Meet Sam Patch

Tim Kingsbury will debut his new project live in Montreal this week, backed by his Arcade Fire bandmate Jeremy Gara and Basia Bulat.

Sam Patch 2
Tim Kingsbury. Photo by Nathalie Shatula
Following the trend set by Sarah Neufeld in 2013, Tim Kingsbury is the latest member of Arcade Fire to produce a solo project. It’s called Sam Patch — after a 19th century American daredevil who jumped into Niagara Falls — and while Kingsbury played an informal set of Sam Patch songs on his own at the River Fest in Elora, Ontario just over a week ago,  the project will be making its official live debut at the Passovah Summer Fest this week. The line-up will feature Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara (who also plays with Neufeld these days) and singer/pianist Basia Bulat, who has worked closely with Kingbury on her albums, notably last year’s Polaris Prize short-listed record Tall Tall Shadow.

Lorraine Carpenter: So how did this project take shape?
Tim Kingsbury: Every time we go on tour, I end up writing a lot of songs in my hotel room or wherever, whenever I’m not playing shows, and this time I ended up with an arsenal of songs. When we finished touring, I started recording them and for the last year I’ve just been writing and recording a bunch of ideas.

I’ve been playing with Jeremy a little, trying to take the songs a bit further, and Basia. I put this band together for this show, which is sort of an experiment, just to put it out there a bit and see how it feels. It’s part of the process of writing the record.

Tim Kingsbury at River Fest in Elora, ON, Aug. 15, 2015.
Tim Kingsbury at River Fest in Elora, ON, Aug. 15, 2015.

LC: I understand you played a solo set at River Fest in Elora the other day.
TK: Yeah, it was sort of last minute. Basically an old friend of mine has this band, Safe As Milk — they were maybe the first band that I ever saw play when I was 10 or 11 or something; he’s a super old family friend. He asked if I’d come and play a couple of songs with them, so I went down to that, and the promoter of the festival asked if I would play on my own, so I ended up doing a small set of Sam Patch songs on a side stage. That was the first time I played them in front of people.

LC: How did that go?
TK: It was kind of interesting, actually. A lot of the songs weren’t written specifically for acoustic guitar, so I decided to try them out that way just to see how they hold up as songs on their own, and it was a good experiment. I think it went well — people weren’t walking away!

LC: What is your instrumentation for this material? How would you describe the style?
TK: It’s evolved a bit, but the feel of it is definitely rock music — I guess weird rock music. This doesn’t sound very rock ‘n’ roll but I started using a nylon-string guitar and this old Vox keyboard and a Moog synthesizer and I was using an arpeggiator with it, and a little drum machine as well. I was playing around between those things and composing ideas, often based on an arpeggio.

I’m used to playing with a big band and having lots of people around and everyone feeding off of everyone’s ideas, but this way I was setting up parts myself and expanding on that.

LC: Where have you been recording?
TK: I have a set-up at my place, I’ve been doing a lot of it there. I also did some sessions with John McEntire [a well-known producer and member of Tortoise and the Sea and Cake] in Chicago and then I did some of it at Arcade Fire studio in Montreal, too. It’s mostly self-produced and engineered — up to this point, it’s 90 per cent me. I’m slightly over halfway done; I hope to be mixing in the fall and then have it out as soon as possible after that.

LC: Do you have guests on the record?
TK: I’ve been playing most of it, but Jeremy’s played a lot of drums. I also did a few shows in Chicago with John McEntire, he’s on it, and Basia a little bit, too.

LC: Do you have a label?
TK: To be honest I haven’t even started that conversation yet, I’m just trying to get the record done and then I’m gonna focus on that.

LC: Any more shows booked post-Passovah?
TK: I don’t have anything booked right now. My immediate goal is to just to jump right back into recording and get that done, but in the fall and winter I definitely intend to be playing live. It felt good to be singing [at River Fest] — I’m excited to play more shows. ■
*NOTE NEW VENUE* Sam Patch headlines a show as part of the Passovah Festival, with the Muscadettes, Michael Feuerstack, James Irwin, Bantam Wing and DJ Basia Fierce (aka Basia Bulat), at Bar le Ritz PDB (179 Jean-Talon W.) on Thursday, Aug. 27, 8 p.m., $10