EP Walkthrough: Austen breaks down her captivating new EP, Passenger Seat
The six-track release is an introduction to one of Australia's most exciting new names in pop music.
With a consistent stream of singles bookmarked with her 2016 debut Faded, Brisbane-based musician Austen is quickly making herself known as something special to pop our scene. In the three years since, the rising star has blossomed into a newcomer whose next release is always as highly anticipated - and often as good - as the last, regardless of whether it's stand-alone singles that take up much of her discography thus far, or collaborations that put her forward as one of pop music's most versatile; her voice capable of adapting to productions regardless of whether they're by Enschway or Dugong Jr.
She's someone we named one to watch once upon a time, and now - all this time later - we're watching this finally come to fruition; Austen is seemingly flourishing in front of our eyes as she strives and becomes one of Australian pop music's most exciting names. Whether it be on the live circuit - supporting names from The Kite String Tangle and Running Touch to Col3trane and AURORA - to in her recorded work, there's no denying that Austen is one of our most exciting and potential-filled names rising through the music world at the moment, and it's something her new EP, Passenger Seat, comes to deliver.
Passenger Seat is six tracks that span Austen's career and introduce her as an artist with the potential and promise to be something big within the saturated Australian pop market. There are old favourites - Too High To Cry, Money - placed side-by-side to bursts of new material which feel like Austen finally finding her footings, whether it be Young and Numb or the album's closing self-titled moment, Passenger Seat. Together, they showcase Austen's ability to make sprawling productions both triumphant and sombre her own, welcoming a versatility that feels almost incomparable to much of the big popstars of today who often, stick to one tried-and-tested lane.
It opens with a string-backed moment that flexes her trainings as a violinist, before the five tracks that follow soundtrack break-ups and episodes of UK cult-classic Skins alike, drawing from a range of influences to create a cohesive project that welcomes her many sides - tall-standing, high and bright Austen, plus down-tempo ballad-like Austen alike.
Dive into the EP below with an EP walkthrough that sees Austen dissect the EP and its themes one song at a time, then catch her supporting Love Fame Tragedy on the east-coast in October.
Sunset In Our Eyes (Intro)
I’ve played violin my whole life since I was five, so I’ve been waiting for the day I can bring that side of myself into the pop world. When I was writing Young & Numb it felt like such an overdramatic moment, and playing a string arrangement in the bridge was really fitting. I wanted to expand on that more because listening to the strings by themselves gave me these intense images of driving along an abandoned highway with somebody at the beginning of a road trip that will inevitably take you through a whole lot of ups and downs, and that felt like the perfect setup to the EP.
Young and Numb
This song is me sitting on my floor after a breakup, taking all the things that I want to say to someone but are way too dramatic to say in real life, so writing them as lyrics instead. It’s that moment when you get your heartbroken and suddenly feel like you’re 15 again (and sometimes act like, let’s be honest.) It’s also about growing up in the age of social media and waking up every day to be bombarded with negative events, and how that can make you kind of numb out to the things you feel powerless about, which is definitely a statement on my own mental health at times. When I was writing it I felt like maybe being over-dramatic for a moment could be the way to pull yourself out of that.
Anthem is about the point in a messy relationship where you’re constantly on-and-off-and-on- again (NEVER A GOOD IDEA, FYI, JUST END IT). At the time I was thinking about how we’d keep saying the same things to keep each other coming back and going around in this loop, and I thought it was funny that we were repeating these certain phrases like anthems. I wrote it in one of the many ‘off’ periods, knowing I’d ironically probably end up showing this person the demo in a couple of weeks.
This one’s the self-loved fuelled bop of the EP. It’s about those people that make every interaction feel like a transaction, and how we’re better off spending that energy on ourselves. It’s also from a time when I was working two jobs while trying to finish the EP and do tours and just fantasising about “you know what, when I actually get what I’m working for I’m going to make sure I really enjoy it”. There are so many huge artists writing songs about how money can’t buy you love or, you know, I don’t need money to have fun tonight — this song is from a broke artist saying the opposite. It’s really just about getting shit done for yourself.
Too High To Cry
So, weirdly, for like a year, I had this spoken sample from the show Skins that I really wanted to use in a song one day, and when I wrote the idea for Too High To Cry I realised it was kind of perfect. It’s the first time you hear Effie speak in the show, in the moment before she passes out after getting drugged at a party. She’s talking about how everything feels back to front and upside down, which is pretty much where I was at in my life when I wrote this.
This is my personal favourite song on the EP. It’s written about a time when, after dating someone for a super short amount of time, we decided it’d be a good idea to go on a road trip together for 12 days, locked in this van together driving around north QLD in the middle of summer. The demos for the songs on the EP all started in some way during that trip, sitting there making demos and recording ideas through my iPhone headphones while they drove. It felt like being in another world away from our regular lives and getting to know each other so intensely so quickly, and seeing all the ways you’re going to work well and all the ways you’re going to be terrible for each other.
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