Left-leaning pop artist Austen has announced her brand new single ‘North South East West‘, a gorgeous track about blossoming love.
“North South East West’ feels evocative of alt-pop forces Clairo and King Princess with a Mark Ronson-esque beat and production. It also exhibits something uniquely Austen. Perfectly symmetrical, with gentle, rolling percussion and lush, full instrumentation that highlights Austen’s quietly assured vocal. “North South East West” is a woozy track that feels just like falling in love. Co-written by Evan Klar and Hailey Collier, and co-produced by Evan Klar and Jono Ma, North South East West is a beautiful addition to Austen’s impressive discography.
We sat down with Austen to chart about “North, South, East, West” and what’s next on the horizon.
I love your new single, North, South, East, West. I’ve had the chorus stuck in my head since I first listened to the track last week. Tell us a bit about what the song means to you:
Thank you so much, I’m glad you like it. That’s so nice. I guess the song is kind of about the honeymoon phase, we wanted to evoke this feeling of just, like, cruisey, really simple love at the start of a relationship where everything is sort of simple, going well and there’s no drama. And I think it’s a nice change for me to write a song like that because my last EP was kind of about toxic relationships and very dramatic things that had happened in my relationships. I just wanted it to be the opposite of that I guess.
It has a very very lighthearted, flirty, bubbly sort of feeling.
That’s good – laughs. That’s what we were going for.
What is your creative process like?
I have a home set-up at the moment, but this song was recorded at Fallback Studios in Melbourne. I did a writer residency there so they have a few producers that have rooms at their studios. They do a songwriter residency where I went in for the week and did a session with each of the producers there. I met Evan Klar, who was one of my co-writers for the track, through that residency. And so we just started writing heaps together and I ended up staying an extra week or two after the residency was over and just having sessions with Evan Klar and Haley Collier, was the other writer.
So we sort of went into the studio and wrote a bunch of songs and this is the one which came out there and it was instantly our favourite one that we’ve made. We had a day where we just played around and wrote the idea for the song. We came in the next day and recorded everything and produced it up. Then, after the writing process, I collaborated with Jono Ma who is the producer and mix engineer on the track. He added his extra spice and put his take on things.
I love the video, it’s very clever. How did that process come together?
The concept kind of comes from – I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it – there’s this cool talk show from the 1960s called The Ed Sullivan Show. It’s kind of this really quintessential black and white, The Beatles get up and they’re all just playing live as a band to this audience of screaming girls or whatever. I just really liked the look and the feel of it, and I wanted to do a play on that. A modernised version and give it a little twist. I guess that we found Anita’s Theatre which is where it was filmed, this beautiful old vintage theatre in Wollongong in NSW. We had that for a few hours to get that live feel and live aesthetic. I sort of had the idea of playing each character because, I dunno it was kind of a DIY process and we only had a few hours there. I couldn’t really get a bunch of actors of anything like that so, that was a way to put a cool spin to that live talk show and of vibe.
Can you play every instrument, as you do in the clip?
I’m, like, okay at every instrument. The one I was definitely most faking was the drums, I’m not amazing. I can play guitar and I can play bass and because I play guitar and bass live sometimes I knew parts on that. But with drums, my boyfriend is a drummer so I was like, “can you please teach me how to do a basic rock beat?” And he was like, “alright” – air drums. It was all in the trick of the camera I think, not getting the bits where I like, stuffed it up.
What is your favourite part of what you do?
Definitely song-writing and production. I guess at the moment because we’re in lockdown in Melbourne, we just found out. I’m just, especially after the passed year, I’ve just really embraced sitting in my little corner of this house and just having everything beside me and just writing, and writing and producing my own stuff. I think that’s the most fulfilling part of it. At least at the moment. I think previously I would get a lot of encouragement from playing live shows and especially, it can be a very solitary process as a solo artist you’re just sitting here by yourself and not really having feedback from people or people to bounce off of their energy.
But when you go to play a show, you get that real-time feedback of people reacting to your music so it’s really like, “Oh cool, I remember why I do this and why I wrote this”. I’ve definitely adjusted to not doing that as much so I’m really just finding so much creative fulfilment from just sitting in my little corner, in my zone and just writing. So I think I would have to say that the writing process is my favourite part.
Has Covid affected your musical process?
I think it definitely has, it’s just changed my whole mindset I suppose, just in general. But I guess it’s helped me to be patient. In this industry it can be really easy to think that you need to be, like, constantly online or constantly releasing songs or doing some form of content to keep people interested in you. Just like, “please, notice me, give me some attention!” You know, and I just don’t think it’s good for you. Especially if you’re a creative person. It’s the worst thing you can try to put your focus into, because then you sit down to write a song, thinking about Instagram or something I dunno.
So I think, just the fact that like, we were just forced to be patient I guess. And just forced to look at different ways of doing things and look to the long-term instead of that instant, having to always have shows, always be releasing something. I think ironically it’s made me more solitary as a writer which is good and I’m just embracing that. I’ve had some writing sessions over Zoom, which is cool.
What was your life like growing up? Have you always been interested in music?
Absolutely. So, I grew up out in a place called Dalby which is like, a little country town in Queensland with a population of about 10,000 or something like that. So I did classical violin when I was about 5, all through school and I was very heavily into that. My parents are both musical, so they were like, as soon as they saw a little spark of musicality in me they were like, “Oh my God, woo!” Which was really cool. They were stoked. So I did classical violin all whilst I was growing up and it was kind of, a bit weird in that kind of town. In a regional town it’s very much sports and agriculture focused.
And so we have to drive a couple of hours each week, there and back to Brisbane for lessons because there weren’t really any teachers around. So it was definitely something that I was always just so into and so passionate about and very heavily involved in. I think, like, going against that and rebelling into Punk music when I was a teenager or electro pop now. It’s definitely been in some form or another I’ve been interested in [music] from a really young age.
Who are your biggest musical influences musically?
Oh my gosh, it changes so often. At the moment I’m listening to, I guess for this song we were influenced a lot by Mark Ronson in a production sense. He’s got this cool, kind of retro spin on his production style which is something that we tried to get a little taste of in there. I guess at the moment what I’m listening to at the moment is Little Dragon, Grimes, lots of like, house music and just cool synth sounds. Like anything with cool, dance-y, electronic. Anything with a bit of a throwback vibe. I listen to The Beatles, like constantly and The Beach Boys, that kind of era. My pace just stopped at this certain point, like the heyday of MGMT, Empire of the Sun, just like the heyday of indie-electro. I have never really moved passed it.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
It’s really hard for me to describe because the EP that I’m bringing out this year, it’s got 4 tracks and I think they’re all quite different. They all have a really different sort of flavour and side to my writing and the stuff that I like listening to. This one is kind of in it’s own little niche and I think each of the others show a different side. So, the next one that I’m bringing out is a little bit more in that electronic, synth-y, dance-y, it’s just got kind of like, this driving bass kind of thing going on and vocal chops, stuff like that. So, that’s kind of more in that world. This song I’d probably describe as like, alt-indie pop. There’s a little bit of electronic influence, there’s a little bit of maybe 60s, 70s influence in the guitars. It’s so hard for me to accurately describe it. The other ones on the EP, 2 of them are quite synth-based, so it’s more that side of my taste. One of them is just like a straight up pop ballad kind of vibe. Like, 80s drive soundtrack.
So, what’s coming next? Is the EP coming out soon?
Yeah, it’ll be coming out this year sometime, I think that we’ve got tentative dates locked in but I can’t give you anything definite.
Have you got any shows coming up?
I do, yes. I’m announcing this tour this week which I’m so excited about. July 16 in Sydney, July 24th in Melbourne and July 30th in Wollongong. In Sydney I’m playing at Waywards. I’ll have ticket links up this week so they’ll be all over my socials and stuff. If they want want to buy tickets before the night then that would help me to feel like people are going to actually show up – laughs.
For ticketing info, check out Austen’s social pages in the coming months. Check out the clip for Austen’s ‘North, South, East, West’ below:
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