MOMENTUM is a fickle thing for a songwriter. Jae Laffer knows this better than most.
In the 2000s he was riding of heady wave of creativity, fronting Perth indie-rock band The Panics.
The albums Sleeps Like A Curse (2005) and Cruel Guards (2007), made The Panics one of Australia's most acclaimed rock acts.
Cruel Guards, propelled along by the single Don't Fight It, won triple j album of the year in 2007 and the ARIA Awards judged the record Best Adult Contemporary Album in 2008.
In the ensuing years The Panics have operated at a more languid pace. The albums Rain On A Humming Wire (2011) and the new wave-inspired Hole In A Pocket (2016) were spaced out and Laffer stepped away briefly in 2013 to release his debut solo album When The Iron Grows Red.
In recent years family has taken priority for Laffer, 38. He spent four years as a stay-at-home parent with his daughter Astrid, 8.
But music and creating was a constant. It just required a focus. A positive momentum.
"The fire burns brightly the whole time, but at the same time there were periods there where what I was making just didn't feel like something I should share," Laffer says. "I didn't feel like it was the kind of stuff that was putting my personality sincerely on display.
"I was making stuff all the time, which might have been creative, but it didn't feel quite right. It's very hard as some things you can make for yourself and other songs felt like they might improve the atmosphere in the community somehow, if I got them out there."
In time the magic returned. It began when Laffer wrote the first single, the atmospheric Hotel Motel, and continued with his second album, The Long Daydream.
My goal is to be putting music out far more regularly and seeing where that goes.Jae Laffer
"I feel really proud to make stuff I wanna share," he says. "This record is just me being playful. Every song has a different atmosphere and it's just me having fun."
The Long Daydream carries an nostalgic and cinematic vibe, as if the album's eight songs are sound-tracking a film we've watched with our grandparents as children.
The brooding Passiona plods along with a Joy Division-style bass riff as Laffer sings indirectly about the infamous Claremont serial killings from 1996-97 that terrorised Perth.
Bradley Edwards is on trial for the three murders after he was arrested in 2016.
"Without making it too dark, it was more the atmosphere around town which had this hidden drama and darkness," Laffer says.
"I quite enjoy painting a picture in small bits of information that just sum up a certain feeling."
Others songs like Mettams Pool Melody is about his Polish grandfather who escaped a Nazi concentration camp to make a life for himself in Perth and Some Boys Never Learn deals with toxic masculinity.
Laffer admits having a daughter has only strengthened his long-held views that men bottle up their emotions to their own detriment.
"There's a lot of pressure on guys to be a man, be a man, be a man, and you don't really think about it when you're a kid," he says. "It's more that no young boy needs pressure to be anything other than what they are.
"It's just the old norms of what it was to be a man. It was OK to be more insensitive and you had to put on the tough thing, even if you didn't feel tough.
"I don't think anyone needs to be feel uncomfortable anymore about being whatever they are. It's alright to be a tough guy, but if you're not, you don't have to pretend to be either."
During the COVID-19 lockdown Laffer kept himself busy releasing The Panics' early catalogue on Spotify and engaging with fans on social media.
It gave him a chance to share stories like recording Sleeps Like A Curse in a rough industrial estate in Salford, England, where "no cab driver would agree to pick us up from", which forced the band to walk several blocks.
"I had to decide to never push the band under the rug or pretend that my life is separate from that," Laffer says. "It's just a band I'm really proud of."
The Panics have been relatively inactive since 2016. While Laffer says he'd love to record with the five-piece again, he says his bandmates have different priorities.
"We've been together since high school, so at some point everyone naturally felt like a breather," he says.
"We keep in touch. We'll only do something if it feels like it's important for everyone and we put all our time and hearts into something.
"We're not very good at casually getting together to play the odd gig. It doesn't interest any of us."
However, Laffer says music fans can expect to see plenty of himself.
Once touring opens up from the COVID lockdown he plans to hit the live circuit and there's talk of more albums.
"I've got a creative momentum that's built back up, so I've just put this record out and songwriting has come back really strong for me in terms of having a lot of output," he says.
"I'm busy recording a follow-up now. My goal is to be putting music out far more regularly and seeing where that goes."
Jae Laffer's The Long Daydream is out now.