EP Walkthru: Telenova - Stained Glass Love
The pop trio give us a track by track breakdown of their magical new EP, as they prepare for a huge NZ + AUS tour.
Photo by Clint Peloso
Hailing from Naarm/ Melbourne, pop trio Telenova are fresh from taking out the Best Breakthrough Artist at this year's AIR Awards as they release their highly anticipated sophomore EP Stained Glass Love today, and start packing for their huge NZ + AUS wide tour this August to September (see dates below).
Made up of five tracks, including previously released singles; Why Do I Keep You, Haunted and fan favourite Scarlet, the release sports muffled club beats, cut-deep bass grooves, and smooth melodies that back intricately written tales inspired by personal and relatable experiences. Front-woman Angeline Armstrong shares “These five songs all felt like a shedding of the skin for me, peeling it back, layer by layer," continuing “I can pinpoint the exact moments and experiences in my past that really marked me and grew me as a person. Those moments form the setting of each of these five songs – and there’s a strange sense of both fear and solace in being able to take you there with me.”
Be sure to hit play, and get to know what went into the making of Stained Glass Love, as Telenova’s members walk us through the EP track by track below.
Angeline: I used to pride myself on being super emotionally stable (my best friend in high school would call me the ‘ice maiden’ as a joke because, in contrast, she would literally cry about everything). A few years ago, something just broke in me. I’m not sure what happened exactly - maybe I just became a little more in tune with what was actually going on inside. But I went through bouts of depression and anxiety, and before I had the ‘mental health’ name for those experience, they would just be these terrible, isolating episodes where I felt as if my whole world was falling apart and that all I wanted was to just run and run and leave whatever was happening far behind me. I wanted to open the EP with a song about longing for escape from all of that. ‘Carry me away beyond horizons / I want to lose the quiet hours and drive until the skyline turns to dust’. The ‘dress me up in scarlet’ line is about wanting to restore some sense of dignity to it all, scarlet being symbolic of royalty and passion and courage and joy. Shaking and crying into my pillow all hours of the night gave way to a lot of self-judgement, particularly when I’d never been ‘that kind of person’ before.
Sonically, we felt that vinyl crackle gave the song a very nostalgic/reflective feeling. We wanted the instruments to sort of creep in bit by bit, as if you’re just getting the next slice of the ‘story’ in real time. Once the chorus hit, we wanted it to feel, itself, like a moment of escapism. Which is what that sudden fuzz guitar line is about. It elevates the chorus to that elated feeling of escape.
Joshua: I just wanted a song that sounded like both Wu Tang’s 36 Chambers and the Crowded House record Together Alone, I think we nailed it \m/
Edward: Yeah I remember watching an ODB Documentary on YouTube with Josh during one of Melbourne’s 89 lockdowns and we were pretty inspired by RZA’s production, so we tried to make something similar. This one worked out, but I distinctly remember around 10 not making the cut. I also love that fuzz guitar in the chorus and how it lingers into that first post chorus.
Angeline: Josh put the skeleton of the intrumental together on this one - and Ed and I fell in love with it immediately and so we continued to flesh it all out together. There was something so intriguing and somewhat inviting, but also haunting, about the organ chords at the start of the song coupled with that super cool laid back groove. It was kind of hip hop and kind of gothic at the same time. That inspired the bridge lyrics ‘slowly pull me into your dark Cathedral / promise that you’ll hold me.’ It started off as a song about being so ‘haunted’ by the love of someone you just can’t get enough of, but someone who is really no good for you. I’m a big romantic gothic literature fan (nerd alert) so I reckon my early love of novels like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were at play in terms of lyrical influences. The funny thing is that as Josh and I started really nutting out the lyrics, the ‘lover’ in the story took on a more sinister nature and more of a metaphorical role. We realised the ‘lover’ wasn’t necessarily a person - but could be anything that promised you the world, but plunged you into suffering instead. For both of us, the song is really more about addiction than a tragic love story. ‘Sell my soul for a glimpse of beauty / I feel it bloom in my arms / But now the fantasy withers slowly losing all it’s charms’… Josh is pretty open about his relationship to alcohol in his past, and so we were drawing on a lot of those experiences in painting the picture of this metaphorical ‘lover’ drawing you in, and then bleeding you dry. I was tapping into some dark places I’d been with social media addiction - it’s such a seemingly flippant and harmless thing of our times, but I reckon that’s what makes it so dangerous, seriously. It sucks the life out of you and makes you hate people. What’s flippant about that.
‘Give my blood for a taste of heaven / But now it’s bleeding me dry / I see the light in a fleeting moment till it blinds my eyes’.
Getting Styalz in on this for some additional production and melodic flair was super fun - he helped us reshape the chorus melody to have a bit more pop flair and punch to it. Which I think formed a really interesting contrast to the super literary lyrics. I remember doing the bridge vocals in the studio and Styalz just laughing and going ‘woah. These lyrics are pretty intense lol’.
Joshua: This song went through about 8 years of iterations before it finally saw the light of day. I had a rough instrumental that I had been sitting on for an age but no vocal had ever fit just right. Once Telenova started I fished it back out and as soon as Ange sung on it the song came to life. We got Styalz Fuego to help bring it to maximum potensh and the rest is very short history. Lyrically it’s about being an addict, Ange and I both channeled our worst habits (both of us have very different demons!) and delved into the places that bring us joy and despair in equal measures.
Edward: Absolutely loved the bare-bones version when it came in from Josh. The great thing about Telenova is there’s really no ego with who writes what, but as soon as I heard this I didn’t know whether it needed a bridge, but I had a shitty John Mayer strat in the vicinity and laid down the bridge chords - I think loosely inspired by The Strokes’ You Only Live Once. Cool tune.
Why Do I Keep You?
Angeline: The song is like a final goodbye to someone who broke your heart, before you broke theirs. When you’re so infatuated with someone that you absolutely worship them, you can iron over all their flaws to the point that you hurt yourself. I kissed the ground before you / I cut my eyes out for you / restless, blinded by my love. Specifically for me, this is actually a song sung to a friend or ex- who was spiraling into addiction and drugs…I sink below the deep blue / I drink the poison while I wait here praying for my time…and constantly pulling you down with them. Not because they were necessarily ‘forcing’ you down into the depths with them, but simply because, by default, as someone who loves them and wants to be by their side. You just go there. Sometimes it’s so complicated and difficult to know if your presence and support for someone is helping them grow, or enabling their bad decisions. The song is about wrestling with that question of ‘why do I keep you? Is it love, to stay or to leave you?
And knowing that we’d both be freer to grow if I did the hard thing and cut the ties that bind (and blind). Rather than waiting around for my ‘time’.
Joshua: This song reminds me of Dawson’s Creek, it’s something about the guitars in the pre-chorus, they really make me smile. I like the 90’s nostalgic feeling of that part of the song and then how it swooshes back into the chords from the verse but the vocals double the synth line from the top (Ed came up with that bit, we called it his little synth recital, ha).
Edward: This is my opus. My beautiful synth recital. We’ve been asked to do a few stripped back versions of this one and whenever we get to the chorus we completely strip it back to just Ange on vocals strumming her acoustic guitar on the start of each bar and it takes on this whole different (wait for this fucking term) vibe. Probably my favourite one to play live.
Angeline: We wanted the extended instrumental intro’s and outro’s in Silver Lining to tell as much of the story as the lyrics did and have a shimmery, silvery feel over all the sonic textures. This was one of those songs where the melody and lyrics came really easy to me in the studio - pretty much simultaneously as the boys were chipping away at the instrumental parts and chords. The initial acoustic guitar chords really conjured a profound memory for me, of sitting on a flight back home to Melbourne after having spent a very important and formative time of my life living in Los Angeles. There was this strange feeling in my chest, leaving behind a city that I’d learned to call home and I was just marvelling at how such a momentous experience and part of my life, was just shrinking beneath me as the plane rose higher and higher. The endless highways and city streets and urban sprawl, everything that had scared me at first and seemed so alien, all the people that I’d learned to love, all the places that had become part of my daily routine…all of it shrinking into the tiny gap between my thumb and forefinger, like a tiny bug that I could squash in an instant.
The chorus chords have a very sweet, soaring, ‘ascending’ feel to them that conjured that experience of that flight so profoundly, I worked at getting the vocal melody to do the same. ‘Fly above the endless highways / the city shrinks below / I could crush you like a bug / but why destroy the one that I love.’
It’s about the hazy nature of how we define ‘home’ in our hearts. And how hard it is to say goodbye. And that our reflexes can be to pretend that that part of our lives didn’t exist, or let it fade away, because it’s too sad to continually remember what we left behind. But in another sense, there’s a beauty in protecting those memories and carrying them along with us, even when it’s painful to remember what we’ve left.
Joshua: My favourite part of this one is how the second chord of the progression changes every second measure, that minor shift sounds like River Man by Nick Drake, that gets me going, thanks Nick!
Edward: Gotta give J Man credit again here - he’s a real pervert for chord progressions. The way this song moves is above my pay grade, and I can’t really ever remember being overly fond of it, but I think this one is biggest GROWER on the EP. I also love Ange’s ‘yearly cigarette’ line and hope one day to burn one down with her :)
Stained Glass Love
From the very start when we were putting the instrumental together in the studio, the music always felt very epic, grand, cathedral, ethereal to me. There’s a delay effect on the chopped up acoustic picking guitars at the start which give them a surreal feel, and that then gets swallowed up completely by all the competing guitars that rush in in the chorus in a huge way. We recorded the call-and-response vocals in the chorus ‘minds on fire’ through a Leslie speaker to amplify the intensity of that whole section, and also because we love the organic old world analogue feel of the leslie. After such a massive, grand chorus we wanted to suck it all out in a shocking way to capture more of the delicate intent behind the lyrics in those middle 8 sections.
The first visual that sparked the lyrics of the song for me was a memory of the first time I’d been to Europe, wandering the streets at night and then stumbling into a beautiful, old cathedral for the first time. I’d never seen one that old and that awe-inspiringly huge. It really knocked the breath out of me. The other inspiration for Josh and I, was actually a Bill Henson photograph in a coffee table book - of a levitating teen figure hovering in a black sea of glowing amber lights…
Endless skies, diamond eyes in the dark / Floating in the black, never looking back / I’m weightless / I’m captured and enraptured by the way the world dissolves around me / I shed my skin and feel my body ache / Slowly levitating
That photograph sparked a really visceral memory for me, of this spiritual vision I had when I was 18 (like a dream but awake) where I was carrying this really heavy, dead body and walking into this grand, ethereal marble court towards a throne room. And when I knelt and laid the body down on the ground, I realized that it was my own. And it really felt like there was a moment where I laid down some old part of me and accepted the new. I’m a Christian and that was a pretty pivotal, defining spiritual moment for me. I can remember such an overwhelming sense of warmth, peace and like I was truly held and truly loved. Even though I’d been a Christian ‘in my head’ for years before, like in a logical sense, this was a real spiritual/heart awakening kind of moment where it became real to me on another level.
Hold me closer now my mind’s on fire / Take a drink straight from the Fountain of Youth / High above I see a stained glass love / Shining down on us
The idea in the lyrics of seeing the world through a ‘stained glass’ window of ‘love’ reframes the brokenness and pain of the previous 4 songs, as serving a greater purpose of wholeness and growth and learning. Just like how stained glass windows add colour and life to an otherwise dull or colourless view...it’s a new way of looking at things. In other words - making beauty and balance out of the broken bits. It’s a piecing together of the self. A shedding of the ‘old skin’ and a growing into the new.
Joshua: I was sitting around twiddling with my tiny acoustic guitar and came up with these chords. I was really happy with the key change in the chorus and also how we cut and add an extra chord at certain parts of the song, the rest of the EP is very 4 chord style so it was cool to mess with that a bit. The outro guitar of Ed’s is a nice touch too, a bit of slow wah never hurt anyone.
Edward: Another J Moriarty special really. Probably the most up-beat song we’ve ever done, and I think it’ll rip live. The outro really comes out of nowhere and takes it to another level I think. Certainly our longest song too. I also think, with the help of the wizard Cam Parkyn, we got a pretty cool ‘live’ drum sound without actually having a live drummer. They’re all samples baby.
Telenova's sophomore EP Stained Glass Love is out now via Pointer Recordings / Remote Control Records.
STAINED GLASS LOVE EP TOUR
Supported by Skeleten
Fri 19 Aug - Tuning Fork, Auckland NZ
Sat 20 Aug - Meow, Wellington NZ
Fri 23 Sep - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Sat 24 Sep - Uni Bar, Wollongong
Fri 30 Sep - Mojos, Perth
Sat 1 Oct - Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide
Sat 8 Oct - The Brightside, Brisbane
Fri 21 Oct - 170 Russell, Melbourne
Tickets on-sale now via www.telenovamusic.com.au
UPCOMING FESTIVAL APPEARANCES
Sat 26 Nov - Spilt Milk, Canberra ACT
Sat 3 Dec - Spilt Milk, Ballarat VIC
Sun 4 Dec Dec - Spilt Milk, Gold Coast QLD
Thur 29 Dec - Lost Paradise, Glenworth Valley NSW
Sat 31 Dec - Falls Festival, Murroon, VIC
Mon 2 Jan - Falls Festival, Byron Bay, NSW
Sat 7 Jan - Falls Festival, Fremantle, WA