Last week on the 5th of February I sat down with Indy Stanton to talk about music and her debut album (The Candle Room) that gets released today.
Ez: Good morning Indy Stanton.
Indy Stanton: Good morning Ezekiel.
Ez: Welcome to Sydney.
Indy: Thank you.
Ez: So, as I understand it, you are an artist of the pop variety.
Ez: And you make pop music.
Ez: And very soon you have an album coming out.
Indy: A couple of days, yeah.
Ez: A couple of days.
Indy: 15th of February it comes out.
Ez: How far down your career is this?
Indy: This is just the start of my career.
Ez: So you’ve decided to just launch with an album rather than…
Indy: So I did a single launch last year and that went really well. And then we decided to record a whole album, and then The PR Files – my publicist got on board and said “Let’s do it”, and I was like “Cool”, so here we are.
Ez: Fair enough. So what kind of pop do you make?
Indy: Probably more like alternative pop, I think. It doesn’t quite belong on JJJ. It doesn’t quite belong on Nova, so I’m not sure where I fit, but it’s just me.
Ez: Is it more electronic, or electric or acoustic?
Indy: It’s just a bit weird. One of my songs is like verse / chorus / verse / bridge and then it ends ’cause that’s what I felt like doing, so it’s pretty experimental I guess.
Ez: So you’re not trying to look for any particular thing.
Indy: Nah, I’m not pushing into one particular genre. I’m just making my own music.
Ez: Seeing as you’re making your own music, what influences do you have?
Indy: Growing up my parents played a lot of Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra; all the old crooners, and so that whole jazzy, minor chords stuff is always in the back of my head, ’cause that’s to me what real music is. Before auto-tune and before all of that.
So a lot of my songs… pretty much all of my songs actually; the way I’ve written them, I perform them on piano and they sound like they could be from the 50’s, 60’s but then what we do in the studio is modernise that, so it’s pretty cool.
Ez: So obviously then it’s not just you who is working on these songs.
Indy: Yeah. So Eslev, my producer… I’ll go in and do piano chords and vocals, and he will do everything else. He just understands what is in my brain. He’ll produce this track and he’ll send it to me and he’s like “What do you think?”, and then we’ll sit down together and nitpick it and be like “Oh, I don’t like this instrument, or this needs to be lower, or this needs to be higher”. It’s so tedious, but it’s awesome.
So we’ve done it together for the whole album. All ten songs.
Ez: So in the creation of it, how much of it has been cerebral vs. from the heart?
Indy: Uh… it really depends. I’m not normal with my writing process. So I will be watching a movie, or something and someone will say something, and then I’m like “Oh, we’ve gotta movie guys, I’ve got to go write a song. It’s just sparked something”.
When I’m writing, I write the lyrics first, always, and I hear exactly how it goes. So I’ll be singing it as I’m writing and so I know this line is sung over a G chord. It’s crazy. I can hear it all in my head, so then as soon as I get to the piano I already know exactly how it goes.
I have a lot to say. Not necessarily about myself. Sometimes I’ll write about fictional characters, but it’s still something I’m passionate about.
Ez: In using fictional characters then and still feel passionate about something, is that to say you find it better to express something when you put a bit of distance between yourself and the subject matter?
Indy: Sometimes, yeah. I think so. It also just kind of makes it more fun for me when I’m writing ’cause I feel a bit whiny if all of my songs are about “Oh my life sucks”.
There’s a TV show called The L Word and there’s a couple in there called Dana and Alice, and their relationship is like so beautiful but so toxic. And so I just wrote about it, bringing in traits of my own toxic relationships but I could kind of like, depersonalise it from myself.
Ez: I guess in a way in that sense as well, when it comes to down the track, when performing these songs it probably would also make them a bit easier to perform as well, because it’s less about you from a certain era.
Indy: Yep. At the same time though, this album is definitely a page out of my book, out of my life. I was going through a relationship when half these songs were written and when the other half of the songs were written, this relationship had ended.
Half of it is sounding like “Ooh, I’m not sure where this is going” and the other half is like “Wow, what a great fucking lesson that was to learn the hard way”, so it’s kind of this crazy diary entry.
Ez: Talking about the album specifically then and on that point, is then it more tend to optimism, or?
Ez: Wouldn’t necessarily say pessimistic. I just don’t know the word that I would use.
I guess is it more upbeat or downbeat?
Indy: They’re really upbeat songs about really sad things.
A lot of it is about my naïveté and my ignorance, but then at the same time I was so happy, so you can hear what I’m singing about is so unhealthy, but I’m so in love with it at the same time.
Ez: Would that then mean… so essentially there’s two faces to the songs.
If you just take it as surface level you’re just gonna get this happy upbeat thing, but if you dig deeper, there’s a bit more to chew on, a bit more involved.
So when going through the songs, at what point did you decide enough songs were enough.
Indy: Initially I was going to do an eight track and then there was some scheduling issues and stuff and we had a few more months, and I was like “I’m gonna write more songs”. I did two more songs, made it a ten track. I recorded about… thirteen, fifteen probably and these final ten are what made it, and I picked these ten because I could not get rid of them. If I had to do an eight track, I could not pick two to get rid of.
Ez: So essentially you ended up with thirteen, fifteen tracks and then you pared it down. These are the ones that work best with each other.
Indy: These are the final ten.
Ez: And do they flow well with each other?
Indy: I think so. Yeah.
Ez: In that case, is the album more conceptual than it is just a bunch of songs?
Indy: Yeah. It’s not so linear, but it is very… it does tell a story.
Ez: And those remaining three to five songs: Are they going to be further worked or maybe reworked, or are they just gone?
Indy: Um, nah. I think I’m just going to drop them. They were songs that I wrote and I was like “This is the best song I’ve ever written in my whole life. This is crazy”, and we would record it and I would hear it and I was like “This sucks. This is not good”. And it wasn’t the production. It was just… some songs I think I’ve just reached their peak singing on a piano and that’s all they need. And also I’d hear the lyrics again and again and I was like “Oh, I suck”. These lyrics [are just] picking rhyming words. That’s awful.
I wasn’t 100% proud of them.
Ez: No chance you could re-use the melodies down the track?
Indy: I can’t, because when I’m writing songs I hear the melody, so it means when I’ve co-written with people, as I’m writing the lyrics, in my head I’m singing how it goes and they’ll sing it a different way. In my head I’m like “That’s not… that’s not how it goes. You’re wrong”.
Indy: So that’s something I need to learn; to write lyrics and not have a melody in my head. So for me, any of my old melodies are copyrighted to those songs.
Ez: They’re essentially… something you can’t separate.
Indy: Which means the more songs I write, the more creative I have to get.
Ez: Okay. That’s a very large uphill.
Ez: But it’s not necessarily worth… going up…
Ez: It’s an uphill worth going up.
Ez: Yeah, well we’re gonna expect stories about confusion and possible heartbreak.
Indy: Yep. And utter happiness and anger with society.
Ez: Anger with society?
Ez: No screaming though.
Indy: No screaming. Just backhanded comments I guess, that I slip in there.
Ez: I will have to look out for them when I inevitably end up reviewing and scrutinising the album.
Indy: There’s a song on the album called “Pity”, that’s about how as a girl who likes girls, I can’t just go out on the street holding my girlfriend’s hand without being stared at or spat on sometimes, or called derogatory names. Or if we kiss in public we get clapped. Someone will start applauding us, or people will just stare. If I was with a boy, no one would care.
It’s really frustrating that it is still just this taboo thing and so that song really captures my frustration about it.
So let’s talk about musical dynamics.
You’ve grown up – as you’ve said – on the classic crooners.
I imagine you’ve listened to a lot of more modern stuff as well?
Indy: Yeah, of course!
Ez: You’re familiar with loudness and dynamic range and all that?
Ez: How important is that to your music?
Indy: My music is really heavily lyrics-based and that’s my focus. I’m really lucky to work with a producer that makes those sort of decisions – or suggestions for me – in all of the dynamics and I either agree or disagree with them. It either feels right or feels wrong and we go from there.
Ez: In regards to loudness then, even though you have a producer that makes those decision, do you think that it’s better to have music loud so it starts [loud] straight away, or quiet so when you turn it up it gets loud?
Indy: I think quiet is better.
Ez: And do you think it has a lot to do with how it sounds if it’s loud immediately?
Indy: I see music as a story, so a lot of…
For example, Billy Eilish; a lot of her songs she’s almost whispering when she sings and then it builds up. I think that pulls you in as a listener.
I’m not the biggest fan of music that starts immediately. That scares me and shocks me, so I lean more towards building that crescendo.
Ez: So you’re going to be launching your album very shortly. Have you done much live playing?
Indy: So I’ve opened for a few bands that were touring Adelaide. I’ve done my single launch and that’s pretty much it at this point ’cause this is sort of the start of everything.
[For] the album launch I’ll be singing the album from start to finish, with some acoustic versions and acoustic covers as well. Different songs ’cause why not? I love singing, and I’m really keen for that but I’ve always been a performer.
Ez: So you’re just going to be touring around Adelaide, or you’re doing the circuit?
Indy: There’s a plan to tour around Australia.
Ez: With touring around Australia, that’s not something you’ve done before I’m guessing.
Ez: How much gear are you going to be transporting?
Indy: How much gear? Got no idea. That’s a manager question. That’s not a me question.
Ez: Are you planning to fly around, or drive?
Indy: Again, that’s all booking agents. I just get told where to go. I’m just here for the experience.
Ez: So, financial aspects: are you concerned about making money?
Indy: Oh, for sure! But I’m not doing it for the money. It’s a thankless job, but I think you kind of have to really wanna do it ’cause you’re not getting anything out of it other than the fact that you’re proud of yourself and that you are connecting with people.
If I was making money from this, I wouldn’t complain. I wouldn’t send it back, but I’m not in this for that.
Ez: So essentially your attitude is you want to be doing your thing. You want to be playing, you want to be performing. I’m guessing [that] so long as you make enough, you don’t care.
Ez: That’s fair.
So how personal for the audience do you want the live performance to be?
Indy: Super personal. Like, welcome to my life sort of show.
Ez: So would be to say then that you want the music to reach out and you want people to get something out of it.
Indy: 100%. Yep.
Ez: So theatrical would your live performance be, do you think?
Indy: I’m a pretty theatrical person. I’m pretty out there, so I don’t know. I feel like it would be different every single night.
I’m not so much into the matching costumes and choreography thing, but at the same time I’d be down for that.
I don’t know. I’d want to do everything.
Ez: But obviously starting off right now it’d probably be a smaller tour, more small clubs and stuff.
Ez: Do you think, and with the amount of performing experience you have so far, do you think then that it’s gonna be less on the theatrical side but more… on the physical side of the preformative?
Indy: No idea what that means.
Ez: So you’d be moving around a lot on stage and really feeling the music.
Indy: I don’t know. I honestly have no idea.
I’d like to think that my music doesn’t need all the theatrics to entertain.
Like Adele for example: she just stands there and she sings.
Other pop artists – and with no disrespect to them – use a lot of pyrotechnics and effects and stuff so people don’t get bored, and I’d love to just have a solid mix of both. Musical appreciation from the audience and an entertaining show.
Ez: So, a lot of this then… as you’ve said before, it’s probably going to go from show to show.
Ez: So obviously you’re putting your all into it.
How far ahead are you thinking with all of this?
Indy: I’m doing day to day.
Ez: No, I mean with the music. How far ahead are you thinking, or is it just you’re taking it as it comes?
Indy: Literally. I’m too scared to think ahead. If nothing comes of this album, I’ve had such an awesome time making it and I’m honestly okay with that.
If something does happen and then I’m then able to make another album? Fantastic.
Ez: Let’s say nothing comes from it, but you enjoy it enough. Would that necessarily prevent you from continuing with pushing forward?
Indy: I’ll always be a musician.
Ez: It just might mean that your role as a musician might change?
Ez: So what does music mean for you?
Indy: The reason I breathe. Always been everything.
Ez: Does it make you feel something different compared to when you’re just doing, say, something like this, or just living everyday life?
Indy: It makes me feel like a human. I feel things very strongly. Super empathetic to my own fault, and music for me is like…
When I’m singing, I’m not thinking about anything else other than what I’m singing about, and that’s fucking awesome. It’s like a drug.
Ez: And kind of going back to the music needs to grow and stuff. Do you think that you could always just settle on just being a pop artist, or you’d push outward?
Indy: I don’t know. Like I said at the beginning, I’m not looking to fit into one musical genre, so it would just be whatever music I’m writing at the time. Whatever section that fits into, that’s cool.
I’m not like “I’m going to conquer being a folk artist, and now a country singer”. If I’m singing something with a guitar and it sounds slightly country and someone wants to label it country music, you do you. That’s fine. I’m not looking for any genre in particular.
Ez: Well, we’ll stop the interview here. Thank you for your time, blah blah blah.
Indy: Thanks for having me, blah blah blah.
Ez: Any parting words? Any words of wisdom from the youth of today?
Indy: Uh, nope. Just make sure to buy my album on the 15th of February.
Ez: On the 15th of February?
Indy: Yep. Day after Valentine’s day. If you screw up and forget to get your significant other a present, get them an album about toxic relationships!
Ez: (Laughter) Alrighty. No worries. Well, thank you very much for your time Indy.
Indy: Thank you.