Stella Farnan is an artist that caught our eye back in early 2020. With thoughtful lyrics, an adroit turn of phrase and superb vocals, we had her pegged as an artist to watch in 2020. Obviously that was a year to write off, but Stella popped up again early this year and we were delighted to have her track “The Blue” as our Track of the Week back in June.
Today is the day when Stella drops her debut EP, Come Stay at Mine. The songs were written in Stella’s late teens, so whilst the songs tackle that particularly difficult phase of life, there is a warmth and maturity to the songwriting. Even her sad songs leave you feeling somewhat uplifted. The EP was produced by Soren Maryasin (The Teskey Brothers), so as you would expect it’s all class.
Stella has put together her thoughts on the album, and also delved into each track. It’s a cracking read and it’s a cracking EP. So do press <Play> and read on.
Come Stay At Mine from Stella Farnan – Track-By-Track
Come Stay At Mine is a collection of songs written in my late teens, filled with the inward and outward criticism and sentimentality of that time in life. The EP shares moments of warmth, scrutiny and celebration -feelings reflected both in the music itself and the music-making process. The original sentiments of the songs rang true years later when I befriended musician Soren Maryasin (Soren, engineering on The Teskey Brothers’ Grammy-nominated LP) who went on to produce, engineer and play on the EP. That time working (mostly) between home studios was filled with long days of listening to Aldous Harding and Charli XCX in the studio, many cups of tea and walks along the river out in Warrandyte near Soren’s studio. As the world crumbles around us, Come Stay At Mine wonders: are we building our hiding places with love and open arms, or simply to block out the noise?
The process of writing Liar Alive unlocked a whole new world to me. It was the first time I had done the writing and demo-recording simultaneously. Instead of sitting down with a guitar or piano, I now had access to practically infinite sonic worlds on my computer that I could use as the backbone for the track. The freedom of that process encouraged me to explore new character perspectives in the lyrics. It felt like I was discovering a new person or feeling and could build a world for them to live in through the production choices.
The arrangement was mostly complete prior to going into the studio with Soren, so it was such a satisfying process replacing all the MIDI instruments I had in the demo with big beautiful real ones. We kept a few elements from that original demo too, including the sample that starts off the EP – it’s one of the first things I’d ever recorded in Logic (an old broken hofner played in reverse).
Love Spill was one of those songs that felt like it materialised itself in the room with me, without me doing much. I remember hearing someone once liken their songwriting process to a sneeze – something that just happens quickly and isn’t really in your control. That’s what Love Spill was. It was about times of imbalance in the give and take of our relationships. I had been sitting on that intention for a little bit and then the lyrics, melody and guitar parts just seemed to naturally appear.
When Soren and I went into the studio to record the songs, this was the first one of the batch. It was the first thing that we’d ever made together and everything seemed so easy and playful. Soren is such an incredible producer (amongst many other things). It always felt like we were both just there to serve the songs, and he was always open to trying unusual ideas. This song definitely marks the start of that wonderful collaboration!
One morning I woke up, reached for an instrument and wrote Boxes before getting out of bed. I had just turned 16 and was lying in my childhood bedroom feeling pretty sentimental. Boxes reflects on the playful wide-eyed wonder of youth while also looking forward to the cusp of adulthood. I feel like this song became a place to hold on to that childlike passion and hope, so it can be carried with you on to what’s next. It’s kind of like the well-loved teddy bear of songs.
We tried to make Boxes sparkle as much as it possibly could production-wise. There were a few times when we had to re-record older elements in order to match the energy of the element we just laid down. After all the guitars and keys were done in verse two we had to go back and try and get verse one to sound as exciting. Then once all that was sparkling I decided to go and re-record some of the vocals to match the energy we’d built in all the other parts.
“Act Like a Party”
Act Like a Party had so many different iterations. The first came about many years ago when I was using a microphone and loop pedal to sing and harmonise over a loop of (what eventually became) the verse guitar part. I wrote the verse lyrics over that arrangement, but it eventually got lost amongst old voice memos. When I was offered my first gig, I realised I didn’t have enough songs to play a set so had to scramble to pull it together. I came across one of those old voice memos and decided to try and write a chorus. When you’re working on a loop pedal, you’re limited structurally by the fact that you can’t change chords at the start of a new section. You have to use whatever progression you’ve already built, which can make it really challenging to deliver a strong pop song. When that time came to return to the song, I picked up a guitar instead and that bubble of limitations burst. I remember the chorus, lyrics, chords and melody just kind of came out in one go, as if it had been waiting to be revealed.
The thing I’m most fond of when I look back on recording the EP is all the time spent in Soren’s beautiful studio which looks out over the valleys of Warrandyte. I remember soaking in that view between takes as we were recording guitars for Focus. The song is about feeling frantic. About a frustration and fog that never quite fades. Ironically, one of the periods of time that I have felt most present were our days in the studio recording this EP.
“Don’t Make A Sound”
Don’t Make A Sound scrutinises sentimentality and apathy within and without. Sometimes the easiest way to realise our own bad habits is to see them in someone else. At the time of writing the song I had been watching myself and others retreat into the safety of our own bubbles, and thinking both about the necessity and danger of that process. There seems to be a fine line between that feeling of comfort being beautiful and stifling. I wanted to know whether our hiding places are built with love and open arms or just to block out the noise. I think I was also listening to that Snail Mail album a lot at the time.
Soren, Elena Jones (Bass) and I spent a day with Finn Keane at Head Gap in Preston live tracking the drums, bass and guitar, before heading back to our home studios to finish the other elements. Soren is fantastic at layering guitar parts and we had so much fun doing that on this song.
The Blue is my own little hiding place. I was navigating that tumultuous tightrope of adolescence when I crawled away to the family piano in search of comfort and wrote The Blue. It was a return to the foundational piano-and-voice-in-a-room that created a space to momentarily indulge in those feelings of defeat, before directing a step forward. The chorus’ mantra ‘Maybe I should take mine’ is both a self-criticism and self-encouragement – when all other avenues have been exhausted, sometimes all you can do is take your own advice. This song felt so easeful to record, as each element was just there to support the vocal. Our friend James came up with the beautiful piano part like it was magic.
One of our studio tragedies happened when Soren and I spent almost a whole day recording stacks of vocal harmonies before the session absolutely flipped out and we lost the whole thing. But maybe it was for the better? You can probably hear a bit of our exhaustion in the vocal harmonies that ended up on the recording, which seems to be in line with the song.