LP Walkthru: Simone Strauss - Traumatised
The Naarm based songstress reveals the experiences and artistry behind her 11-track debut album.
Naarm/Melbourne-based, Boorloo/Perth born and raised singer-songwriter Simone Strauss has been delighting listeners with her intimate brand of r&b tinged pop over the past year with the release of the emotion-heavy corner, smooth vulnerable, uplifting wholesomeness of crush, and the light-hearted naked, all leading up to an impressive 11-track LP release; Traumatised, out today.
Inspired by the likes of Jorja Smith, Daniel Caesar, Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish, Traumatised mixes thoughtfully written lyrics with electro-pop meets warm organic instrumentation, tip-toeing between raw and stripped back to sassy up-beat goodness. Produced by Nic Rollo, always keeping Simone Stauss’ powerful vocals at centre focus, “traumatised tells the story of a series of difficult situations, pieced together to represent my adolescent growth; heartbreak, loss, abandonment and toxic relationships,” she shares.
Cathartic for her as an emerging singer-songwriter releasing a debut LP, yet potently relatable, Strauss continues “While being an avenue to accept and share my past, I hope this album resonates with those who also fought through similar situations. I felt connections to artists that unlocked the strength inside me to fight challenging times, feelings made me feel less alone and provided the safe space I needed. Those same feelings I hope I can provide to those that need it.”
With intimate lyricism comes intriguing inspiration, so to celebrate the release of Traumatised we asked Simone to give us some insight into what went into the making of the debut record. Be sure to hit play below, and take a read through what Simone Strauss had to say.
‘hi’ is sort of an experimental track. I was having really bad writers block and a lot of doubts in myself as an artist roughly 3/4 of the way through finishing the album. One day I was extra frustrated so I told myself I would write a song right then and there. I sat on my lounge room floor, pressed record on my phone voice notes and improvised an entirely new song. I actually managed to complete it start to finish in one 3 minute recording, which was the push I really needed at the time. As soon as it was written I knew I wanted it to be the intro to the album, whilst sounding entirely different to the other tracks. I had to record with no backing because the premise of my idea was to have virtually no music, with intermittent voice manipulation, random noises (e.g. I cracked my knuckles into the microphone for a part of the song) and heavy bass and synths which was all incorporated post recording vocals. We sat there throwing out ideas and trying new things, and the song ended up turning out exactly how I envisioned. ‘hi’ is an invitation to the listeners; welcoming them into some of my most personal moments through a purposeful startling listening experience as a way to encapsulate the themes of the album. I want people to feel immersed as if they are reading my diary entries when listening to ‘traumatised’ and ‘hi’ is the epitome of that concept.
‘track 1’ is an open letter written to my younger self founded off years of self reflection and working on my habitual tendencies. I started the writing process a few years ago, then as time progressed and I gained more growth and self awareness, I was able to come back to the song and navigate it in the direction I felt served its purpose. I learnt about the value of connecting with your inner child to heal past turmoil in therapy and writing ‘track 1’ was essentially a bi-product of that process. I always wanted the song to remain fairly simplistic to draw focus to the lyrics and provide a feeling as if it is just me and my younger self sitting in a room chatting. When Veronica and I recorded the demo I didn’t have a name for the song yet, and the software we used saved it as the automated file name ’track 1’. We kept referring to the song as ‘track 1’ until we both agreed we really liked that as the name and the irony of it not actually being the first song on the album. It feels fitting because if it weren’t for the intro ‘hi’, the first song on ‘traumatised’ would definitely be ‘track 1’. Little me would be so excited to know I am releasing my debut album, and I wanted to pay tribute to her in the way she would appreciate most. Vulnerable ‘vulnerable’ is really introspective and exemplifies my appreciation for honesty and emotional vulnerability. I wrote the song essentially as an attempt to hold myself accountable for habitually falling into toxic relationships. It was inspired by a time when I was very helplessly in love with a guy who didn’t have the best intentions for me. I remember one day taking a step back and asking myself, ‘why does this keep happening to me? How do I always find myself in these situations?’. With much self reflection, I was led to the realisation that I have a bad habit for choosing emotionally unavailable men, and prioritising people who don’t prioritise me. To put it plainly, it was when I really first came to terms with, what some may refer to as, daddy issues. I wrote ‘vulnerable’ during a pretty difficult time and it became a promise to never put myself in the same position again. Even though the subject matter is confronting for me and can be emotionally exhausting, I worked with Nic to make sure the music was not inherently sad. I felt there was so much positivity in my new revelations that it would be a disservice to create something with really heavy undertones. So we found a balance between focusing on the subject matter whilst keeping it light and fun.
‘makeupyourmind’ is one of the more lighthearted songs on the album. I originally wrote it quite a few years ago about a boy I was super into, who made it seem like he was into me too, however he had no initiative to do anything about it. It’s funny for me listening to the song now because I have noticed a pattern with this type of relationship in my life and understand a lot more deeply why it happens. However, at the time I never wanted the song to be a thought provoking piece, I was just horny and frustrated a cute boy didn’t want me back.
I caught feelings for a friend a few years back and couldn’t stop dreaming about her. I was super confused at the time and didn’t want to ruin the friendship by mentioning it, so I kept it to myself. ‘crush’ is an attempt at exploring the intoxicating whirlwind of meeting someone cool and immediately getting your head stuck up in the clouds. The track served as an outlet for the feelings I wasn’t yet ready to express; until I drunkenly confessed 6 months later. Fortunately, she is super cool and took it well, so even though nothing came of it we are still very close to this day. I sent her the song and was like ‘remember when I wrote a song about you? Well... I’m releasing it’ and she was thrilled to have been my muse - it was very wholesome. When I initially wrote the song, it had a much more slower pace and sorrow theme. Then when it came to producing I realised there was nothing negative about this situation and instead it was a fun, exciting crush that should be celebrated for what it was. I wanted to create something that makes you feel good when you listen, to exhibit those same feelings you experience in the early days when a crush is developing. I remember the day we recorded in the studio being distinctively fun and fortunately it reaffirmed to myself that I made the correct decision with the direction we took.
‘naked’ explores a lighthearted and eurythmic landscape through a simple combination of ukulele and light production. It was intentional to create a feeling of innocence, completely contrasting with the lyrics, which lay bare the reality of falling in love during an affair with someone who has a partner. I found out a friend was cheating on their long term partner and the third party had fallen in love. I was so angry with my friend and frustrated at them both, I initially wanted to channel that disappointment, but then I thought how interesting it could be to write the song from her perspective instead. I decided to put my emotional attachment to the situation aside, instead using the experience to conceptualise an artistic direction I had not yet explored, that being embodying another person’s experience. This song was very challenging to write because I had to put aside my anguish and almost empathise with her, to try understand what it would feel like to be in that position. I felt awful having to keep this a secret and I thought, how can I write about this without exposing them both? Writing ’naked’ allowed me to process my frustration as an outsider to the situation and releasing played out as a way for me to talk about it while keeping the actuality of the situation private.
‘birthday’ is a one big fuck you to my ex-boyfriend. I was at work watching people post happy birthday stories to him on instagram, saying how he was such a great guy and it infuriated me because they either didn’t know, or refused to accept the truth behind some of his actions and how he had treated me. When I was driving, I started recording a voice note and sung whatever came to my mind. I never actually thought I would release it, it genuinely was only ever meant to be an outlet for my frustration. A few months later I found the voice note and realised there was some salvageable lyrics. With some messing around of the melodic structure, Veronica, Nic and myself felt ‘birthday’ served as a powerful follow up to my debut single ‘corner’. Going through a break up with a toxic ex, and having to rescue yourself from the collateral damage of their decisions is enough of a burden but feeling isolated in the process is especially amplified on days people dedicate support to them such as their birthday. I was initially sceptical about the execution of the song because the lyrics are very unique to our situation. I honestly wasn’t confident that we would be able to finish it in a way that painted my emotions accurately, and instead would just sound petty. Maybe it is petty... but I still hope his birthday sucks.
‘corner’ was therapeutic and very confronting to write and record, as lyrically it deals with the aftermath of a sexual assault I experienced while in a relationship. I personally took responsibility for the blame and guilt victims often feel after such an event, so when writing this song I attempted to bring a feeling of liberation for myself, and to those who relate to the subject matter. I think the #metoo movement has been so powerful in reprogramming the way we as a society approach sexual assault, however we definitely still have a long way to go. When I wrote ‘corner’ I felt very helpless and misunderstood. It’s hard to be vulnerable in a world that has constantly conditioned women to minimise their traumatic sexual experiences. I was so worried that people wouldn’t believe me because I had consented to having sex with him other times. It was easier to repress the memory and pretend it didn’t happen, than to confront how it truly affected me. I wrote the song around the time that the memory was resurfacing and consuming my well-being. I really wanted to encapsulate the disappointment and frustration of being failed by someone who claimed to love me. The starkly honest lyricism was very difficult to verbalise, even to Veronica and Nic who I trust deeply with my art. However, I knew the only way to have the message interpreted and digested correctly was to be confronting and make the listener uncomfortable. Transparency is vital to helping initiate these important conversations. We produced the song in a way we felt would have the most impact by slowly building the ambience with a subtle progression into a powerful culmination.
‘daughter’ is a very personal recount of the emotional turmoil inflicted by an estranged relationship with parents and the damages it has on my identity. Recording this track was challenging as it resurfaced a lot of repressed memories and feelings I admittedly still try to avoid. I wanted to produce a song that explored the inadequacy of what are meant to be my most important relationships; the relationships that set the foundation for how we value ourselves. It can be hard for people with healthy upbringings to understand the internal conflict this type of relationship has on someone, and that is what inspired me to give listeners insight. ‘daughter’ is very raw and feels quite exposing. I really had to engage with a truth of myself that can be overwhelmingly vulnerable to admit.
I lost my older brother in 2017 to suicide. This was by far the most difficult circumstance I have ever experienced. Since he died, I have continuously written songs about him and have struggled to accurately articulate the immeasurable pain I have suffered from the loss. ‘safe’ is an amalgamation of multiple songs I wrote to illustrate the anxiety, confusion, misery and despair of grief. It was important to me that the song represented him in a way the was true to our relationship and the one thing he only ever strived for was being a protective big brother. I wanted the structure and overall mood of the song to signify the constantly evolving variance in emotions I have and still feel surrounding his death. This led us to develop a distinct contrast in the verses and chorus with an added instrumental break. When we were in the studio developing the structure of ‘safe’, I decided I wanted the instrumental section to resonate the feeling of ascending to heaven. It felt necessary to honour Cahal in that way as elevating the mood of those around him was imperative to his life mission and purpose.
‘bandaid’ explores the resentful feelings that arise when an ex finds a new partner. I found out my ex-boyfriend was seeing someone and was infuriated because I was still processing the aftermath of the relationship. It felt very unfair that he could jump into another relationship with someone who was blissfully unaware of his mistakes. I felt sorry for the new girlfriend as I was convinced she was a temporary distraction from his internal suffering. One day I was in the car venting to a friend and she coined the phrase “she’s just a bandaid, doesn’t fix the pain, just hides it for a while”. I looked at my friend and said “that analogy is genius, I’m turning that into a song”.
Simone Strauss' debut album Traumatised is out now.