Australian-born alternative rock artist Suzie Stapleton has returned with a new single. Since relocating to London in 2015 she has joined forces with bassist Gavin Jay (Jim Jones Revue/The Righteous Mind) and drummer Ian White (Gallon Drunk) to create a collection of guitar-driven noir soundscapes laced with intricate melodies.
Tomatrax caught up with Suzie to talk about her latest music.
It’s been a while since your last release, what have you been up to over this time?
I guess the most significant thing that happened between then and now was that I moved to London from Australia. I left on Australia Day, 2015 – a kind of reverse invasion. I took some time out traveling and writing for a couple of months whilst I was not bound to a rental and whilst my worldly possessions were shipped across the seven seas. I mostly spent time in Spain in a small mountain town called Quentar, also passing through Germany and Czech Republic along the way, holing up in AirBnBs and writing. After a few months I settled in London, and started to conjure my new life. Since then I’ve been juggling a day job and touring and managed to find some kindred musical spirits in the process with whom I’ve been working.
What was the inspiration behind the black and white “abandoned playground” video for ‘You were there’?
That song has been kicking around for a few years. I had an idea stuck in my head for a clip which involved something along the lines of a paper mâché constructed diorama with cardboard puppets and a swing that would move in time with the bass line that underpins the track. However, I lacked the skills, patience, or any budget to see that come to fruition, so we settled on filming a real swing. The playground is in Hampstead Heath and has a lot of character. We filmed near the end of Winter so the bare trees and rickety wooden fence serve as a nice moody backdrop. The black and white thing trickled through from my Instagram account. I hate social media. For me it’s the opposite of creative thought. Though I must admit I am hopelessly addicted to it and I’m constantly trying to disconnect. Anyway, I was getting frustrated wasting energy and time editing photos and choosing filters etc – I mean, who cares? And besides, despite my best efforts my pictures would generally come out looking like a child had vomited after eating candy floss and rainbow all day suckers at the fair. So I started publishing everything in black and white. This was partly due to an aversion to looking at a screen and a general lack of enthusiasm for deliberating about aesthetics, though also partly because I do love the look of black and white photography. I love iconic images from the 60s and 70s – something about the monochrome gives them a mystical element. Like embalming a moment in tar and moonlight.
When can we expect your next release?
The next single will be out next month ahead of a full band tour through France. The song is called Yesterday’s Town and was written when I was in Quentar. The lyrics are inspired by a book called Pedro Paramo by Mexican writer Juan Rulfo. In the book the protagonist goes in search of his father that he’s never met. He seeks out his father’s home town only to find a literal ghost town when he arrives. Whilst reading the book I was going through a process of grieving after losing a close friend. Spain conjured up a lot of images from the book, with the whitewash buildings and dramatic mountainous landscapes. I found the sentiment echoed certain aspects of what I was going through and they blended somewhere along the way in the song.
You relocated from Australia to the UK, what prompted that move?
In the years leading up to the move I had been coming over and touring Europe roughly once a year. The distance and cost made it hard to do it with any regularity. I definitely felt that the European market was better for my music – Australia can be a bit limited if you don’t have a more mainstream sound. For some time I had also felt a strong pull to explore my family connection. My father is English and my Grandmother was also living down near Brighton when I arrived. Sadly she passed away last year, but it was wonderful to spend a couple of years close to her.
How does making music in the UK compare to making music in Australia?
London is very fast-paced and there’s a lot happening all the time. I’m not sure it’s actually changed my creative approach all that much. I was living in Melbourne previously which is a great town for music – though London definitely feels more open to different musical influences. You can pursue anything here and find your place – though you may not have much room in your home studio (slash bedroom).
You’re also set to appear on the cover’s album Under the covers, how did this come about?
One other circumstance that factored in to my moving to the UK was that I had started working a lot with Cypress Grove, who is a based in London. We had been working via emailing files back and forth – first on The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project, and then on his some of his solo work. He also collaborates with Lydia Lunch. They released an EP which was a precursor to “Under The Covers” and asked me to do some guest vocals on. That then evolved into the full album – again, I performed backing vocals on several of the tracks.
What song did you pick to cover?
The songs were all chosen by Lydia. They are not the kind of songs you would normally expect her to burst into, ranging from Jon Bon Jovi to Tom Petty. I think part of the idea was to take songs from opposite sides of the spectrum – hated songs even – and interpret them in unexpected ways, to hear the songs anew. And maybe just to fuck with people a bit.
When writing what comes first, the words or the music?
If only I had a formula. Songs come together every which way. I generally work on musical ideas and record them on my phone or computer, then jot ideas down in a notebook or in my phone, sitting down to flesh those out in longer sessions. When I persist like this, at some point the ideas collide and magically permeate one another. And sometimes I wrestle fruitlessly with a thousand loose ends.
What do you have planned after the single release?
There’ll be another single out following ‘Yesterday’s Town’ and more touring – plans to visit Australia are underway. We’re also working towards a full album though that won’t be until the new year now. There’s also a lot of behind the scenes work going on for the The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project – I’ve been chipping away on that on and off for a while now with Cypress Grove. It will be the fourth and final album in the series. I recorded a track for it this time around with Gavin Jay and Ian White, plus I’ve also been working as producer, arranger, and co-writer for various other collaborations on the record. Many of the artists who’ve appeared on it previously will be back again – Nick Cave, Mark Lanegan, Mick Harvey, Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind – plus a few new faces. It will be out in 2018.
Check out Suzie Stapleton’s webpage page for a Free download of her latest single!