Stella Donnelly channels her homesickness into punk, without the punk

“Confused and hungry? Confused and excited? ... I don’t know ... I’m in a bit of a whirlwind … I don’t really know how to define myself right now.”

For those of you who haven’t had Stella Donnelly pop up in your feed, the 26-year-old from Perth has been piling accolades since the release of her lyrically confronting (and explicit) EP Thrush Metal. Now she arrives with her 13-track debut album Beware of the Dogs.

‘Punk without the punk’, is the best way to describe Donnelly’s signature style of folk with hard-hitting lyricism.

“It’s funny because I’ve got my favourite type of music, which is just kind of ‘nice sounding’ things. I really love hearing pretty chords in that way, [but] I also really like punk music and I’ve played in punk bands before,” Donnelly says with passion. “I think if I’m going to swear and say the things that I want to say and get to as many people as possible, I’m going to have to create a sort of juxtaposition between those lyrics and the sort of music that I write.”

Beware of the Dogs, produced by Dean Tuza (The Rubens, Kim Churchill, Thelma Plum) was recorded in Fremantle last year. 

“I guess the theme is ‘sad diary’, it’s just me and what’s happening, how I feel about certain issues, but also what I feel about personal things in my life. I kind of wrote the album as I was recording it, most of the songs on the record are brand new, it still feels relevant to me. I still feel in time with it, it’s not as if I’m bringing out old songs to go and play it on the road for two years. I’m still as immature as those songs are.”

Donnelly hasn’t shied away from speaking her mind, and her critically acclaimed single ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, addressed sexual assault without a filter. Her theme of protest continues in Beware of the Dogs, but at a cost.

“When I first got backlash for ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, I had to make a decision to either hide and never write music again, or go for it and continue to write like me. I’m white, I’m lucky and I’m privileged, and I don’t go through a tenth of what other people in this country go through ... So I went, ‘yeah it’s hard’, the trolls are hard, death threats and getting rape threats and people stalking me and stuff. But at the same time, I’m still here, I’m alive. I guess I just have to make that choice to give them my middle finger and continue to use that privilege. I will continue to say what I feel and continue to try to start a conversation until I feel I don’t need to, or I feel like it’s not my place anymore.” 

Standing against her topical lyricism sits ‘Lunch’, a wholesome mix of imagery and emotion.

“It’s about my appreciation of missing home and being grateful of what I’m doing, but wanting to show my love for the people who have been there for me for so long and continue to be there for me. [When touring] you’ve got to put up these guards to travel like that. Then when you get home, It can take a bit of time to let those guards back down and come back to that space for the people you love.”

Unfettered joy erupts out of Donnelly with the mention of ‘Lunch’.

“That song’s my favourite song. It’s part of me as well, I’m not just someone who writes protest songs. I’m not just someone who writes break up songs. I’m a whole human that has happy days and hungry days and sad days.”

The release of her debut album is a cause for celebration, something which Donnelly will share with all of those around her. 

“I’m ready to celebrate with a team, which will be really, really nice, because the EP was just me and ‘champagne alone’ doesn’t really have the same kind of fun to it.”

Stella Donnelly’s debut album Beware of the Dogs is due for release Friday March 8th. She plays at Estonian House for Brunswick Music Festival on Saturday March 9 at 2pm (All Ages) and 7.30pm. Grab your tickets via the festival website.