It was only two years ago around the middle of 2017 when Stella Donnelly released her debut EP Thrush Metal which was met with critical acclaim, especially for the EP’s bold and confronting track ‘Boys Will Be Boys’. Since then, Stella has been busy popping up all over the place; touring the globe and scooping up oodles of Aussie awards including triple j’s ‘Unearthed Artist of the Year’.
Now after a swathe of international shows throughout 2019, Stella will be returning home to grace Laneway Festival for its full circuit for the first time which is a bit of a teen dream come true for the artist.
“I played at the Fremantle Laneway, but I’ve never done the full tour, I’m really excited,” she beams. “It’s always something I’ve wanted to do. Even when I was really young and I would go to Laneway Festival I was like ‘this would be the best festival to play ever’ so 18-year-old me is also super excited!”
Punters coming along to see Stella can certainly expect to get a good earful of her latest album Beware of the Dogs. ‘Watching Telly’ and the album’s namesake track are big hits for sure, but make sure you listen out and cheer extra loud for ‘Die’ and ‘Lunch’ as well, having been particularly fond tracks for Stella to perform and write respectively.
“My favourite track to play is probably either ‘Die’ or ‘Tricks’… ‘Die’ was a really hard song to write. We did it over the space of two years and it was my first proper song where I tried out more electronic-based instruments, playing with a drum machine and doing all of that kind of thing, so it was a real challenge for me doing that song and it almost didn’t make it! We recorded it on the last day we had with the studio and almost didn’t make it into recording, which is so funny now since it’s one of my favourite songs to play and get everyone moving to. But then my favourite song to write was Lunch because we had a big group of people in the studio with us singing the backing vocals and it just felt like a big family event finishing that one-off, I look back really fondly on that one. I find it hard to play live though which is really interesting!”
The rest of the album is also amazing, of course. Traversing a wide range of relevant topical discussions, Stella can be cheery and upbeat at times, but there’s an underlying darkness to the album. While recording the album over in Fremantle, “it was a really dark, stormy winter – and I know people will be like what do you mean, stormy in Perth? Whatever – but it just happened to be the craziest storm, I think it hailed like six days in a row or something? It was really cold and I just remember having this weird haunted feeling the whole time. So I wanted to capture that in the album cover, make it look like a bit of a b-grade horror with the subtitles as well to make it look like a weird show on SBS that you turned on at 3am and you don’t know what’s going on.”
As for the music itself, “I cover a lot of different subjects and themes in the album and overall most of the songs I’ve written are about discomfort. Whether it’s discomfort in what’s happening in society, or whether it’s discomfort within my own relationship, or not being able to see the one I love or going through a break-up, I think the whole album covers discomfort quite easily.”
Catch Stella at Laneway will be coming to Melbourne on Saturday, February 8. Tickets can be purchased at lanewayfestival.com/melbourne/
Written by Jess Sercombe
Photo by Pooneh Ghana