Album Walkthrough: Stevan goes deep on his debut mixtape, Just Kids
With his debut collection of tracks, the rising Wollongong musician captures the nostalgia of growing up through woozy indie-R&B.
Header image by lazybonesphoto.
There's something really quite remarkable in music's ability to transport you to a particular time in your life, whether it's something specific - like the embarrassing concert that you probably dragged one of your parents or older siblings too - or something a lot more vague, tied up in the 'vibes' - for the lack of better word - the song goes of, and what you associate with it. This sense of specific nostalgia finds itself in music quite often, and it's something that can make an otherwise average song something really quite special and close to your heart some years later.
For Wollongong-based musician Stevan, all these feelings are tied up on his debut mixtape, Just Kids. It's a 12-strong collection of tracks that thrusts him back in time to the high school days, capturing the rush of emotions - the innocence, embarrassment, comfort and excitement - of high school and that period of his life, in regards to both his life as a person, and the stories that define who he is today, right through to his presence as a musician, and the acts that proved formidable at that time as inspirations to dive head-first into the world of music and production.
At times, this sense of nostalgia feels its most pronounced through Just Kids' production and songwriting. A nod to Stevan's versatility as a multi-instrumentalist with a broad range of personal taste, the mixtape encapsulates the many sides of Stevan as a complex musician, particularly in how it veers from twinkling, guitar-backed R&B reminiscent to someone like Omar Apollo - a close friend of Stevan's - and Steve Lacy, right through to the moments in which those R&B shadings are reduced to a mere slither, as he experiments with sounds that you'd expect from a seasoned indie musician.
Elsewhere, it appears in a more literal sense, as Stevan utilises Just Kids as an opportunity to introduce himself to a greater audience further than the string of singles that make up his discography does. On LNT, for example, retro grooves and a dated funk edge swerve amongst memories of visiting a girl during a summer fling, while Timee - a single that really kicked everything off for Stevan - focuses on another girl, and the time she questioned him about whether or not the song at its then-form was written about her.
However, the mixtape isn't all dripping in nostalgia. Its final track Tripping is a swirling look forwards, showcasing how far he's come in the time since his earliest work both personally and musically, and how both of these will intertwine itself as they continue to evolve in his future paths. "Tripping is the turning point for me on the project," he says on the track, which ends the mixtape on one of its biggest highlights. "It’s a switch in tone and I’m moving in a different direction."
In many ways, Tripping gives us the most sure-fire sign of Stevan's future success. As a multi-instrumentalist well-versed in a range of instruments almost as long-spanning as his eclectic influences list, we already know Stevan has the skillset needed to usher him into the upper echelon of Australia's blossoming R&B world. However, Tripping - and the greater Just Kids mixtape - shows that he's capable of transforming this skillset into a range of tones, each mastered by someone who's quickly established himself as a jack of all trades, and master of all them too.
Here, in our latest walkthrough piece, Stevan walks through the stories that define Just Kids and the creative processes that got him there. Then, as exclusive content on our Patreon, he takes us into what defined the mixtape musically, and the musicians that he believes are crucial to Just Kids' foundations. Take a dive into it below:
This starts with a crowd of fans screaming. This is meant to be where I’m at in my life at the moment. The rest of the song then reflects on all the experiences that led me to this point. This beginning, me performing in front of thousands of people, outlines the rest of the project's subject matter.
This is a song about wanting to keep the people around me safe and warm. I guess at the time I felt like I could see dangers that my friends couldn’t. Pretty much teen paranoia haha but I got a good song out of it.
No More Regrets
This song is about taking chances and feeling confident. Obviously I’m referring to taking responsible risks and not regretting being open with someone. In high school, I wanted to seem cool and that stopped me from taking a lot of chances and risks. This song is about overcoming that feeling.
This song is about falling for someone who isn’t quite right for you and wanting to change for them but being too stuck in your ways to change. It feels too good being yourself and you don’t want to compromise that. Which can be a huge pressure when you’re younger.
Rock N Roll
This song is about wanting to have fun with someone and enjoying their company and shared attraction. This one is a call back to house parties back in the day haha.
This is about having a summer relationship. Every year I’d fly up north to meet a girl and hang out. It was a dream-like time because of the new environment, school being out and meeting new friends. That vibe is very nostalgic for me so the song sounds retro as a result.
Take it Slow
This is about a relationship I had around the end of high school. I felt like I was going too fast and feeling too much all at once. I needed to work out how I truly felt about things so I asked to slow things down. Which only made things more complicated for some reason haha. I wanted this song to be groovy with the bossa drums but also have a sad tone with the chords and vocals.
This one was about moving on from a relationship and feeling so much better. Feeling free and gaining a lot of self-confidence during. But I wanted the chords to be sad because even though I moved on it was still a loss that hurt me. I detail the events that led me to leave and this song only has two chords. Which I think is very funny for some reason.
This is a song about not minding having your heart broken as long as the trust isn’t lost. The first two verses and choruses are written from the perspective of a girl I was seeing at the time and the last one is my response to her questions about my loyalty.
On My Mind
This one was written about my mental state at the start of 2019 compared to the middle of 2019. I had being going through a lot of doubts about music. Freaking out and not knowing what my future would look like. I questioned relationships, I questioned myself and got some answers. The outro is my address to music as it’s the thing that makes me feel good even if I feel different.
This was written about me finding out a girl I liked was a fan of my music. When I found out I questioned if she thought about me and wondered if I wrote about her. I was inspired by 90s hip hop drums and bright organs from an Earl Sweatshirt song called Sunday.
This song was written about the first time I felt real emotions about someone. Just noticing how beautiful a person can be and that changing you. Wanting to spend all of your time with this person. But also realising that this feeling is probably going to fade and being hesitant to engage. Tripping was inspired by Mac DeMarco primarily a song called Dreaming.
For more, head to our Patreon, where Stevan takes a dive into some of the artists and songs which defined Just Kids, and the times the mixtape talks about. Find it here.
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