Vocalist Kyle Fisher takes you track by track through the new record.
CONTENT WARNING: This article contains discussion of mental health. If you are suffering from any of the issues that have been discussed or need assistance, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
Sydney trio STUMPS will finally release their debut studio album, All Our Friends, tomorrow (4 December).
To celebrate, vocalist Kyle Fisher sat down with The Music to go through the new record track by track.
Here's what Fisher had to say.
Mt Pleasant was written on a particularly drunken, self-loathing night, when self love seemed like an unattainable paradise. In truth, I wish I could say that the eventual themes of the song - technology, cannibalism, and metaphors of physical dependency - had any preconceived or intentional placement, but that would be unequivocally false. Mt Pleasant simply came from a place of vulnerability. I struggle desperately with overthought and find it difficult to write in a completely unfiltered way. The impetus, as I hazily remember, was nothing more than staring at my phone whilst on a swaying, drunken trot home. I found it so loathsome... that impulse to consume social media, in a cowardly attempt to distract myself from a moment of self reflection.
Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter
We made a pop song and it’s about suicide. It’s unfortunately an issue that I have far too much experience with. The Northern Beaches, where I grew up, has an underbelly of addiction, mental illness and suicide beneath all of its shimmering beauty. It’s this bleak contrast that inspired the song. The verses are from the viewpoint of a misfit, whose observation of menial, unimportant things being of paramount importance to others, sets them on a suicidal loop.
“The kids have grown up selling pop rings/anything to try buy a condo by the beach/I’ve had enough/I don’t give a *uh*.”
This song covers the suppression of emotions in the masculine stereotype and the cycle of living in an environment where this suppression isn’t simply neglected, but encouraged. This idea exemplifies the contrast that is so ingrained in our musical ethos… turning the acknowledgment of one’s flaws into a stirring chorus.
“Hold me close, hide the feeling/No one knows what you’re fearing/Go alone, wait for another time.”
This song is one of the more personal songs on the record. The instrumentation came very, very early on in the STUMPS canon, but the lyrics and melody eluded me until we began working on in pre-production. Our producer Fletcher Matthews was pivotal in this process. He pushed me further into myself than I had been prepared to go for this song.
“So think of me as what you want/a Labrador in over-thought/my mind is pulsing like the tide/she pulls me in, she makes me alright.”
I have a tendency to over-complicate and overthink things in my life, which I believe stems from a hesitancy to allow myself to be vulnerable. So I guess this song is an attempt to acknowledge and rectify that tendency in some small way and to remind myself of the people that make me alright.
We wanted to employ tropes of disco and dance percussion throughout the record. We felt the Nile Rodgers-inspired guitar rhythms in this track backdropped the lyrically over-simplistic chorus. It seems to be an overused idiom to not sweat the small stuff, so we wanted to balance that cheesy candour with a bit of self-awareness in the bridge.
“Is this really what you want to hear?”
Life is convoluted, and there is only one cheesy truth. So just have a laugh… because is there any point in doing anything else?
2020 is a self-referential song, under the guise of a generational rock ballad. Sonically, this track is a love letter to the alt-rock ballads of yesteryear such as Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead, Beetlebum by Blur etc. For me the song is commentary for acknowledging the poor habits in your life, and breaking their cycle.
"Come along and break up the chain/all the kids are trying the same/so come along and break them off or nothing’s going to change."
This song was one of the hardest tracks for us to complete. For some reason it always felt like we would take one step forward and two steps back. Each idea implemented seemed to cause the rest of the song to tilt. It became both a balancing act and a marathon. The aesthetic of the track was inspired by Gorillaz, Two Door Cinema Club and The Jungle Giants, as we felt my voice contrasted well alongside a dancier, more electronic approach. While this song was a bit of a struggle to complete, we became infinitely more confident in the sound we wanted to create on the record. Without the lessons and frustrations we learned creating this track, the album wouldn’t be the same.
Usually my wacky arrangement ideas get massaged into something more accessible by the rest of the band, but there was something about the restrained instrumentation on this track that leant itself to a choral arrangement. As for its sentiment, Daffodils is about societies obsession with consumption… it’s about being caught in the middle of something you can’t stop, searching for relief. The verse is the intake, and the chorus the exhale. Playing this song has taken some time to get that feeling right. Usually we belt the ever-loving hell out of a chorus, but we felt this track pushed for a softer approach.
Suburbia, for me, began as an attempt to empathise with the violent kids. The ones with storm clouds raging in their heads. The kids I was terrified of as a teenager… In retrospect, I realised that fear was born of ignorance and a lack of understanding the impetus of their anger. The raucous drums served as the perfect template to explore the indifference, with a subtler understanding lens. It’s one of my favourites on the record.
“He keeps shutting out the thunder, bunker down/but the cracks are in the walls, don’t make a sound/the bottle’s always empty/suburbia is deadly.”
(Culture Tourniquet is an interlude that, again, explores the brutal notion of suicide. It’s a lullaby that rips your heart out. It’s born out of exhaustion, and is one of the most impactful moments on the record)
I wrote this one after seeing a friend of mine whose childhood best friend had committed suicide. I’ve been to too many of those funerals and knowing the grief she was going through... I just felt so angry. The verses were originally written as a poem, by me trying to find some catharsis in what I was feeling.
“The kids are all dressed in black/if only nooses had more slack/oh please don’t cry it can’t get worse/the schools will bare another hearse/they’ll make a culture tourniquet/the world keeps turning anyway.”
I think I wrote 10 or 11 of these brutal verses that I never thought I would find a tune for. Much later, I stumbled upon the chords, and they fit the meter of that poem so perfectly that I couldn’t help but pair the two. During the recording process I tried hard to distance myself from the sentiment as best I could. Self preservation, you know? We completed the song at three or four minutes and it never really felt like it belonged on the record sonically, which frustrated the hell out of me. How could a song so perfectly surmise the emotional centre point of this album, and yet be so misfitting? With Fletcher’s assistance we found that by treating the song as an interlude, we were able to fit the tune in a context that had a sharper poignance.
This song was actually inspired by throw-away chatter I’d overheard at my local pub. Conceptually the track is pretty simple. Initially it felt like the shift we were looking for sonically, but it turned out to be more of a steppingstone into the broader sound of the record, and it helped bridge the gap between our first release and the album.
The Bore is my favourite song on the record. Sometimes you’ll write a song that just falls out of the sky, that somehow fits from the moment it hits the page. But it’s rare that I’m able to think of a concept and apply some wild musical ideas I’ve thought of over some months. I wrote the song in 6/8 and imagined the bass and drums to play in 4/4, creating tension that allowed a section of unison to be the climax of the song. When I first showed Jonny and Merrick they weren’t sold on the crescendo, so Jonny broke out into a cut-time groove. It was exactly what the song needed, and it was clear the song had to conclude the album. This song left us not only content with the resolution of the record, but it made us hungry for our next musical endeavour.
STUMPS will embark on an east coast tour of Australia next April. For more details, check out theGuide.