Discover This: Steph Sweet
Posted on 16/10/2019 by robilaz
British singer-songwriter Steph Sweet freely admits she’s a “refined taste” but it’s difficult to not be intrigued by her feisty, often contentious approach to pyschy acoustic indie-rock meets punk brand of music.
In Steph’s words: “Steph Sweet isn’t easy listening, it’s not always comfortable listening, but it is rewarding. It’s poetic, it’s intelligent and it sounds like it inhabits it’s own world.” And we couldn’t agree more. Her style is laid-back yet punchy, relaxing yet aggressive. It’s a real assault on the senses, in a mellow manner.
Case in point, most recent single Not Your Pussy which, as song titles go, is pretty out there. A rumbling sound opens up, then a big bassy guitar sound before a distorted riff jumps in alongside Steph’s edgy vocals “Post post-feminist, Full-time work and chores and dishes, Pro-bionic modern woman, Stretched so thin in sticky prisons, Post post-feminist sisters, Gym and gin and running blisters, Festivals and Las Vegas witches, Soho home stars and post-op stitches.”
The driving guitar riff continues under occasional cries of “Stretched too thin,” then drops out leaving a fuzzy bassline under Steph’s vocals “Post post-feminist, I get to work and wash all the dishes, Mustn’t forget to shave my fanny, If there’s a hair then maybe he won’t like me.” The guitar kicks back in under a repeat of the vocals then intensifies under repeats of “It’s not yours, It’s mine.” Give it a listen in the video below:
Steph’s music varies from laid-back indie through to more upbeat, punk-tinged tracks like All The Things, the opener to Observation Ward. It opens up with repeating guitar riff with funky synth sounds over the top before dropping into a verse dominated by Steph’s echoey vocals. The opening guitar returns under the chorse vocals “It’s too brutal, Finding it hard to breathe.”
A second chorus gives way to a return of the opening guitars alongside a big bassline, the pace drops down a little, before bursting into a big final blast of the chorus. Check it out in the super cool video below:
Then there’s more upbeat, rockier tracks like the super cool, albeit somewhat dreamy sounding He Told You Twice, which you can listen to below.
We had a chat with Steph to find out more, give it a read below…
GR: Who is Steph Sweet?
SS: “Steph Sweet is my musical self and I’m half English and half Irish, of Scandinavian descent. A tall, green-eyed, natural redhead, feisty, moody, funny, affectionate. Meh.
“Fascinating fact: my great-grandfather was a Druid.”
GR: You just released Not Your Pussy. Now that is a song title!! Dare we ask… What should people be expecting from the song? And what inspired you to write it?
SS: “Hah, well I knew it was a contentious title right from the off. I was trying to warp the common expectation of what this song should be. And I’m really back into punk at the moment, so it’s kind of a homage to The Slits and X-ray Specs, as well as the new feminist punk bands like Dream Nails and Fisty Muffs.
“I wrote this for an international DJ. She dated a guy with hands like petri-dish colonies, who was nagging her, late at night, to get her fanny shaved. Understandably, after working, cooking and then cleaning his house and tending to his children, she was exhausted and unimpressed. All the women I know are really hot and really busy, so yeah, I was just trying to make a social observation, even if it is a bit cheeky.”
The track comes from your debut album, which is out now too. What should people be expecting from the rest of your music?
SS: “Eclectic. That’s the best way to sum me up. Some songs are psychedelic acoustics, full of tambourines and twelve-strings, like drifting away on a sunny day. And others like Pussy are in your face, dream-punk indie rock. I’ve always liked that juxtaposition of a sweet, choral melody, with a vicious lyric and killer bass and drums.”
GR: How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
SS: “Whale music for the deaf. On a bad day anyway. I’m a refined taste, but I’m the real deal. The eternal outsider. Music from the heart in a broken world. Underground music and outsider art.”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
SS: “I’ve been making music for a long time, it’s my passion. I tend to write about the dark underbelly of life, stories of blood and love, spells and unlikely animals. The unhappiest times in my life have been when I’m not making music. And then I disappear like Alice.”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
SS: “Debbie Harry. Kate Bush. Janis Joplin. Patti Smith. The Doors. Elliott Smith. QOTSA. I have thousands more…”
GR: What have you got coming up through the rest of 2019? New music, new gigs, recording etc…?
SS: “I am really excited to be going into the studio with drunkeninstrumentcorporation (aka Marco Abbá). He is an amazing musician. We’re going to write and record the EP in Italy and England over the autumn/winter.”
GR: Anything else you’d like people to know about you/your music?
SS: “It’s all from my heart. And a lot of it’s about being broken. Sometimes it’s good to just open up and say what we really feel, even if it is only in a song.”
Steph Sweet - "All The Things"
There is an interesting background level of darkness I’ve been noticing increasing in music the past several months. While most of these bands are latching onto the tried and true tropes of the Peter Murphy voice, a ripping off later day Cure riffs — Steph Sweet has brought an interesting and new sound to this area.
With powerful vocals, and swirlly and crunchy guitar riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place in a late 90’s britpop, yet grounded somewhere more in the early 80’s. “All The Things” is dark, broody, a little strange, but also interestingly an ear worm that will grab you and not let go.
WAKING DREAM NYC
“ Sweet’s music definitely has its roots in the 60s as well as subtle reflections of the 90s that contains an almost psychedelic wave feel. The components of her songs seem to fit together nicely and with sounds that exhibit the traits of both modern and classic psych bands. The fuzzed out guitar sits comfortably in the mix along with the dynamics of the drums, while Steph’s layered vocals swirl around with reverb in a way that is pleasing the ears.
All the while, her lyrics seem to quietly ask the listener to acknowledge the harshness of the physical world. Not everything is always happy all of the time and cruel reality may at any point reveal itself, no longer cleverly disguised for your comfort. We get the feeling that there is more to Steph’s words than first impressions. Instead, the moment is like a psychedelic trip calling for closer introspection to the extreme. Let go and take life as it comes for good and for bad.
To the casual listener, these messages may be difficult to pick up on. Aside from the fact that everything isn’t always incense and peppermints, Steph seems to bare her soul.
It’s easy to get lost in the calm of Steph’s sounds. The sound of her gentle voice and sweet sounding guitar contrasted with the rather matter of fact attitude of her lyrics might help us to better understand the art, if not the artist. Sweet’s depictions of life contain with it, a sparkling pallet of feminine perspectives, and social satire. Flash back to reality as you come down from this colourful rush and fade out to black!
When Steph Sweet and I first talked, I knew immediately that I liked her style. Just the same, I wanted very much to speak with her and hear more from her about her life, the inspirations behind her songs, and also to understand how she came to create them. Most of my questions were answered in this interview, so let’s get started already. Here it is! Check it out!”
LUND: “I know it said on your SoundCloud description that you play the guitar, the drums, the keyboards and you sing. When did you first start to play the various instruments that you currently use in your work? Also, did you take lessons for singing or was it just a natural progression (where no lessons were needed?)”
SWEET: “I started acoustic guitar lessons at school when I was seven, but never persevered with it. I also played the flute at school when I was eleven, and likewise, got bored and never continued. Other than that I am self-taught. My grandfather was a gifted piano player and when he was first married, he had a piano that everyone in the street would come and gather around to sing away their woes and worries. My cousin was also a gifted and handsome vocalist.”
LUND: “Have you been in other bands before starting out as the solo artist ‘Steph Sweet’?”
SWEET: “I’ve been in many, many bands. I love the camaraderie of it. In some way, that is why Soundcloud is such an important platform for me. It brings together like-minded musicians that I never would have met otherwise. Being a solo musician was born purely from the necessity of me wanting to make my own particular music.”
LUND: “What bands were you interested in as a child? What artists have influenced your work over the years?”
SWEET: “Well, I’m very influenced by sixties bands (such as ‘The Doors,’) and always have been. Other genres I love are alternative, freak-folk, stoner rock, heavy rock, psychedelic and folk music (all of which are very important to me.) As a child, our house was always full of music, and we listened to lots of different stuff ranging anywhere from 60s psychedelic (The Beatles for example) to classical music.”
LUND: “Where do you typically record your tracks? Does anyone help or assist you with your current project?”
SWEET: “I am so very lucky to have worked with multi-talented Marco Abba (aka drunkeninstrumentcorporation) this last year. He has an enormous sensitivity to my work and is featured on three tracks for my new album. All other artists that I have worked with are always clearly listed, because I feel it is very important to give full credit to those who work with me. As for writing and recording, I have my own very small studio and a variety of DAWs (digital audio workstations) that I use. The process of song-writing can vary enormously, depending on the song and sound.”
LUND: “Have you collaborated with others during your time as a music artist or would you be open to collaborating with others on SoundCloud or otherwise?”
SWEET: “I have a playlist on Soundcloud with all of my collaborations on it. Some songs are also on past albums. I consider it a great honour to have worked with some of the finest musicians from around the world. The only issue I have is that of time. I simply don’t have time to work on all of the projects and with all of the people I would like to.”
LUND: “What inspires your music? What are some of the hidden meanings and concepts behind some of your favorite tracks & album creations?”
SWEET: “I am inspired by life and the Gods. I don’t really do hidden meanings. It’s all there out in the open, or perhaps open to interpretation. I am just finishing up a new album called ‘Observation Ward,’ an autobiographical set of songs concerning my own long battles with mental illness.”
LUND: “In many of your songs there is mention of many serious issues, and perspectives, that sometimes are hidden behind the beauty of your music. Why did you decide to create such a stark contrast in your music, or rather how did you come up with it, because it’s brilliant?”
SWEET: “That is very kind of you to say. I really couldn’t say where it all comes from. To me, it’s all a form of magic. At my best, I feel as if I am a conduit and not a creator at all.”
Before I end this article, I’d like to share some of my favourite recommended Steph Sweet tracks with you. These include “Rape,” “Ellen,” and “The Hag and The Whore.” All of the tracks listed resonated with me upon first listen. Therefore, I have a feeling that you (readers & music enthusiasts) might also enjoy these tracks.
Rape. The subject matter of this song is all too familiar. It is a topic that can best be described not only as a terrible trauma, but also as a death of the self, a shutdown, a panic in the darkness, or a sinking pit with no bottom. The name says it all. No more commentaries from me.
Another song I loved was “Ellen.” The implications are straightforward just as Sweet told me. The song is about a young girl that is ignored and nobody outside her home wants to see how bad things really are for her. In the city where I live, children are forgotten about all the time (in schools, at home and in the eyes of the law.) Some children grow up with no one taking care of them (being abused or neglected.) This song is absolutely gorgeous and another very “true to life” type of piece.
My third and final recommendation is “The Hag And The Whore.” The acoustic guitar in this song, stood out prominently. This is another track that many would find themselves drawn to listening to over and over again. It also makes a point of letting us know how shallow and materialistic our society actually is.
Liz Lund of Waking Dream
Waking Dream NYC 21st November 2018
LITTLE INDIE BLOGS - A little blog about indie stuff
Steph Sweet nets 'These Butterfly Collectors' from her forthcoming album
Words: Sam Geary
Alt folk artist Steph Sweet has shared a track from her forthcoming album 'Observation Ward', entitled 'These Butterfly Collectors (ft. drunkeninstrumentcorporation) ', released via US label Milwaukee Junction Records.
Placed somewhere between Devandra Banhart and Joanna Newsome, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist - vocals, guitars, drums, keyboards - combines a talent for bewitching songwriting, with a dreamy, lo-fi alt-gaze delivery on this five-minute track - which follows last autumn's 'Mindspies' EP - on which she is joined by Italian musician Marco Abba, aka drunkeninstrumentcorporation.
"It’s International Women’s Day all day long (alright, let’s just be real, women rule the world even when this day is over). So in honor of this glorious day, we are sharing female and female-fronted bands all day long.
Cuz, who’s gonna stop us? NO ONE.
The track Glitterati by Steph Sweet (off her album The Hag and the Whore) is downright spiritual. It has all of those psychedelic vibes that make you feel good about your social climbing self and your place in the world. I would love to dedicate this song to a specific person but my New Year’s resolution is to stop being an asshole.
Steph has a new album coming out this year, and a vinyl release on US Label ‘Gold Dragon Records.’ So fuck yeah!"
Left Bank Magazine. Brooklyn. 2018
"Steph Sweet serves up a beguiling dish of bewitching, mesmerising freak folk that sounds like the lovechild of Devandra Banhart and Joanna Newsome and the niece of Bridie Jackson and the Arbour.
Steph Sweet isn't easy listening, it's not always comfortable listening but it is rewarding. It's poetic, it's intelligent and it sounds like it inhabits it's own world. If the Bronte sisters formed a freak folk band then it'd probably sound something like this.
This isn't music to put on in the background while preparing your evening meal. It's not music you're going to hear blasting from the loud speakers at your local supermarket. It's not music that's likely to appear on the playlists of daytime radio. It's music to spend time alone with. It's music to get to know, intimately. It's music to soundtrack your reflective moments.
2017 will hopefully be the year that the world finally catches on to the beauty and brilliance of Steph Sweet."
The Devil Has The Best Tuna 2017
"...sublime, despite being quite eerily haunting. This sonic spectre is from Steph Sweet... sweetly hazy floral, softly teased, toned and turned as a ghostly, dream weaved, woodcrafted hymnal. Which in truth ought to appeal, in so much as this vintage mysterio appears to emerge, cut from a forgotten, age old songcraft."
MarkLosingToday. Wordpress. 2016
"We still do not know where Steph Sweet is from, but it probably doesn't matter if she continues to write awesome music. In August she shared the folk-rocker "Wolf's Eye." She's now back with "Teepee Valley" which she describes as "a return to psychedelia and an idealist's dream of peace."
Like her previous singles, there is a '70s vibe that reverberates throughout the track. The psychedelia is dreamy, as the reverb channeled through her electric guitar creates a woozy effect. Sweet's vocals, meanwhile, are light and heavenly, putting your mind at ease. Wherever Teepee Valley may be, if it is as stunning and captivating as this song, please take us there. This song sounds like what Utopia would be - a place of wonderful enchantment.
The single is taken from Steph Sweet's new album The Hag and The Whore which can be purchased on Bandcamp. "
"Steph Sweet is sweet by name and on the surface her songs seem to be sweet by nature. However scratch the surface and you find that the sweetness is an illusion. Ellen, taken from her new album The Hag and the Whore may sound sweet but the subject matter is dark and disturbing. Inspired by the one off Channel Four drama of the same name, the life of Ellen is not all sweetness and light, she's hurting, she's violent and she wishes she were dead.
Ellen is bewitching, mesmerising freak folk that sounds like the lovechild of Devendra Banhart and Joanne Newsome and the niece of Bridie Jackson and the Arbour. It's easily the best folk song I've heard since Bridie Jackson's magnificent Scarecrow and praise doesn't come much higher than that."
THE DEVIL HAS THE BEST TUNA Best Of 2016
"A freak folk, psychedelic singer song writer, Steph Sweet sings songs about, “hags and whores, paedophilia, the selfie-generation, a beautiful girl, a break-up, teepees, death and spamsters and wolves.” Her music is as unsettling as it sounds. Combining traditional folk like vocal melodies with psychedelic organs and guitars, it can at times sounds like The Doors covering The Fairport Convention. She shows more restraint on other occasions, creating melancholic songs of brutal tragedy.
She recently released her third album The Hag and the Whore. She stopped by to go in depth about the songs, exploring their inspiration and conception.
The Hag and the Whore
I wrote and recorded this album in seven weeks. All songs are written, performed, recorded and mastered by myself. I use a half-broken and dented to hell Shure SM58 (you have to sing in the non-dented side) and an electro-acoustic with a dodgy jack and a pop-screen made from a wire coat-hanger and a pop-sock (new!) as well as a cheap keyboard from a budget supermarket and Goldwave and Cubase. Oh and there’s a crusty Overdrive pedal that I bought second-hand for a fiver, it has survived several bands and years of abuse. I think of it as the family pet.
Ellen - This is the most beautiful, poignant and sad film that I’ve seen for years. It was part of Channel 4’s commitment to finding and developing new talent and marked the incredible debut of both writer Sarah Quintrell and director Mahalia Belo. I haven’t seen a portrayal of the working-class/underclass with such dreamy cinematography and brutal realism since Dead Man’s Shoes by Shane Meadows. I was profoundly affected by this film and transfixed, I felt like Ellen was in my head. I wrote this song in a day, starting with a couple of thousand words that were eventually whittled down. I wanted a real minimalist production to emphasize the lyrics, so that it became almost a spoken word piece, but with the chimes of the glockenspiel adding a child-like accent, because ultimately, Ellen is still a child.
Wolf's Eye - This was the first song that I wrote in nearly a year due to writing commitments and this song just exploded out of me. I wrote it in August, in a rare English heat wave and I wanted it to be an optimistic song. It’s all in major chords, which is another rarity for me, but I’m as shallow as a gadfly when there’s sunshine. It’s about feeling like a lamb amongst the wolves of life, but also about refusing to give in to misery, to keep doing the things you love, which for me is dancing.
The Hag and the Whore - The title came before the song. There is a large part of society that still only views younger women as whores and older women as hags. It seems to me to be such a medieval attitude, that I wanted to write a folk-rock song with archaic language as a metaphor for Millennial attitudes and modern-day chauvinism.
Dance of the Sand - The lyrics and vocals were written on the day of a funeral for a close friend. I find grief particularly hard to deal with, it always feels like a punch in the solar plexus. I’m a big wuss.
Teepee Valley - This is a really old song that I wrote while living in a Tipi in a ravine in Andalusia for three months, whilst learning to play the guitar. But I revisited this song and wrote the second verse because it still seemed so pertinent to modern life and the multi-national corporate walls of horror and slavery. Also it was delight to return to psychedelia. My first proper band when I was seventeen (I had to lie about my age to get the gig,) had a sixties vibe.
Cutting The Ropes - This song is about having the courage to end a psychologically abusive relationship. It’s hard to stand up for yourself if you love someone, but if all they do is belittle you and stab you in the back, then they don’t really love you. But it’s always hard to walk away, even when a person’s spitefulness and malice is wounding you. But in the end you have to cut the ropes.
Glitterati - This song is about the selfie-generation and the new breed of music-industry spamsters. There are so many fakers and thieves and dinosaurs in social media right now. Soundcloud is a perfect example of what was once an amazing underground musician’s community, that has been taken over and ruined by commercial dance music and scammers and bots.
Your Grave - A song of sorrow and loss and grieving and autumn leaves. Having lost two close friends in the last 18 months, I have been visiting graves more than usual.
Sunshine Girl - This is a song that I wrote for a brilliant, talented and beautiful friend of mine. She lives in the woods with her beautiful daughters and brings light to the lives of everyone she meets."
Overblown Magazine 2016
"Musically, Sweet’s style is reminiscent of Vancouver singer-songwriter Ashley Shadow, who similarly mesmerized us with her intimate and graceful style. Sweet, though, ups the ante with her storytelling, as the song is like a fairy tale or myth. Sweet is not merely singing a song; she is narrating a tale full of enchantment, mystery, and a bit of romance. The following passage, which is one of the best of the year, exemplifies Sweet’s imagination:
'Sometimes it feels like I’ve spent my whole life,
Like a lamb walking amongst the wolves.
But wolves have feelings that get hurt too.
I’ll swap you my wool for a wolf’s eye-view.'
Hearing storybook-like lyrics from Sweet should not be a surprise, as she is also an accomplished writer under the name Stevie O’Connor. Now which one is her actual name – assuming neither are pseudonyms – is unknown, which is part of the mystery. Whatever she is doing, she has cemented herself as an artist who deserves everyone’s attention. If this single and her literary work were not enough, then listen to a song she released in January called “Rape”. The song is about Sweet’s own experience. It is one of the most powerful and moving songs you will hear all year, and it evidences Sweet’s courage and perseverance."
Ben Yung. The Revue 2016
“Deeply embracing a true underground spirit is Steph Sweet. It is ushered in with a specifity to it all that lingers on the margins of the fine line between genius and madness, but you don’t hear music like this too often.”
U&I Music Magazine 2014
"Englishwoman Steph Sweet would have fit right in on the recent Sing Out! podcast focusing on British psych-folk. Like the classic artists Tom featured, Steph walks the line between trad-influenced singer-songwriter material and psychedelia, though in a clearly contemporary vein. Her song “The Grail,” from March, is quite simply a winner. While she describes it as ‘a little lo-fi noodling,’ don’t be fooled; she layers ethereal, reverb-laden vocals with a deceptively sparse arrangement dominated by a pair of guitars and a staccato brushed snare. Flute accents with plenty of echo exaggerate the timeless psychedelic effect. The melody is captivating but flitting; if you’re not careful it’ll slide on by, leaving you looking for the replay button. "
Dan Greenwood. Sing Out Magazine 2015
Artist of the Month – February 2016
" It is an old axiom that if the song is right it will reach it’s audience. This month’s artist of the month was chosen by a song. 25 years ago Tori Amos shocked the world with the song “Me and a Gun” on her album Little Earthquakes. The song was description of her own rape years before. Steph Sweet releases a new song in January called “Rape.” The song is visceral and melodic but has the same power that “Me and a Gun” did years before."
SoundClouder of the Day | Steph Sweet
Uk based Steph Sweet lays the vocals on thick in her freak folk song Synaesthesia. This song will make you feel lazy in the best way, with notes of early Pink Floyd and a beautiful melody beneath all the reverb.