Maggie Slater

by the partae

Where are you currently based?
I’m split between Far North Queensland and Melbourne. I study a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Politics and Creative Writing) and a Diploma of Languages (French) at the University of Melbourne so I’m down here during the semester but always head home when I’m on break. I’m also about to leave for exchange in Montreal for 6-12 months.

What’s your thought’s of Melbourne after being in QLD?
The two biggest shifts have been the 1. the weather (I adore the cold, hence Montreal, so I love getting to layer up) which was honestly one of my main reasons for leaving, I love a lot about FNQ but I HATE constantly being sticky and 2. the energy, there’s just always something happening (particularly for a young queer person, options for things to do in Cairns at night are pretty limited). It’s pretty much the inverse to FNQ which is indefinitely on holiday-time. I do really miss swimming though, particularly in freshwater. It grounds me in a way like no other.

How did you first start playing music?
I was always interested in music growing up but it was around 15 that I started writing songs. I’d taken guitar and piano lessons on and off since I was like 8 or so but nothing really stuck and I just ended up teaching myself ukulele and then guitar in my room (the first songs I remember learning were Fifteen by Taylor Swift and I Won’t Say That I’m Okay by Front Porch Step). I’d gotten pretty big into writing poetry around this time and so songwriting came quite naturally. It really was hugely therapeutic for me when struggling with mental illness for the first time in my life and a really awesome creative outlet during the horrors of highschool.

What’s been happening recently?
I just put out a single! I recorded ‘Pulp’ back in May so it’s so surreal to finally have it out, I’ve never done a release like this before, it’s been such an intense and inspiring release process. I’m surrounded by the most incredible group of creatives in Melbourne and everybody put so much effort and love into helping me elevate the release with their own artforms. The music video, artwork and photography are so incredible and beautiful, I’m so proud of what we’ve all made together. I also recently recorded my next single with Mark Myers at Mountain Kauri Studios while I was back home for my little brother’s graduation. Outside of music I was just in a VCA grad film called Napalm Roses by Jyo Miyaji (which was such an exciting experience) and have been working on pieces for my university’s magazine Farrago where I’m a staff writer.

Your latest single ‘Pulp’ is out now, what influenced the sound and songwriting?

I was going back through old voice memos that other day and found a version of ‘Pulp’ I totally forgot had existed. The song had started in the second person, directed towards this loser one of my best friends was seeing, who treated her terribly and was completely blind to how lucky he was to be with her. It then morphed into being about me wanting to get over this incessant desire for another intense romantic relationship after a break-up. I think both of these versions created an important foundation for what the song came to be. The final version of the lyrics was written right after I’d spent two nights up til 4am reading Gone Girl so I was really channelling that imagery and energy into my own feelings about some of my first relationships.

The lyrics were the main thing that were in flux for a bit but the structure has been pretty similar from the get go. It was originally written in open D tuning (as were probably a few too many songs after it) but my lead guitarist Tom suggested we change it so we didn’t have to retune during the set. In hindsight I’m so glad we did this because as much as I love a twinkly open chord, this song needs power chords. The sound came about after tireless attempts at pushing myself to create a real rock song. Lyrics have always been my main focus and I think because of this it’s been hard for me in the past to really push things instrumentally to a place that’s more similar to the kind of music I usually listen to. WAAX was a huge inspiration for this. I actually saw them at Gilligan’s in Cairns in 2019 and got to briefly share the mic with Maz during ‘Labrador’. I truly think that unlocked something in me. I did still want to balance this side of things with delicacy and softness (which I think I was able to do in the verses) so ‘High’ by Slow Pulp was a really helpful framework for this. I’ve actually made a playlist of songs that inspired/go well alongside ‘Pulp’ which you can check out here:

How did you go about writing Pulp?
‘Pulp’ was written late at night on an acoustic guitar in my childhood bedroom that I was forced to return to during the first set of lockdowns in 2022. I could feel in the drive of the chorus that this was going to be a heavier song. When I brought it to the band room Tom and Noah helped me build it up instrumentally and we eventually recorded a Garageband demo that came to be the blueprint for the final recording.When it came to writing the music video it really started from a conversation I had with my housemate Ella Parkinson one night. She really related to the song after hearing it for the first time as she’d had a very similar experience to me in her first relationship. We were drinking tea and going over these shared experiences and vignettes, then things just kind of went from there. We really wanted to capture the ups and downs of these turbulent, chaotic, and toxic early relationships and their often very consuming, addictive and destructive nature and to capture the kind of innocent nuance of these dynamics that are often undiscussed.

What does this single mean to you?
The power and intensity of what ‘Pulp’ means to me has been building and changing ever since I wrote it. ‘Making space for feminine frustration’ has been thrown around a lot throughout the campaign so far but it’s so true. Seeing all my femme friends in the front row at the launch screaming the words and moshing as hard as they could really sealed this idea in for me. This single is about allowing ourselves to take up space, to be at the front, to yell, to move however we want, to be angry and sad and not have one invalidate the other. Without overexplaining anything, something we really wanted to capture in the music video was loss of self. ‘Pulp’ is about finding yourself again, grieving that loss, reorienting yourself, and feeling confident that next time you’ll know your worth and fight back as hard as you can.

Where and when did you record/produce/master and who did you work with?
‘Pulp’ was produced by Jason Millhouse at Recordworks in Brisbane (such a cool studio, Jason has an insane amount of pinball machines) and mastered by Paul Blakey. My drummer from Cairns, Noah Gillespie, is currently studying at the Con in Brissy so he was able to come in and track drums for me which was brilliant. The music video was shot at home (and in the street) in Brunswick. It was a huge collaboration with all my best friends. Ella co-produced the video with me and our friend Hugo who’s studying Film and TV at VCA directed it. Ella also handmade all the miniatures of the band and I that you see at the start and end of the video. Nina Lengauer, Soph Fitzgerald and Clem McNabb also helped out with production design. Rose Freeman and Ruby Benedict did costuming for the band scenes. Reide Marshall, Finn Lohmann, Tige Sixel-Miller, MJ Kim and Thomas Strohfeldt performed alongside me and Lux Newman designed the absolutely beautiful animations.

How did you approach the recording process?
I’ve been insanely lucky to have been a part of the BIG SKY GIRLS (founded by Deb Suckling and Craig Spann) mentorship program which has pushed and supported me in ways that I never could have imagined, one of which was making ‘Pulp’. I was made aware of Jason’s work through Deb as he recorded her latest album. I loved the electricity and 90s feel that Deb’s album had and thought it was a perfect fit for what I wanted to do with ‘Pulp’. After a disheartening amount of rejection from arts grants BIG SKY GIRLS generously sponsored my recording with Jason.We recorded the track in a day, using the demo (for structure and arrangement – although Noah did whip out some cool new stuff on the spot that day like the pause in the second chorus and the tom work in the pre-chorus) and a recent live recording (for energy) to find our way to the final takes. Deb and Craig were a massive help in filling out the last choruses with powerful guitar noise and layers.

Who are your musical influences?
It’s honestly mostly just whoever I’ve been listening to most when I sit down to write but here’s a couple of key ones.

1. Wolf Alice: one of my all-time favourite bands. Their versatility is so incredible, and I will never not be in awe of the soundscapes they create. The things that Ellie Rowsell does with her voice and her use of vocal effects has been super inspiring to me.I actually had tickets to see them at the Forum in March but wrote the day down wrong in my diary. Heart shattering. I’m still trying to work up to listening through Blue Weekend without hating myself.

2. Phoebe Bridgers: I mean come on, the vulnerability, the sounds, the depth and care and thought put into every single line and sound, insane. Punisher is an absolute masterpiece. Arguably one of the best lyricists of our generation, that woman is on the pulse. I worship everything she does.

3. Soccer Mommy: An absolute comfort and anytime go to for me. Another super versatile artist, in writing these I think I’ve come to realise how impressed and inspired I am by artists who are constantly evolving and trying new things. I really feel like I’ve grown alongside Soccer Mommy, I think it’s partly because the timing of her different musical eras has really coincided with my own which has built this kind of intimacy in my brain. An incredible guitarist and builds such beautiful worlds within her songs. She’s also just so funny? Also, a huge reason (along with Wolf Alice) as to why I found a synth player for my band.

4. Snail Mail: Lush is such a memorable album for me, it was a real eye-opener to start thinking about guitars in a way that wasn’t just as a means to write a song but as a means for creativity and expression in their own right. One of the first queer artists who really resonated with me, and I was also just very in love with Lindsay Jordan as a 17-year-old (totally not the reason I got a Jag in the first place…)

5. Julia Jacklin: Australia’s angel. Saw her recently at a show in regional VIC with some of my closest female friends, we all took turns bawling our eyes out (mine was also so impressed, albeit it unsurprised) by how she had the entire audience memorized with just her guitar and voice. Her new album is so gorgeous. Constantly amazed by her ability to address such heavy themes in such a nuanced and beautiful way.

Favourite artists at the moment?
Right at this moment I’m listening to Car Seat Headrest. Lala Lala, my bloody valentine, Phoebe Bridgers (always), Djo, Soccer Mommy (her new album is amazing, so cut I won’t be around for the Aus tour), Wet Leg, Julia Jacklin, the 1975 (two more great new albums), Wolf Alice (another always), feeble little horse

What’s planned for the remainder of 2022 going into 2023?
At the moment I’m just trying to wind down from a really intense exam period. Other than another short film that I’m involved in next week and a couple of upcoming house party gigs I’m probably just going to take the next month before I leave as slow as possible and spend the rest of time in Melbourne enjoying the warmth and being around the people I love. As for 2023, I’ll be getting started on plans for the new single I’ve recorded and hopefully try and get some funding together to finish off a more complete body of work.

Favourite food and place to hangout?
God, so hard. A solid veggie burrito is such a fail safe but also nothing beats fresh sushi??? I can’t pick. As for hangout spots, if we’re not at our place or the pool, you’re most likely to find my friends and I at the Retreat Hotel. Best beer garden in Melbourne, so many fairy lights.

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