St. south - Interview
Based in Fremantle, one of Western Australia’s major port cities, lives Olivia Gavranich. St. South is the name of her solo-project. Olivia is the Queen at putting her own personal spin on other people’s tracks. She reworks songs of all genres, whether that be Drake, Leonard Cohen, Lorde, and more. Notably, her song “We Washed Texas” is featured on Bon Iver’s exclusive Stems Project album, as it includes snippets from “Holocene”, “Hinnom, TX”, and “Wash”. Remember Made In Heights? If you liked them, I guarantee you will like St. South. Below you can read our interview with Olivia as she discusses St. South’s songwriting process, influences, future plans, and more!
MttM: How did your music career as St. South begin? Were there any projects before this one?
I started writing folk songs in 2010, but I was always interested in digitally produced sounds. I slowly started receiving emails from producers requesting collaborations. So I decided to start fresh with a new name, and I began experimenting with different genres and beats. Now the folky stuff has become more of a side project.
Congrats on your Bon Iver re-work and making it onto his Stems Project album. Where did you learn to remix and produce your own music? Did you teach yourself?
Thank you! I was such a huge fan of their last album, so when the Stems Project was announced I desperately needed to be a part of it somehow. I had no idea what I was doing; I’d never produced or remixed anything before. So I just picked out my favourite stems and played around in Garageband. There was a lot of trial and error, but my love of reworking definitely stemmed (pun intended) from that specific remix comp, so I’m glad I stuck it out. If it wasn’t for the Stems Project I don’t know how or when I would have started reworking other tracks. It kind of sparked something.
What’s your songwriting process like?
It all depends on who creates what first! Sometimes a producer will send me a beat and it will trigger something for me lyrically. And other times I’ll have a list of voice memos saved on my phone that I’ll send to Maxton (Infinitefreefall), and he’ll produce a short demo around them, and then we’ll build on it together. When we have time, we produce together over Skype, which I prefer, because it means we can decide on every instrument and sample together. I generally have really clear ideas in my head of how I want something to sound, so it can be difficult collaborating with people in different cities/countries, but we’ve found ways to make it work, and it seems to be going okay so far!
As for lyrics, I usually have phrases or paragraphs of dribble typed into my phone that I refer back to. Sometimes it will flow easily and naturally. Lately I’ve been writing a lot of acoustic songs, and then sending the vocal stem to Maxton so he can turn it into something electronic. ‘Hold’ was originally a folk ballad, but he chillwaved the hell out of it.
You are incredible at tackling any genre and turning it into your own. Especially when re-working the the majority of your tracks. From acoustic folk (e.g., “Regal Wash”, “Suzanne”) to hip-hop (“Ars Gratia Artis”, “Marvin’s Room”) to electronic (“Get Good”, “Slacks”). Any genre that you’re yearning to put a personal twist on in the future? A specific artist?
Thanks! I think one of the things I love most about reworking is choosing a song that really contrasts different genres. Like singing something slow and soulful over a heavy hip hop beat, then throwing in some sax to jazz it up. It’s the unexpected genre blends that are most appealing to me. I love soul music and I love beats. So combining the two just feels like a natural progression. My latest Drake rework (Jungle) was probably the closest I’ve gotten to my ideal genre. But it changes so frequently.
I specifically love sampling the instrumental aspects of a song, and then writing my own vocal melody and lyrics over the top. So I usually go for a track with a really simple instrumental that allows a lot of headroom for me to layer onto. And while I believe it’s super important to maintain the integrity of the original track, I really love finding a way to execute my own interpretation of it. When I obsess over a song for too long, I need to get it out of my system somehow!
What are some influences that have helped form your sound to make it what it is today?
I’m constantly rediscovering a lot of the music my parents used to listen to when I was a kid. Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Nina Simone, Elvis Costello etc. I also listened to a lot of RnB in high school, so that’s definitely had some sort of subconscious influence. Chet Faker’s ‘Thinking in Textures’ was my introduction to electronic soul, and I still listen to that EP a lot. But lately I’ve been living off St. Vincent, Courtney Barnett and Sharon Van Etten.
Have you been to the United States before? Any plans on touring around here in the near future?
I was in LA for 3 days last June, and it was barely enough to get over the jetlag! I’m definitely keen to head back later this year, and hopefully play some shows, with Maxton on the beats. Once my live setup is sorted, and I have a permanent touring buddy/producer, I’ll be touring as much as possible!
What is your dream city to play at in the States and why?
Probably San Francisco, it looks dope as hell.
Who are three artists that ourselves and our followers should be listening to right now?
Any new tracks or projects that we can look forward to from St. South in the next year? Cadence EP?
Yes! I’m about to release my next single, and then my debut EP to follow later in the year. I’m also working on a bunch of collaborations at the moment (maybe too many, but also never enough) – my favourite is a track I wrote with Melbourne’s Yujen, and it’ll be released via a compilation mixtape really soon. And I’ll probably try and rework Drake for a third time at some stage...
By Ben Schechter