I first heard Summer Flake last year after discovering her Soundcloud while hustling for my radio show. Known otherwise as Stephanie Crase, her music is chilled out and easy with nice guitar sounds and vocals that don’t try too hard. All winning points for me. I spoke to her over the phone from Sydney recently as she was driving with a friend to go record shopping in Port Adelaide. Her new You Can Have It All LP is out on Rice Is Nice. You can stream and buy the album below.
Over what period was this new record written and what is your process like in writing?
There’s some songs on it that are quite old for me, which means they’re probably maybe four or five years old. A couple where the guitar riffs or parts have been floating around but have just never been finished. Probably only over the last year I got to the point of trying to tie them down and demoing them, playing them through and thinking oh yeah right, the drums could go like that and that would change that and so on. I probably spent about four months recording bits and pieces here and there, like doing the drums and leaving them for a bit, doing the bass. And so yeah it kind of came together in bits and pieces, sometimes working on it and sometimes forgetting about things. Some songs are totally new as of the start of this year and there’s a bunch that have been around forever so it feels good to have them finished.
I’ve never seen the Summer Flake project live, as it happens, but how does the band sort of function? Are you playing everything on the record or did you have the guys in the band doing stuff?
Ah yeah I play everything on the recordings, there’s no-one else in any parts of this which seems kind of selfish but it’s just kind of how it worked out. It’s just the kind of thing you do when you’re pottering about at home. And for live I haven’t really worked out whether it’s going to be definitely like this, or a certain kind of style. It’s been different with every format. Like when I first started I’d play solo and then I had a couple guys from a band called Old Mate, like Pat and Mannix playing bass and drums just for a couple of gigs. And Sandy and Suzi some other friends playing for a couple of gigs. And then as a two-piece with my friend Seb from Hit The Jackpot earlier this year on that tour I did in April.
And so you can kind of pick songs and develop them live by the people that you’re playing with. Like the one’s with Seb ended up being lots of stripped back moments and sort of a bit more tense and weird. And when I was playing with the guys from Old Mate it was a bit more kind of fun and loose and yeah it just depends on who you’ve got.
At the moment I’ve got Noah from Bruff Superior playing drums and he can just about play any instrument, so he kind of makes it so I can do it any way I want cause he can play any type. And then I’ve got Chad from Old Mate playing bass. So I think anyone who’s seen it live before it’ll be quite different this time. Maybe a little bit louder and a little bit tighter. And I think eventually it’ll be awesome to get someone else singing. I think that’s the only thing that I find really hard is doing all the vocals. I reckon in future I might get Noah to do the vocals as he’s got a very pretty voice and he can sing high too.
Considering that you’ve played in a few prominent bands over the years, how does it feel to be in this loose and amorphous and always changing set-up? Obviously it’s something that you enjoy.
Yeah it’s totally different. I reckon when I first started playing music it was the biggest thing in my life having that really tight band family camaraderie, like you were this special four people in the world and it was really important that it was just you and how you met and it could have been anyone but it was you and it worked out. It was all really cute and special and all that kind of stuff and I reckon maybe like even when I was younger, even though I’d sort of play my own stuff around the house and things I never imagined that I’d want to play solo. That idea was awful and I never wanted to do it.
I think that in retrospect maybe that was kind of like a reaction. Like when you get a bit older and all these people started moving on, like all my friends started … well not stop playing music but you just don’t see them out as much and then friends that I was playing in bands with … like the guys from Hit The Jackpot moved to Philadelphia, the guys from Batrider moved to Melbourne. It was kind of like in one year everyone moved away. And I kind of didn’t know what to do. And just started thinking I don’t need all the support that I’ve absolutely desperately craved in the past, like I can just give this a go and I didn’t really have any expectations so it didn’t really matter how it went. So it’s been good like in a way I feel a bit mean to my band members for not being like ‘let’s be a permanent band and write all the songs together,’ I think it’s just the kind of thing that I quite enjoyed having a go on the drums and having a go at everything.
I feel funny talking about it because I don’t really know how I’ve gotten to this point. But it’s exciting. It’s really good and it makes it easier when everyone’s working and everyone in Adelaide is in 10 different bands so you can’t necessarily get people to play all your shows so you just go “Oh okay you can’t do it, I’ll get someone else.” Which sounds awful but we’re all friends so it’s fine.
Considering that can you describe the Adelaide music scene and community to me a little bit? Because I haven’t even been to the city and I know it’s famously a tiny little kind of scene and quite a healthy one.
Probably since about ’98 or 2000 I’ve been going out and seeing bands and that kind of stuff and I’ve always been aware that there’s been lots of bands in Adelaide and there’s lots of bands that you just know that no-one else will ever hear. And I know that lots of cities have a similar thing. It’s just when you’re young and you always think that you’re a part of something special, like “ah this crazy secret.” But at the moment there’s heaps of bands and lots of awesome bands but a lot of the kids, there’s not as much of a culture of seeing bands. I remember when I was at school I was just desperate to get into a gig. That’s all I wanted to do. And now it’s like the youths are going to the dj things or just a nice cocktail bar so it feels like the crowds have gotten smaller.
So the group of guys that I hang out with, every weekend there’s a show and you basically know everyone in the room and there’s usually 50 to 150 people at the shows and the sort of same bands. Like I think almost every band would have played shows with everyone and shared band members. So it’s quite incestuous and sort of fun and messy. It’s what my social life is. It’s weird like if there’s not a band on it’s sort of like “Oh there’s nothing to do.”
And at the moment I’m really liking a lot of bands like Divine Rip, Big Richard Insect and Major Crimes. There’s heaps of different types of bands who’ll just keep playing these shows together and keep going at it and yeah it’s awesome. I hope everyone starts to get the attention I think they deserve. In Adelaide there’s a bit more people starting up labels and starting to put out vinyls and things and I think that kind of helps bring people out of our tiny little club.
It’s funny I can kind of tell you that obviously it’s a bigger city but similar things are happening in Sydney at the moment. I guess you’ve been here and met a few people and kind of know that there’s a tiny little Adelaide scene within Sydney. From what you’ve been saying it’s pretty similar. Aside from that, you were saying that a couple of years ago there was a time where everyone that you’d been playing with moved on to other cities, why are you so steadfast in that you never wanted to move, you wanted to stay in Adelaide?
Well I don’t really think of it that way. So something weird happened to me the other day, I always just used to think like “Oh I’m just one of the kids, just doing my thing and I’m going to work out what I’m going to do with my life one day.” And then someone was like “Can we use you for a reference for this music application thing we’re doing?” And I’m like sure, that’s weird. And they’re like “Yeah we’re going to call you the matriarch of Adelaide.” And I’m not saying this to be upset, I’m saying this because why would they say that? And they were like “Well you know because you’ve been here the longest and you’re the only one who stayed.”
And it was awful and I was like “I don’t want that title.” But I didn’t mean it to happen. I didn’t mean to be the only one who stayed. But I think I just move slowly, I don’t know. I’m not like “It’s Adelaide or nothing I’m here forever.” I’ll experience some more life over the next couple of years and go to more places. But I was based in London for 18 months with Batrider in about 2009 and basically spent all of my life savings and had to come back and live in my parents’ house and I’ve been slowly working my way back up to normal standard of living. But yeah it just takes me a while to settle back in and Adelaide is just so easy and you can do it here. Like you can pay rent and work a crummy job and still have time and facilities to do all the things you want. But it would be quite fun to be living in a bigger city someday soon.
How would you describe the sound of your music to people? And how much of that is Adelaide essentially, it’s quite a relaxed sound and it seems a relaxed city from what I can tell.
Yeah, I hadn’t really thought about connecting it with everything else that’s going around. There’s a lot of variety and I don’t know where I fit in all that kind of stuff. I feel like people quite often point out like “Oh it’s that ‘90s style.” Which I would like to say I like a lot of bands from the ‘90s but I don’t mean to, it’s not like I’m trying to sound like my youth.
But maybe what lends it to sounding relaxed or seeming like that’s an Adelaide thing is because most people here just record at home. I can’t think of anyone who’s really done a studio recording or anything in a long time and everyone shares all the same equipment and you just kind of do it as you go along. But maybe it’s because I’m by myself, and if I was in a band people would be like “Nup do it again and we’ll just try it one more time or whatever.” Because I’ve got to do like 10 drum tracks, 10 bass tracks, 10 guitar tracks, 10 lead tracks, 10 double tracked vocals and 10 double tracked harmonies. Like I go “Oh god that is like 17 hours of pure playing,” or whatever that turns out to be, let alone if it took me like three or four goes.
So I kind of think like well that one had some problems but I’ll go with that. Because I can’t get my head around the idea of having to perfect so many different takes and layers and things. It’s not actually like a big thought process it’s just how it works out, you kind of go “Yep I’ve got heaps to do, that’s good enough for me. That’s how I imagined it. That’s my talent level, that time the mic stand fell over but I don’t mind how that sounded.”
Yeah well that’s it, you’re saying you’re recording some of this stuff at home, like the little accidents, and I wouldn’t really call them mistakes necessarily, but it’s generally what makes the music more interesting. It’s usually like bands of 19- and 20-year-olds who have a producer in the studio who forced them to do it 20 times and then they just sound like some young band who are under pressure.
Yeah I’ve got to say it’s good, especially when you’re recording with no-one else around. I’m just doing it at home so you can record something and just leave it and come back. But you can also just press record and say let’s just see how this goes, and I reckon heaps of the guitar overdub bits are like … there might be a rhythm guitar and then a lead, and heaps of stuff is like “Eh I know the gist of it, I know the first notes and I’ll just work out the rest.” And then when I’ve listened back it’s like “You know I can’t even replicate that. That’s cool, that bit’s weird, that note’s wrong but I like it.” There’s no way I could have come up with a lot of the guitar parts that I quite like for that Calm me Down song if there was anyone else listening, as I would’ve been like “Oh they’re looking at me, I don’t know.”
I’ve been in a lot of bands, like with No Through Road, that was the first band in which I recorded in a studio-type scenario with and it was a little studio and it was relaxed and we were friends and we knew the guy. But you know. When they’re like “Okay Steph, this is you, by yourself with headphones on and we’ll all sit on the couch and you just go for it.” And they count you in like 1-2-3-4-Go. And it’s like eh, wrong note. Stop. And it took so long. I just froze up. I find that quite hard. Like I can either play live with the band and that’s fine, like we’re all playing together and take as many takes as needed, but for individual tracking I think I need for no-one else to hear it.
So do you have shows intended or confirmed for Sydney?
Yes sure do, just waiting for Brisbane to confirm but probably around the 25th of October (Note: October 25 at The Square is confirmed). And we’re playing with some really cool bands, it’s exciting. And I’ll have my band with me. Every other time I’ve ever played in Sydney I’ve only ever played solo so this will be a treat.
And for one last question, I was hoping you might like to go for the bonus round and rattle off Australian bands that you enjoy and that our readers should check out?
Cool, okay let’s see what I can rattle off. Sydney, I’m loving Day Ravies and Mope City, The Friendsters. There’s heaps of good stuff in Brisbane like all the Bedroom Suck kind of stuff. Per Purpose played in Adelaide recently and were really awesome. Superstar from Melbourne I love. Angel Eyes, Rites Wild, Terrible Truths, all awesome. I’ve also been listening to that new Beaches album, that’s really good. And there’s Adelaide bands I really like, Psalm Trio, Major Crimes, Rule Of Thirds, Divine Rip. Anyways that’s probably going a bit overboard but that’s what I’ve been listening to quite recently.
Summer Flake Album Tour
Fri 4 Oct
@The Hotel Metro, Adelaide SA
+ Divine Rip + Body Horror
Fri 18 Oct
@The Grace Darling, Melbourne VIC
+ Old Mate (7″ Launch) + Palm Springs + A New Death (Cass from Pearls and Zayd from Pets With Pets)
Sat 19 Oct
@The Brisbane Hotel, Hobart TAS
+ Naked + Heart Beach + Catsuit
Thurs 24 Oct
@The Croatian Club, Newcastle NSW
+ Day Ravies + Unity Floors + Sadfaces
Fri 25 Oct
@The Square, Sydney NSW
+ Parading (Melb) + Mope City + The Friendsters + Weak Boys
Sun 27 Oct
@The Beetle Bar, Brisbane QLD
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