Folk-pop duo Paper Cranes – Naomi and Fraser Browne – are fascinating people. Having been raised abroad and experiencing different cultures very much affects the way the couple write and play music, which they do based out of Tauranga these days. They moved there from Huia in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges to give them “more breathing space to create”, as Fraser explains. Paper Cranes have spent the three years since the release of their debut album ‘The Road Home’ touring and writing new material, with their first new single Midsummer out now.
I wrote the song when I was reminiscing about my time in high school in Sweden. I was sitting in Kingsland, writing, when a wave of deja vu hit me about the time. In Europe Midsummer is a festival where young people get together and just enjoy life. My last Midsummer in Sweden was a changing of an era for me, between leaving school and starting something new.
When you finish school, there’s this moment in time where you have nothing to do and nowhere to be. No classes, no timetable, and no job. And then when you get older those times are more and more brief, and they just don’t happen as responsibility piles in. I think most people can relate to that sort of nostalgia at looking back with happiness, or pride, at a certain time and smiling about that.
I wanted to sum up that kind of nostalgia and that feeling of freedom in a song, where there’s all this expectation and happiness. For me, that feeling is all linked in with ‘new love’, so it felt quite natural to link those ideas.
A lot of the songs I write seem to come out of dreams. I wake up, and there’s a melody, a lyrical idea, and I just start from there. Little Darling, Trouble Is and Every Part of Me were songs like that from ‘The Road Home’. Dreams to me are crucial in releasing what your subconscious is trying to say. I try to get as much out of the dream-song as possible before my conscious brain takes over and starts doubting everything!
Sometimes I’ve had recurring dreams too – which are really interesting when the dream starts where it left off, or where it continues from a certain point and the narrative changes. I’ve always been fascinated with what your brain is trying to process or say to you at that point. In terms of the word ‘dreams’, I imagined them like landscapes of the mind, or mindscapes.
We recorded with Nic Manders at Parachute Studios and it was mastered by Nathan Tiddy. Parachute have these cosy little rooms, a big band room for drums – and a coffee machine – so it was all really easy there.
Nic recorded the last album and we really love what he does. He played a lot on the last album, too, so the core band was the same as the last time. Adam Tobeck joined us on drums as well. He was incredible. Such a joy to watch him play.
It will be within a week after the single. Our concept is following the dreamy idea we’ve been looking for in the song. It’s been shot in Super 8 to follow with the nostalgic ideal I was talking about. It’s just a really happy video – like a ’60s or ’70s home video, with summery shots, festival footage and parks.
We have a follow-up idea to incorporate the recurring dream idea – so maybe you’ll see something along those lines later on.
At points, Naomi and I have divided the jobs right down the middle. Now it’s more on a project by project basis. We’ve had to be pragmatic about it because some things neither of us like doing, so we’d avoid it forever if it was possible.
There are things that I like to do more than Naomi. Marketing, writing things. She follows up on the details, which I never seem to get really straight. We like to make big decisions together, and then divide the jobs depending on who has what happening.
With songwriting, I’m usually the instigator, though Naomi occasionally starts something. Once it gets to a point where it’s half done, we start collaborating. Any earlier just doesn’t seem to work for us. There are a couple of songs where Naomi had an idea for a lyric or a theme and we ran with that.
Yes, that’s right. We don’t have a release date yet, but it should be sometime in 2018.
A lot of the songs on the new album are also based around thoughts, dreams – the inner world, or the inner voice that we all have. That voice can be so positive, and in the next second turn on you, filling you with doubt, anxiety, paranoia.
Some of the songs are about the tricks your mind plays on you. Some are focused on the positives – in being hopeful or excited about the future.
We’ve had a lot of change in the last few years, and exploring that came through the songs too. In saying that, they are not all autobiographical. One of the songs was fairly political, and written about voices rising up against the lies we’re told.
If there’s a general theme, it is an exploration of chasing away the negative and embracing the positive.
Musically, I’d say it’s a little different. It’s on the pop side of folk, and there aren’t as many genuine folk songs. It’s also, on the whole, a lot lighter and more positive than ‘The Road Home’. In saying that, it’s based a lot on piano and acoustic guitar, so people won’t see it as a massive change or anything.
I’d say the main connection is the lyrical construction of the songs, and we still have a duo sound running through them with two voices interlocking. I really like an authentic approach to singing where takes are done live and the two voices are almost like one. In a style like Simon and Garfunkel.
Traditionally, people fold them for peace, and that would be as good a wish as any. World peace.
Or at the very least, world empathy – that people could see others with empathy and act with compassion.