The impressive thing about Paul Dempsey isn’t that there’s a long list of albums on his resume. It’s the fact that despite his success, he’s still just some guy.
Paul's thoughts audibly pace up and down a narrow mental hallway, presenting a curious mix forged from equal measures of steadfast life-experience and haunting uncertainty. He's been asked the same question a thousand times before, this you're sure of. Yet the answer comes as if he is working through this dilemma for the first time.
The responses that eventually pour forth take the form of unsigned confessions. The Something For Kate ringleader presents perceptions of himself like they are theories that he's working on; he's sure, but not certain. In many ways it's like talking to a human, trapped inside the body of a musician. There are no grandiose statements about record deals or the usual yawn-inducing spiel about elaborate songwriting processes.
But why should we care what someone like Paul Dempsey has to say? Being a music fan is like being a member of a cult. We love musicians as people because we live vicariously through them. While the strings on our guitars gather rust, their triumphs and crushing lows become intertwined in our DNA. Perhaps that's why there's so much love in the world for someone like Paul Dempsey. In many ways, he's just as lost as the rest of us.
"I'm very optimistic, and very positive. I think it's probably well documented that I've had experiences with depression, but that doesn't mean that I'm not a positive, optimistic person by nature. It doesn't mean that I'm not, on some level, a happy person. I feel like I'm genuinely happy, but there are occasions where my brain does things that are almost out of my control. But you can only work hard at something and continue persevering at something if you're optimistic about it."
'Leave Your Soul To Science' drops later this month, marking Something For Kate's sixth studio album and an end to the band's five-year break. Interestingly, science is exactly where Paul Dempsey's soul is being left.
"I'm probably the least spiritual person you could imagine... I guess I'm an atheist. I don't know if you can be any more or less of an atheist, or if there are greater or lesser degrees of atheism."
The impending release of this album coupled with the success of his 2009 solo LP, 'Everything Is True', make it seem like a good year to be Paul Dempsey. Yet, strangely enough, there is still only one photo to be found on Google Images where he is smiling — it's a photo of him standing next to Julia Gillard.
"See, I wouldn't even describe that as a smile. You know, it's the strangest thing. Some people, you tell them to smile and they can just flash their pearly whites and just instantly have this beaming smile and it's excellent. Unfortunately, whatever the muscles in my face are doing, I can't just turn on a smile for the camera. I guess I'm not comfortable around cameras. But when I smile it's because I'm laughing at something or because something has genuinely made me smile involuntarily. But every time I try to just force a smile it just doesn't feel right."
Even though he's not smiling, Paul is definitely pleased. As is so often the case, the long break between recording sessions has forced Something For Kate to reimagine and redefine itself. The ways in which this will affect the feel of 'Leave Your Soul To Science' is something fans of the band should be genuinely excited about.
"The album sounds and feels very different to us. We haven't made an album for five years. It doesn't even feel like the same band. Obviously it’s the same people and we're still very close, but when you don't make a record for six years there are different influences and different tastes at play. It feels like another beginning... in a lot of ways, like a first record.
"We definitely felt after five albums in a row that we didn't want to just make album number six straight away. We wanted to let some time pass so that we could approach it all down the track with a fresh feeling, and that's exactly what's happened. Well, we definitely didn't mean it to be six years! I didn't realise my solo album was gonna take as long as it did to write, so it's been longer than we probably thought. It's been long enough that it really all feels brand new. It's been long enough that any familiar patterns that we may have had have... well, they've vanished."
I ask Paul whether an old enemy of his was responsible for the lengthy period it took for 'Everything Is True' to reach completion. A constant struggle with writer’s block has been a theme in many of his interviews.
"I've sort of redefined it for myself. I used to call it writer’s block and I used to complain of writer's block. But I think what I've realised now is that it's not actually a block... I have come to accept that it's just very hard for me to write. It's not necessarily because of a block, it's just hard. Writing just doesn't come easily to me, so I just have to work really hard at it. Once I sort of redefined it for myself and said 'No, you don't have writer’s block' I realised that I just have to work hard to get the results I want. You know, I have a certain standard, a certain aim in mind and a certain thing that I'm trying to achieve when I'm writing.
"I have no idea what it's like for other musicians. From the outside it seems to me that some people write with such regularity and frequency that just seems astonishing. I think there certainly are people that can just sit down and do it, but that doesn't work for me. I have to sit at a desk for anywhere up to 12 hours a day when I'm working on a record."Something For Kate play The Zoo Saturday October 13. ‘Leave Your Soul To Science' is released September 28.Watch the New Video for Something For Kate- Survival Expert