“Stella Donnelly has got the world in her palm, and the brain to do exactly what she wants with it,” we write in our review of the album. “Regardless of tone or subject, she fills every lyric with a divine authenticity and matter-of-factness.”
The album follows debut EP ‘Thrush Metal’ and a handful of singles in introducing a songwriter who’s side-splittingly funny while taking absolutely none of your shit at the same time. From the tongue-in-cheek playfulness of ‘Die’ and ‘U Owe Me’ to vicious takedowns of male entitlement and rape culture on ‘Old Man’ and previous single ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, Stella Donnelly proves herself a versatile, important songwriter across the record.
“It’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do,” she told us of the album when we inducted her into our Class Of 2019 at the end of last year. “When I did the EP, I didn’t have the luxury of having the resources to have a band or use special equipment. But now it’s such a dream to be like, if the song needs a band it can and if it doesn’t it won’t and there’s no pressure either way. Half the record is solo and half is with a band. There’s a couple of songs with synths and drum machines. It’s confused, but that’s me! It’s a perfect representation of who I am.”
Listen to ‘Beware Of The Dogs’ in full below while reading a track by track guide to the record by Stella.
I came up with the chords and chorus to this song in 2017 around the time when Woody Allen called the #metoo movement a witch hunt. It was a very strange feeling for me watching the world change right before my eyes and to see that these men who had exploited their power for so long were actually being held accountable for their actions. It made me look back on my experiences as a young woman doing music and certain powerful men who tried to manipulate me and exploit other young women. I needed to write this song for myself because if I hadn’t I would still feel quite angry about things that I probably let slide in my younger, more naive days. I have no intentions of publicly calling out these people but it’s a nice feeling to me knowing that they may hear this song one day and feel perhaps an inch of the humiliation and powerlessness that they inflicted on me back then.
I have always struggled to write love songs, this is the closest I got to expressing to someone how much I cared for and craved them. I recorded this song twice but a year apart, you can hear the old version of the song in the final bar with the double bass!
This song is my attempt at painting a picture of an awkward Christmas party in Australia, the weather is hot, there are flies in your drink and you’re stuck talking to someone you’d spent the previous year avoiding.
I find it easier to write break up songs than love songs, this was a tough one to record as you can probably hear! I recorded it the day that I wrote it and the proverbial shit was very much hitting the fan right at that moment, so it was a very confronting and earnest experience for me. My best friends were sitting in the room with me while I was recording, they were offering me tissues and fried chicken.
This song is a playful zoom-in on the “Australian Identity” and a loose dig at the morons that used to yell shit at me when I played cover gigs on Sunday afternoons. It probably served me right for singing Wonderwall every weekend
‘Boys Will Be Boys’
I decided to put this on the album because it still feels really relevant for me to perform this song live and unfortunately I still feel like this message needs to be heard. If I have to put it on the next album I will, but hopefully I won’t have to.
This is my favourite song on the record, it was a massive team effort the night before I flew away on tour. A song that was only ever meant to be played on a single guitar and sung turned out to be the most intricate and textured piece of music I’ve ever produced. I wrote this about the feeling of displacement I get when I go on tour and come back and nothing feels the same anymore, it’s not necessarily a bad feeling, it just takes some time to adjust.
The lyrics for this are pretty self explanatory but the music itself was originally a much bigger song with verses, choruses and even a bridge. I moved away from that structure for this song because no matter how hard I tried to write lyrics for it, in the end I only had one thing to say. This song for me was about holding a mirror up to myself and allowing myself to be culpable and accountable when it came to the breakdown of a relationship. There are always two sides to a story and it was important that I remembered that. It’s easy for musicians to paint themselves as the victims but I try to avoid doing that in my songs.
I wanted to write a song that I could go jogging to! I haven’t been for ONE jog since I wrote it but NEVER MIND! It was a really fun song to write.
‘Beware Of The Dogs’
This song is about the historic and continuing racism that flows through the Australian media and government. As a white Australian I am extremely privileged to have the platform that I do and whilst I occupy this space that in my opinion is far too often occupied by white people, I am going to use it to speak up.
‘U Owe Me’
Is a song about my old boss at a pub that I worked at many years ago in Perth, turns out I was on the wrong week of my payroll the whole time so I got my money as per usual, I was very dramatic back when I wrote it.
I wrote this song about many things but the focus is definitely on reproduction rights for women, I don’t think religion should be used as an excuse to inhibit human beings from making choices about their own bodies and I try to portray that in this song.
More ‘heartbreak hotel’ vibes, woe is me.
‘Beware Of The Dogs’ is out now via Secretly Canadian.
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Across her debut album, the Perth musician finds herself tackling gender equality, sexual harassment and Australian nationalism, capturing a society in transition.
The April issue of DIY - featuring Hayden Thorpe, Stella Donnelly, PUP, Whitney & more - is out now!
DIY is free - pick up a copy in our usual, beloved UK stockists or read for free online.
Also featuring Stella Donnelly, Foxygen, PUP, Whitney and more, the new mag is out on Friday (12th April).