Farrago reporter Aeva Milos sits down with local musician Stella Farnan.
It is a Sunday evening late November at Northcote Social Club and Stella Farnan is about to perform. The curtain is drawn and the crowd stands, pressed against the stage. There is something electric hanging in the air—a mix of anticipation and intrigue ringing through the room.
That morning, Stella and I sit in a café in Northcote. The air thrums with Alex Lahey playing over the speakers, and a dog wanders in and out of the building. She sips her coffee and says: “Anything can be good if it’s exciting and makes you want to dance or cry.”
Stella talks about music like she’s reading the back of her hand, with a fluency that comes after years of performing.
Her first introduction to music came from her family. She pinpoints a specific memory: listening to her sister’s CD collection, a playful mix of Kasey Chambers and Missy Higgins.
Much of her songwriting today still occurs in the home she’s lived in her whole life, clothed within the four walls of her childhood bedroom.
“If you start singing in the house, someone will start harmonising with you,” she adds, leaning forward in her chair and laughing.
Image courtesy of Stella Farnan.
As she’s grown and evolved into a musician, it has been her friendship with Soren Maryasin (The Teskey Brothers) that has been especially influential for the singer.
Meeting at university, the chance encounter sprung an undeniable synergy between the two musicians that has expanded both the production quality and vision of Stella’s discography.
“The record wouldn’t sound the way it sounds without Soren,” Stella reveals. Soren not only played drums for her debut EP Come Stay At Mine, but produced it as well.
Come Stay At Mine, released in August, toes the line between nostalgia and the present. Written when she was just a teenager, there’s a matured sense of control, gracefully balanced with an unbridled passion, that is incredibly palpable within the record despite the years that have passed.
“It’s about the little world of the song, rather than me playing from this perspective now,” she says.
Her opening track ‘Liar Alive’ echoes with the rich textures of an artist just stepping into the limelight. It is dark and refined, a lovechild of Hayley Williams and Courtney Barnett. As Stella weaves her spell-binding lyricism through tight guitar riffs in ‘Love Spill’, she navigates through the complicated sinews of longing while revealing a profound musical knowledge.
“I think I wouldn’t have chosen to record them and put them out if I didn’t still have a connection to them.”
When the lights fade in and Stella appears on stage that Sunday night, with Maryasin, Gab Strum (Japanese Wallpaper) and Elena Jones (Sunfruits), something shifts. Call it a noticeable sense of wonder that ripples through the crowd. The audience stands transfixed by her presence.
Stella headling her first gig since this year's lockdown. Image by Joanna Guelas.
This is her first headliner since this year’s lockdown but there is an air of coolness about her that says she is right at home, in her most comfortable space. Strumming her guitar with fervour, the audience responds by shaking their bodies to the rhythm of her music. Later, she creates an intimacy that makes the room feel smaller, like you are the only person in the crowd.
I recall what Stella said earlier: if it’s exciting and makes you want to dance or cry.
There is something cerebral and tender in the way she moves between these two worlds, both vulnerable and assertive at the same time.
When I ask Stella what goes through her mind when she is up on stage, she grins and says: “What if I just suddenly stop playing?”. Watching her perform that evening, the thought crosses my mind: What if Stella stopped playing right now? What would happen?
Bathed in an ombre blue light, there is a moment in the performance when the crowd gets a little louder as they sing alongside her, bodies jostling against one another in the surge of excitement.
If Stella suddenly stopped, everyone would simply fill in the silence. For an artist still defining themself personally and creatively, such a moment stands as a stark testament of how self-assured and gifted she is. There is one thing to be certain of: the stage will only grow bigger and the crowds will only become louder for Stella Farnan.
Come Stay at Mine is available on all major streaming platforms. You can also purchase the EP on Bandcamp.
Image courtesy of Stella Farnan.