Interview: Dave Prowys of The Paper Kites (Melbourne) talks about imagining strangers’ lives on their new LP On The Corner Where You Live

Dave Powys’ one-and-a-half year old daughter has just returned home from day care and bounced into her father’s arms. “Oh, hello!” he greets her. “Hey darling, how are you?” She responds with a series of chirps while receiving kisses on her forehead. It’s a warm scene; one that could be part of the collage of paintings that inspired On The Corner Where You Live, the new album by The Paper Kites.

The Melbourne-band was founded in 2009 by singers Sam Bently and Christina Lacy. The next year, the duo rounded out their line-up with high school friends, including guitarist Powys, and released their debut single “Bloom”. A lot has happened for the friends since then, but 2018 is their biggest year yet: that first single was just certified gold in the US; they surprise-released their third album On The Train Ride Home in April; and they released their fourth album On The Corner Where You Live in September. The two sound very different: the former is acoustic and spare like their earlier work, while the latter is fuller and with an 80s dream pop influence.

“We had a whole bunch of songs ready to start working on and we thought after listening to all of them we discussed which tracks should go on an album,” he says. “Basically, there were so many songs that we liked that we thought we could do two albums. We were originally thinking of mixing it up and we could have two albums with a similar feel; some full-band songs and some acoustic tracks. We then thought we should split them up and put them out a year apart.”

The two albums were completed in different sessions. On The Train… was recorded in Melbourne with Tom Iansek of Big Scary, #1Dad and No Mono. However, for On The Corner… the band travelled to the US to work with producer Peter Katis (The National, Interpol, Jonsi) at his home studio – a grand 120-year old Victorian manor in Connecticut with an eerie past. “We heard some stories about the previous owners of the house were some sort of a cult,” he laughs. “We were trying to work out where the different ceremonies would have been around the house.”

The two albums are like Ying and Yang – two different sides that make up a whole. While they sound different, they were all written at the same time, hence why they share similar titles, downcast moods and artwork painted by US noir-inspired artist Gina Higgins. “When Sam wrote the songs he was drawing a lot of inspiration from old noir films and Frank Sinatra albums. He came across Gina’s work and showed it to us and we all loved it. She wanted to create something that extended our vision beyond what we could have hoped for.”

Much like the band’s second album twelvefour, these two albums also explore concepts that Higgins’ artwork brought to life for their covers. “The thing with the albums is they tell a lot of stories about people; you see someone on the train or walking past you in the street and you wonder that everyone’s got something going on in their life and you don’t always know. It’s sort of like a spectator romanticising about what’s happening in people’s lives. The idea of the artwork is two people who could be linked or maybe not – it’s up to the listener to decide. It’s painting a picture of part of a story for two people.”

The concept is best reflected in the limited edition bundle release of the albums. The two will be brought together in a package that shows more of Higgins’ art. “It’s sort of like we zoom out from the individual pieces of art, and the artwork is a whole apartment building with eight different windows. It’s this idea that within this one apartment building there can be all of these different stories happening at once. For the two separate album covers it’s two stories that we’ve happened to zoom in on it.”

The Paper Kites plan to take the albums on tour early next year. Until then, Prowys will be cuddling his daughter and telling her stories about other people.

On The Train Ride Home and On The Corner Where You Live are out now through Sony Music Australia.