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Stevan is taking music DIY to the next level

Words by Tori Mathison

Taking music DIY to the next level.

I never thought I’d be an album-saver on Spotify. As much as I like the idea of listening to a whole album at a time, I just get too impatient. So it’s a testament to Wollongong multi-instrumentalist, musician and producer, Stevan that his debut mixtape Just Kids, is the first compilation to slide into my Spotify saved albums tab. Props.

At just 19, Stevan has been steadily racking up an impressive musical resume, securing spots on the lineups of Panama Festival and Fairgrounds Festival and touring Australia with Winston Surfshirt. Despite several achievements already under his belt, his entirely self-produced mixtape speaks for itself.

Known for his dreamy bedroom pop, Just Kids takes cues from artists like Mac DeMarco, Frank Ocean and Toro Y Moi, and its nostalgia-tinged tracks adeptly blend woozy, modern beats with harmonised vocals and lyrics that explore romance, relationships and memory.

Speaking on the phone one morning last week, Stevan told me about breaking into the industry whilst staying true to himself and why overwhelming ego boosts aren’t always the best thing for your self-esteem. 

How are you feeling about the release of Just Kids now that it’s been a few weeks?

I’m feeling very comfortable, it’s interesting seeing how people have been gravitating to different tracks. Obviously, when we first released it there were the singles and things we’d had previously released, but now when I get messages from fans they’re starting to talk about the body tracks. I’m feeling really good about that. 

It’s an interesting time to be releasing music as well because there’s not a lot of live music but there’s more time at home to listen to music – was this something you considered when you were releasing the mixtape?

Haha, honestly, no. We had this whole plan, and originally we’d have promoted the project with a bunch of shows. We were in the peculiar position where COVID struck and I was supposed to play the big shows to promote the project but they all got cancelled and we just had to play it at a different angle. It started to play to my advantage later though because I started to focus more on my social media and my interactions with fans, so I built a solid fan base over that period of time. It really did help to establish a nice core following. 

The album is entirely self-produced, what does that process look like? Was it important for you to approach it this way as your debut?

It was very important for me to do it this way because it’s like a call back to the era of music I was listening to early on. I remember when a friend showed me the album 2 by Mac DeMarco and I remember just sitting in highschool thinking that the first thing I make, I have to make it all myself. I looked at his process and how he recorded all the instruments and how he was so diligent with it. Even other artists like Toro y Moi who really inspired me when I was developing as an artist.

He was a really big one because he was doing that type of music and he kind of looked like me. I was like, “Oh this is sick, something I can latch on to,” as a role-model sort of figure. And these guys are making all their own music. So when I made this project, I was like, “Okay I’ve got to produce everything, I’ve got to write everything,” just so my first ever statement in music would be 100 per cent me. 

All the songs on the album have a real sincerity to them. I think this kind of honesty and unpretentiousness is really refreshing from emerging artists. What challenges have you faced trying to convey your personality and identity through your music at this formative stage in your career?

I’ve never felt uncomfortable with myself and acknowledging the way that I feel. These aren’t things I’ve ever been afraid to showcase or realise within myself. I think the biggest challenge for me was just realising I need to be genuine in my music, or else what’s the point of doing it? And what makes me different from all these other artists if I’m just going to be a cardboard cut out of another artist. I’d be doing myself a disservice because the thing that makes me different is my perspective, my lyrics and my feelings.

To be honest, I felt like it would be nice to have a leading man who looks like me. I feel like a lot of the time artists who look like me, who come from where I come from, get shoehorned into a certain sound or certain look. With my project, I’ve had the freedom to be like, “Nah, I’m going to do whatever I want.”

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of being a musician?

Ok. I think I’ve got these ones in the bag. My favourite part of being a musician is this moment in-between just discovering an idea and seeing it happen. That is the best part of music, period. There’s this moment when you have enough to know where something’s going, but not a finished song. I just love that. 

I guess the worst part of being a musician is the potential disconnect. And what happens is the bigger that you get, the more your perception of yourself changes. You start to see yourself in a different light that can be very negative. Every single day you’re getting overwhelming ego boosts that aren’t always what you need. I can be a good musician, but I could be a terrible person. I don’t think people should be rewarded in that way. There’s a line that gets crossed by musicians and fans, where they think because you’re great at this thing therefore you must be an amazing person. When you start feeding into that it’s really negative.

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