Ever since the mid-2000s, The Brother Kite has been an indie rock staple in Providence’s music scene.
Warwick resident Patrick Boutwell is the voice of the band while also lending his impeccable songwriting talents on guitar. Outside of that band, he also plays drums in the Providence punk act Snowplows while maintaining a career as an audio technician and a stagehand.
It’s fair to say that Boutwell has all the musical bases covered.
We recently had a talk about moving from his hometown in a different part of New England to his current surroundings, playing a unique instrument and a few new things on the horizon.
ROB DUGUAY: You're from Wilton, New Hampshire, and now you currently live in Warwick. How did you end up coming to Rhode Island?
PATRICK BOUTWELL: I ended up coming to Rhode Island because Jon Downs, who plays guitar and percussion in The Brother Kite along with being a backing vocalist, was going to college here. I really wanted to continue being in a band with him due to us being in another band together prior to him going to school. I was beginning to write songs that I didn’t think would work in the band I’d been in, and I was looking for a change. I decided to make the move here to start The Brother Kite with Jon.
RD: Along with being in The Brother Kite, you also play drums in the punk act Snowplows. Were there any major adjustments you had to make artistically when you joined the latter band behind the kit?
PB: I definitely approach it differently. When I first joined the group, I didn’t really want to write material for it because I kind of wanted to focus on just the drums. Then, little by little, I started to speak up when I thought things needed a little bit more structure. I still haven’t brought in an entire song yet, but my fingerprints are definitely all over the new record that came out in May in various ways. It is a nice situation; we all have input on what we’re working on, but we pretty much stay out of each other’s way and trust one another to deliver. It’s pretty great.
RD: One thing I've always wanted to ask you about is where you got your red, double-neck guitar. I’m pretty sure you’re the only guy in the state that has one. Was it an impulsive buy or did Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin influence you to get one?
PB: I got on eBay, actually. A little bit of a risky one, I might add, but thankfully it all came in one piece. While I am a fan of Led Zeppelin, it was acquired to solve a problem I had. I had to figure out how to cut down on the amount of guitar changes onstage and the amount of gear I was bringing on tour. Originally I had three guitars on the road – one in standard tuning, one in an alternate tuning, and an electric 12-string.
It was becoming kind of a pain to do that, and while I was brainstorming what to do, the double-neck guitar popped into my head. I initially didn’t want to do it. It is a bit of an uncool, 1970s rock relic and I didn’t want to field requests for “Stairway to Heaven” every night of my life. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how well it would work in the context of the band. It was tough getting used to the weight, but now it is like an extension of my body. I’m really comfortable playing that guitar.
RD: You also work as an audio technician and a stagehand. From that side of the music business, what is something about what you do that people might not realize the full importance of?
PB: It has certainly made me appreciate live sound technicians so much more. It can be really tough to walk into a situation where you have no clue what a band is going to sound like and be expected to make them sound great. I guess the most important thing I’ve realized is that communication between the band and the audio tech is key. If you as a performer are up front with the tech about your needs prior to hitting the stage, that goes such a long way to getting the best out of everyone involved.
RD: Can we expect anything from you musically anytime soon outside of The Brother Kite and Snowplows, or do you plan on just focusing on both bands?
PB: Well, The Brother Kite is in the middle of recording a new record, so hopefully that will be wrapped up before the end of the year. Aside from that, I have a solo show booked in October at the University of New Hampshire, and of course I will most likely be participating in Check Yourself Presents’ Holiday Benefit Shows again in December. I have thought about doing another solo record, but as long as The Brother Kite has an iron in the fire, that will just have to wait.