Interview with Summer Flake
Summer Flake is the solo project of Adelaide raised, Melbourne based Stephanie Crase. The singer songwriter comes equipped with a couple EP’s already under her belt and praise from former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins, who has taken a liking to the band and premieres their tracks on his radio show. With Summer Flake’s new album Hello Friends slanted for an April 8 release, Stephanie was kind enough to offer us some of her time and insight into the friendships that inspire her, how she found her footing as a musician, and her native Australia.
Northern Transmissions: Tell me how you got started playing music.
Stephanie Crase: I was always into listening to music and all that kind of stuff when I was younger. My parent’s kind of saw that – I was pretty quiet and shy, and they kind of gently pushed me towards guitar and that was amazing. I played guitar from when I was about 11 or something. I would always try to get bands together at school, and it wouldn’t really work. I started playing with housemates of mine when I was at uni and it sort of took off from there. I’d play with anyone I could, really. I played in lots of bands – some good, some bad. I was always just trying to play.
NT: Were you always writing your own music as well?
SC: Not until later. When I first played in bands, I played in this band where my friend Matt was the singer and songwriter and that was perfect for me. I could sort of hide back if I want or I could see exactly what he meant and make it cool. I didn’t really have anything there for a while. I was pretty scared about all that kind of stuff, which is so foolish. It’s cool writing your own stuff. I would always have ideas for guitar parts but I would never write lyrics or singing or that kind of stuff. That was the hurdle, really. I played in a band called Batrider where Sarah Chadwick, the singer, kind of coaxed me into doing more singing and doing backing vocals and it really kind of helped me snap out of it and realize it doesn’t matter and just give it a go. I got to a point of writing stuff, but didn’t really release or work on my own songs with other people for a million years. It took ages.
NT: You do all the song writing behind Summer Flake, correct?
SC: Yeah, that’s right. I usually just putter away and work on it in private, on my own, so I don’t have all that pressure. I’ve kind of got a band that’s more reliable now, not many people coming in or out, so hopefully we do some more working out of the songs together. We haven’t yet, but I’d like to.
NT: Was it hard to go from being in the background to being more in the spotlight?
SC: Yeah, I reckon it was. I think that just from the type of person I am, I build everything up to be a big deal when it’s not. I think I just had to get over a confidence hurdle and realize that no one is really going to think I’m a terrible person if they don’t really like my song (laughs). Just those little nuances of crazy. There’s a band that I played in with some other housemates of mine – housemates are great for bandmates, and we had this band called Birth Glow which was a strange project. The kind of idea was just really stripped back, hardly any instruments and then just writing strange kind of stuff. With my bandmates, I saw that you can do anything and it’ll always peak someone’s interest. It’ll always come around. I was learning all that stuff in my early twenties and playing around. I think it’s really hard to do fully in isolation but if you’ve got lots of people around you doing that kind of stuff, it’s really inspiring and it gives you confidence.
NT: It’s hard not to be super critical of your own work, so it helps to be surrounded by people who can give you their own opinion and make you see another side to it.
SC: I grew up and always lived in Adelaide in Australia, which is about a million people and it’s a city known for youths leaving in their early twenties, lots of people moving to Melbourne and Sydney, that kind of thing. So you kind of stick together with all the people that stay and have a really tight community of everyone playing in each others bands and people having lots of different types of bands. Someone will simultaneously have an electronic thing, a side project with a rock band, some heavy thing – everyone’s trying out different stuff, so I think that’s really handy. Just having a really big scene.
NT: What can you tell us about your upcoming second full length album Hello Friends?
SC: It’s the first Summer Flake album with people other than myself playing on it. I’ve got my girlfriend Sarah Chadwick, who’s an amazing musician and writer, plating bass. I think she doesn’t like to play bass so that was an achievement. It feels good and different sharing it around and having other peoples step in and do things that I can’t do. It’s given me some different options with how we could record it and what we could do with the songs, so I’m pretty excited about that. I recorded all the other songs and EP’s I’ve done with Summer Flake were just in the spare room at home and this one was done (drums, bass guitar, tracking) in a small studio for one day in Melbourne, and the rest of it in my friend’s granny flat. He’s a really good recording guy, Jeffrey O’Connor. Having someone else take charge of some technical stuff was very handy and I think we were able to try some new things that I perhaps wouldn’t have done myself.
NT: So many of the songs are drenched in reverb. Was that your choosing or an outside influence?
SC: That’s my choice. I reckon I had to fight with Jeffrey! He would very sneakily pull effects and I’d get in the next time and be like “This is too dry. I don’t know what you’ve done” (laughs).
NT: I love the reverb!
SC: It’s just one of those aesthetic preferences. There’s really nothing else behind it, other than I just like it (laughs). I think it just suits the sound. I find it easier to sing and play to, and I feel like Summer Flake might sound really neff if it was really just a dry, crunchy kind of sound.
NT: You released a video for “Shoot and Score” recently. It’s a very simple video, yet incredibly effective in doing so. What were your motives behind making such a to-the-point kind of video?
SC: I think that’s Jeff O’Connor, who also did the recording of the album. He’s a very multitalented guy. He plays in Crown Fields and has solo music stuff, but he had recently moved into this warehouse/studio thing that he calls the Vanity Lair. So we went to the Vanity Lair and our first kind of project, he did a clip for there. I think he knows me quite well. I won’t be leaping around and doing acting and narratives. He just knows that I literally will just play and look down. So he was just like “You guys stand there and I will do something.” I just trusted him. I kind of thought he would use that white screen as a green screen or something and do some funky imagery in the background to distract away from us. But he kept it real clean and just did some cheesy swipes and things, which kind of worked for such an almost serious looking song and band. It kind of just put a little comedic element. It’s disarmingly strange if you put in some bubble gum and yoyo’s and these weird kind of swipes amongst quite a sincere and straight forward performance of a not humorous song, if that makes sense (laughs).
NT: I get what you’re saying, for sure. Who or what influenced you the most during the song writing process behind this album?
SC: I don’t know about influence stuff. I definitely write songs little bits at a time. I have never sat down, apart from when I did the EP that we did last year, I’ve never sort of been like “I’ve got to do a group of songs.” I usually just do one or a part or even a bar, little bits a time. I would have just had things come and go and probably no big, single, unique influence. It’s not even a story or a person or an inspiration – it’s just feeling and wanting to capture the tone of feeling confused, for example. Really ambiguous things that are hard to pin down, I think that’s what I did with this kind of album. Lots of just feeling alienated and writing a song that feels alienated, that kind of thing.
NT: I think that’ll make it a lot easier for other people to connect and put their own stories to it. Definitely a good approach to take for your second album, I’d say. What has been your greatest achievement thus far in your musical career?
SC: I think the biggest achievement is always just every new thing you do. I think content is the achievement, really. When you asked that, I was wracking my brain and thinking “What have I achieved?” I’ve met Lou Barlow but then I was like “No, that’s not an achievement! That was just funny!” Definitely just writing songs and creating the music that at times, I can sit back and listen to something I’ve demoed and be like “I’ve listened to this 50 times tonight.” That’s always the achievement, I think.
NT: You seem to work with so many other great people, as well. It must be nice to be surrounded by such a constant stream of inspiration.
SC: Totally. I get more of a kick and more of an inspiration with all my pals around me doing stuff. On Saturday, I invited myself around to my friends recording session – I just want to be there whether I’m invited or not (laughs).
interview by Ava Muir
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