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First Listen: The Paper Kites ‘twelvefour’

Melbourne five-piece embrace the post-midnight creative peaks on new album.

As the rule goes — nothing good happens after 2am. Putting forward a commendable argument to the contrary, however, is Sam Bentley of The Paper Kites. As he explains, 2am is merely the half-way point of the nightly ritual he employed as the foundation for band’s new album. “[twelvefour] is a concept record, based around a theory that an artist’s creative peak is between the hours of midnight and 4am.”

Two long months of reversed sleep patterns — and around 30 demos — later, Bentley finished his creative experiment. “I’m never doing that again,” he laughs in reflection.

Given these circumstances, it would be expected that the album is deeply entrenched in a darker place. A reflective, empty where exhaustion moulds into self-analysis. Yet, although the expected embracements of loneliness are scattered throughout the record — most effectively on the plodding introduction and accompanying murmurs of “Bleed Confusion” — overall, twelvefour triumphantly breaks from it’s own restraints, optimistically and confidently pushing towards the impending sunrise rather than wallowing in those dead moments. “You’re always more melancholy during those hours,” Bentley concedes, before adding, “but if I could sum up the album it’s about what happens when selfishness and love collide.”

Bentley sheds more light on the album’s individual tracks below. 

twelvefour is set to be released on Friday, August 28 via Wonderlick, and available to stream from today.

All words below by Sam Bentley.

1. “Electric Indigo”
Everyone felt pretty good about this song right from the start when they heard it – it was one of the songs that wasn’t subject to a long discussion on why it had to be on the album we all wanted it on there and the few people outside the band that we’d showed the demos to all commented on this song. It seemed to snap up a good amount of attention when we put it out too and people were digging the direction. To me it just sounds like this 80s soaked late night jam, which is exactly what the record is. The music videos that we’ve done for the singles are all following that same late night vibe – we wanted to do a trilogy of videos all set between the hours of 12-4, just different stories in different towns.

2. “Renegade”
I think when people first saw the trailer for the ‘twelvefour’ documentary it made it seem like the guys were super shocked and concerned when they got all the demos, and that this album would be really different and such but I don’t think it’s really all that different at all – there were some pretty weird demos but in the end a lot of them didn’t make it on the album. This song to me feels like a version of something that we’ve always done, just sounds a bit cooler!

3. Bleed Confusion”
“Bleed Confusion” very narrowly made it in to the list of demos we wanted to record, I had always really liked it but I think it we were fairly divided on whether it would work but Stu our manager really pushed for us to record it. I think it was sort of the lower range half spoken story telling style of my vocals that threw the band off a bit and it was put in the ‘not sure about that song’ pile – but thankfully everyone was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out and we all really love it. It was good to do something a bit different vocally, I like descriptive narration.

4. “Revelator Eyes”
I really love this song, I think of all the songs on the album I’ve listened to this one the most – I’ve always been a big fan of those sultry guitar driven love songs from the 80s and I wanted to push for some of that on this record because that’s a lot of what was coming out from me during the writing sessions. I had an interesting time recording the vocals for it – the melody is kind of quicker and moves around more than you’d think, but it still had to be super smooth. This was one of the songs where Phil (Ek) kept shutting down the session when he wasn’t feeling it – so I’d only get through a few vocal takes of it and I’d know if he was digging it or not – and I’d go home all bummed and practice with Christina and come back and try it again – but you’d always know when you’d got it with Phil because he’d say something like ‘see that’s what I was talking about’. He certainly pushed a bigger, more sincere sound out of me I think and It tuned out to be a pretty lush track. Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) at his studio was showing me how to use some of his drum machines that we ended up combining with Josh’s real drums on this song – I was trying to hold back the excitement while he was showing me thinking ‘you totally used this same drum machine on the postal service record’.

5. “Neon Crimson”
This one is probably my favourite – only because I don’t think any other track really captures the time of night quite as well as this one – it’s a pretty wrenching song, it sounds very lonely. Lyrically I put a lot of time in to it trying to capture the right mood of being away from home, having a hard time drifting around New York while things aren’t great back at home, suffering with the old quarter life crisis of choosing someone else over yourself. But it’s mainly praise for the type of woman that takes a man for all his faults, his confessions of doubt and still completely understands him despite the pain he causes her – ‘A shot of neon crimson to the brain’ is like saying well at least I know I’m still alive. I dubbed my heroine ‘The Scarlet Avenger’.

6. “I’m Lying To You Cause I’m Lost”
This track is pretty self explanatory – although I think it’s still quite a weird thing to straight up out yourself as a liar – even though at the end of the day we all do it no one really admits it. But it felt like the right line for the song, you couldn’t sugar coat it any other way. There were a couple of demos that had that sort of shoe gaze slacker sound and I didn’t want to have too much of it on the record because I felt like there were more important musical ideas to explore but I guess there’s no hiding from that singer-songwriter sound – I’ve always loved it and I think it’ll always shine through the songs I write. Fun fact – the pre-chorus in this song was actually a chorus in another demo that we all liked and chopped it all up in to the one song. Like a groovy frankenstein.

7. “A Silent Cause”
Off the bat I always feel like I write a lot of songs like this, because I find them easy to write when it’s just me and a guitar it’s just what naturally comes out. So I wasn’t overly precious about this song being on the album to me it was just another song, but a lot of the other guys really pushed for it to be on there. But folk music to me has always been the best way to tell a story, and I think I’ll always carry a love for being able to just sit down with a guitar and pick out a song without needing anything else. Sam Rasmussen was a big advocator for this one and I’m glad he was so adamant about it being on there. It’s a story about a girl that’s moving away because everyone around her is ‘slowly dying’ from their quiet desperations.

8. “Woke From A Dream”
This song was pretty much not going to be on the album even though we all liked it. There were two other demos that we recorded for the album and a song called ‘Bleeding Fighting Love’ would have been in place of this song – it was kind of this dark grungy jam but we all felt like it just stuck out like a sore thumb so we ditched it. I was concerned about having another country strummer in there because the whole feel of the album to me was more in line with that late night lush sound. But at this point in the record it needed a lift, and this song was one that we felt we needed to have in there. Dave does a pretty sweet solo too.

9. “Turns Within Me, Turns Without Me”
I know Dave was a big fan of this song, I think he said something like ‘this type of song – that’s what we do best’ – I think he meant in relation to all the harmonies but again I think I was so wrapped up in trying some new ideas that I sort of overlooked some of these more stripped back songs I’d written that the rest of the band was saying needed to be on there. It’s a song about finally deciding to choose that special turbulent someone – and that time turns within you, it turns without you and sometimes it turns you right back around.

10. “Too Late”
I had to really fight for this last song to be on the record because we had had a lot of conversations about whether this was something we should be doing stylistically, but I sort of put the writers pen down on this one and said I really wanted it to be on there and thankfully the guys went along with me. I remember Phil stopping a recording take and coming in to the room when we seemed a bit unsure stylistically about what we could pull off – he kind of grilled us in a nice way but said ‘You have to let it be what it wants to be and not try and fight it’ – basically saying if a song wants to be slammed out or if it wants to be a slow blues jam then play it like that and don’t resist it. I’m a big fan of Dave’s guitar playing in this I think his solo breaks are really beautiful and Josh’s drum sound is really killer. I remember writing this song early on in the 12-4 sessions and lying on the floor listening back to it – it’s a very sad song but I couldn’t imagine this record without it – I’m very glad we recorded it and finished with it.

The supporting national launch tour has also now been announced:

Thursday, October 15: The Gov, Adelaide
Friday, October 16: Amplifier, Perth
Saturday, October 17: Settlers Tavern, Margaret River
Thursday, October 22: Theatre Royal, Castlemain
Friday, October 23: 170 Russell, Melbourne
Saturday, October 24: The Workers Club, Geelong
Thursday, October 29: Solbar, Maroochydore
Friday, October 30: The Soundlounge, Gold Coast
Saturday, October 31: Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane
Thursday, October 5: Lizottes, Newcaste
Friday, October 6: The Metro, Sydney
Saturday, October 7: ANU Bar, Canberra
Sunday, October 8: Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul