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A tale of two cities for Dempsey
A tale of two cities for Dempsey

Melbourne and New York, band or solo, Paul Dempsey is happy to have duality in his life. The Something for Kate frontman and his partner/ bandmate, Stephanie Ashworth, returned to Australia to live last year after a stint in Brooklyn, yet Dempsey reckons they will continue to shift between the two cities.

"I was there last month as well," he begins from Melbourne. "We've been back and forth a lot. We still feel like we're between the two places and being back here is sort of temporary."

The couple, who have a two-year- old son, Miller, came back last year to write Something for Kate's sixth studio album, Leave Your Soul to Science, with drummer Clint Hyndman, who had kept himself busy opening a couple of bars in Melbourne. Funnily enough, they then went back to the US to record their latest album in Dallas, Texas.

Leave Your Soul to Science was the first output from Dempsey since his 2009 solo effort, Everything is True, and the first SFK album since 2006's Desert Lights.

The gangly singer and guitarist says he would not have made Everything is True without endorsement from Ashworth and Hyndman.

"We've been a band for so long and being the main songwriter, I feel somewhat responsible for Clint and Steph - the band has been their livelihood," says Dempsey, who adds that he'll probably record another solo album next.

"I feel really lucky that I've managed to work things out so I basically get to have a band with my two best friends and I have also managed to create a bit of a solo career," he says.

"I want to keep on trying to do both those things. It's certainly not a conventional way to do things . . . of each.

"Which probably means, realistically, there will be a solo record every four years and a Something for Kate record every four years," Dempsey says. "A lot of people would say that's a dangerous way to navigate a career."

Before he embarks on follow-up to Everything is True, Dempsey has to navigate a "nice and long" Something for Kate tour, which kicks off today in Victoria and hits Perth next month.

The band only did a short run of national dates last year when Leave Your Soul to Science was released.

"We're still busting to get out there and really break these songs in and see how they're going to evolve on stage," Dempsey says.

The trio, which becomes a four-piece live with guitarist John Hedigan, will perform a different set each night and is rehearsing about 40 songs, some from their first recordings nearly 20 years ago.

"We've delved further into the back catalogue than we did on the previous tour, which was kind of short and sharp," Dempsey explains. "This time we're going back as far as early EPs and trying to cover everything - what is it now? - six albums and a bunch of EPs and a s...load of B-sides.

"It's really hard to play all the things that you want to play and we all have different favourites," he adds. "It's actually pretty tough to try to hone it down to a two-hour show." The shows should also include a cover of a well-known song from a great Oz rock band, which Something for Kate has recorded for a tribute album. Dempsey would prefer to keep the song a surprise for fans. The singer recently appeared on the ABC's First Tuesday Book Club to chat about his favourite book, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Despite being a renowned bookworm, Dempsey recoils from the suggestion he should try his hand at literature.

"It's hard enough for me just to finish a song," he says. "That takes a lot of effort, a lot of discipline and a lot of arguing with myself. If I amplify that to hundreds of thousands of words of text with no musical accompaniment, it might be enough to drive me completely out of my mind.

"I love to read, books are a huge, huge part of my life. Maybe when I'm quite a bit older, something will change." Perhaps when the touring lifestyle ceases to appeal?

"I can't see that day coming," Dempsey says. "I enjoy getting out and playing more than ever. I get more impatient and frustrated that I can't do it more often."

That's why the Something for Kate frontman continues to return to the US, where the bigger population and spread of cities and venues allow him to tour almost constantly, either solo or with his US band, as the support act or to a few hundred people in a bar.

"In our two years in New York I think I played more shows in that two years than I had in the previous 10," he says. "I felt like I was being what I regard as a working musician, actually going out and playing music every night or several nights a week.

"As someone who's been doing it for nearly 20 years, I think it is important to put yourself in situations where you feel like you're doing it for the first time and you still have something to prove to an audience and - most importantly - to yourself."

Something for Kate play the Astor on June 7. Tickets from Showticketing and the venue.