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December/January 2015

by Sammy Jay Dawson

Fresh Talent: Stef T

by Sammy Jay Dawson

Fresh Talent: Stef T

There’’s something truly compelling about a classically trained musician casting aside their constraints and delving into the world of indie electronica. It makes a hell of a caterpillar/butterfly story, but for Christchurch’’s Stef Todd (Stef T), her transformation was a long time in the making.

“I’’ve always loved going to d&b and dubstep gigs,” she says. “The Doors and Radiohead were also big influences on me at a young age, and eventually I got very sick of classical and jazz. I started singing when I was eight, originally my grandmother, who also sings jazz, inspired me, but I always felt it was too conventional and too structured. I really just dreamed of making spacious electronic music with no restrictions.””

With the recent tidal wave of bedroom electronic artists providing ample inspiration, it wouldn’’t be long before she would acquire an old MIDI keyboard to start writing her mixture of trip hop, ambient, downtempo, electro-pop songs.

“Beat making is something I’’ve only recently started doing,”” Stef admits. “I got into it via listening to artists like Banks, London Grammar and Submotion Orchestra. I still get those guilt feelings from the classical background, that this kind of pop music isn’’t technical enough. I just have to tune it out and follow my instincts.””

Her debut release ‘Spaces’’, finds Stef T at a musical crossroads of her past and present, mixing downtempo beats and dream-pop vocals over psychedelic-inspired keyboard lines, yet retaining the virtuosity of her formal training. It was written, recorded and produced in her bedroom, with fellow Christchurch Jazz School class mates Josh Nielsen, Cam Burnett and Tim Heeringa on mixing duties. It was the latter who would prove to be one of her longest lasting collaborators, not only behind the mixing desk, but contributing vocals and guitar as well.

“Working on ‘Spaces’’ was a great learning experience,”” Heeringa says. “Having to play minimal guitar while staying interesting in a genre I don’’t play a lot in is no easy feat, but I think the end result was great and testament to Stef’s vision for her songs.””

With an eye set to pursue future collaborations as well as further developing her sound, ‘Spaces’’ promises to be the first of many for Stef T.