Photo: Simon Holliday
Lead singer of punk band Springbreak, Kate Stapley, is set to release her debut solo folk EP. Sentimental yet brutally real, her songs form a tight thread of family love, reflecting tales from her own depression to her Grandma’s dementia. I catch up with Stapley to discuss an EP far too mature for a debut.
In her teen years, while her peers listened to Grime, Kate played folk music in Camden in what she – now laughing – describes as a “strange act of rebellion.” On the brink of her EP’s release, she’s now happy to be more reflective, enjoying the art of storytelling. “I love records… Albums… The story. I’m quite bad at talking so I like songwriting. You can pick and choose the bits you want to say.” Carefully-chosen lyrics reflect intricate stories of family life. With her dad and family friends ‘The Rad Dads’ recording and playing on the album, her EP has a strong, albeit bruised, heart.
Her Grandma suffering from Alzheimer’s, ‘Potted History’ refers to the timeline her children drew up to jog her memory. It’s a caring act, one Stapley explains as reciprocal, remembering the years her Grandma gave up for her children. “I know women in my family have set aside things that they’re very good at to nurture their children.” This has sparked Stapley’s ambition in life, and as a result she wants to capture her Grandma’s stories. Describing how ‘Interlude’ loops, she explains the desire to reflect on “what it’s like to have a conversation with someone with Alzheimers. It’s phrases that she’ll always repeat and come back to.” Also cyclical, the family’s care has a certain progression and positivity which Stapley was careful to maintain: “I don’t want anyone who is struggling with this to feel any worse. I want them to feel hopeful.”
Sadness is also something Stapley has toiled with within herself. Her first single ‘Iceland’ speaks about a friend who helped her break the cycle of depression. Writing about something truly good helped her cope: “I know you can’t fix it, but just taking the time to invest and make something that’s – I don’t want to say beautiful, because you can’t ignore the negative in life – but I love the records you can plug yourself into and disappear in for a bit. I wanted to make something that would emulate that.”
“I’m quite bad at talking so I like songwriting… You can pick and choose the bits you want to say.”
Decidedly grounded, Stapley’s not one to rose-tint the world. Naturally critical of society, Springbreak allows her to “exorcise some demons,” but she’s careful not to glamorise depression whilst expressing it. “[Some songs] can be quite trapping to listen to, instead of cathartic or therapeutic. That’s never something I’d want to purposely do.” Instead she’s learnt to find some balance in her life, with ‘Stabilisers’ the perfect example. A reflection on her Dad’s supportive role in her life, from teaching her to ride a bike to supporting her musical career, she explains: “When I wrote it I thought ‘God is this really corny?’ But, while it’s important to progress and challenge the things that are wrong in society, it’s also good to take the time to properly focus on the beautiful things in life. It’s just genuinely lovely to make something out of pure happiness.”
Stapley’s delicate reflection of the pain and practicalities of life are anything but corny. With songwriting her kind of self-made therapy, her nostalgic tracks slowly ease your hurt. When so many young people are feeling lost, her work not only recognises pain, but looks back to give perspective. With tracks that glimmer with subtle light as these do, you begin to see how everything might just fall into place.
Kate Stapely’s Centella EP, produced by Bristol’s Jacob Bright, is out 25th Feb, with a launch show at Milk Thistle the same day.