker!!

Ellie Witt