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Keeping Company with Stevie Dinner

Written by David Paicu

In 2015, Stevie Dinner - then a solo project - released their last album for the next five years.

That same year, Louise C. Hawkley and John P. Capitano released a study into the impacts of loneliness and isolation on the individual. They came to the conclusion that loneliness can lead to a wholly unfulfilling life, followed suit by an earlier death.

With this in mind, and given the year that has passed, it has become blatantly obvious that the company of others and interpersonal relationships are an imperative part of life.

And if there were any artist to take this inference and run with it, then it would have to be Stevie Dinner.

Following a five-year hiatus, Stevie Dinner has been resurrected as a duo fronted by Josh Hughes and Steph Rinzler. Their latest album, True Story, reinvented Stevie Dinner’s sound through the musical interactions of both creatives.

Radio Monash sat down with Stevie Dinner to chat about how, sometimes, companionship can be the best catalyst for innovation.

What have you been up to since Stevie Dinner's last relase five years ago?

J: "I’ve been recording the whole time since then. I’ve just been putting it under a different project name, full of preliminary demos and half-done stuff. Most are not-quite-actualised ideas, but we are currently trying to revisit those and build on them. That’s what I - and we - have been working on for the most part."

What were the inspirations behind the album you released last year, True Story?

J: "In terms of influences, there was definitely a lot of homage to funk and disco from the late 70s and early 80s. Lyrically, it is a very true-to-life portrayal."

S: "We’ve also definitely drawn a lot from Broadcast and Stereolab. Those are two big ones for us."

There is a quite Daniel Johnston-esque style in your sound in a lot of your songs. Do you relate to the sentiments of Daniel Johnston when you create music, almost feeling like that outsider?

J: "Definitely. A lot of the music was written during a period where I was a part of that fringe society. I was an outsider for sure."

When it comes to the production of your album, some of the songs have quite a distorted feel - where did that motif come from?

J: "It’s funny that you say that, considering I feel like it is one of the cleanest sounding records we’ve made."

Oh shit sorry sorry-

J: "No no, I don’t take any offence to it. I used to make music on shitty tape recorders, and then I got a four-track, and then an eight-track. A lot of that record was recorded on a four-track and we added parts later on computer. I also don’t think I’m that great of a singer, and-"

S: "That’s not true, you’re a great singer. I think with this album we definitely had more of a handle on producing. We were able to get more experimental with the digital production, as opposed to the previous records where it was just a matter of uploading it and it being done."

J: "This stuff is actually mastered - shout out to Ezra Pounds for that."

The previous work of Stevie Dinner is a mixture of different sounds creating something wholly unique, with this echoing effect where you are almost talking to yourself. How does it feel now as a duo, being able to have that conversation, musically, with somebody else?

S: "It’s kind of cool since a lot of our songs are about each other. Incorporating both of our voices into that adds more meaning to it. I think there is a lot more than you can do with two people. The way we just bounce ideas off of each other really builds the music. It’s interesting because sometimes we’ll the same idea at the same time. It’s really weird. We have this hive mind thing going on."

With songs such as 'Joy of Intervention', you seem to take quite the experimental approach in terms of delivering it mostly in instrumentals. How did that come about? Were you looking for an interlude of sorts?

J: "I’ve always been a fan of minimalist composers like Steve Reisch, Philip Bass, and Fela Kuti. A lot of jazz music has a lot of instrumental passages. It’s what I look up to. I feel like sometimes a singer can fuck a song up."