BEK-JEAN STEWART & the society for the Lost
Bek-Jean Stewart has been romancing audiences with their idiosyncratic songwriting since the
early 1990’s with the Indie band, Eva Trout, reaching critical acclaim in the US. Stewart has
crafted something wondrously their own from the raw authentic materials of their life’s
experience, melding the story-telling of country, the heartbreak of blues and the brutality of
indie-folk rock across six albums and a 15-year solo career.
Backed by musicians ‘The Society For The Lost’, their highly energetic show displays an acutely
emotional window into the inner world of Bek-Jean Stewart. Stewart’s band mates; Lawrence
Pastro (drums), Emily Vera White (piano) and Joshua Szabo (Bass) collaborate their dexterity
with an understated elegance that allows Stewart’s songs to shine. As a band, they offer a
refreshing take on the Indie Americana Folk Rock genre, displaying an electric connection
between each other.
Audiences will experience an intimate and feverish performance, both liberating and
fascinating to watch; a breath of fresh air amongst a world where the ‘selfie ’is the dominant
language. The integrity of the songs is in contrast with the irreverent nature of their
performance. Stewart brings the stage alive as a captivating front person with a musical
breadth that spans composing, arranging and playing acoustic and electric guitar, drums,
banjo, harmonica, keyboards and percussion.
Stewart is a world class act, and commands their audiences through the storytelling nature of
the songs. With their raw and honest accounts of living authentically as a non-binary person,
the songs are dynamically woven; a telling of intimacy whilst being playful and deeply
Turbulent yet tender songwriting showcases an increasing maturity, courage and complexity of
Stewart’s musicianship. Their gritty unrestrained vocal contrasts with the vulnerable, fragile
emotion of the lyrics, jolting the storytelling to life. This is an artist who consistently honours the
storytelling beyond magnitude, who does exactly what art is meant to: elevate the soul.
NEW DOUBLE ALBUM OUT NOW 'Fierce Attachments'
Bek-Jean Stewart’s 6th studio offering ‘Fierce Attachments’ delivers an impressive 18 song collection marked by their characteristic Americana flair evident in songs ‘Seeking Love’ ‘Me And My Ghost’ and ‘Human Frailties’ whose velocity is immediate. But overall this is a more reflective album than Stewart’s last, delving deeper into their state of innerness, showcasing an increasing maturity, courage and complexity of songwriting.
This double album is a remarkable collection of women’s stories, bringing to focus the uniquely feminine struggles around sexual power, the contest for space in society and the battle to tear down social constructs.
‘Fierce Attachments’ proceeds with a stamina matched by its classic production style, clear, raw vocals, transcendent slide guitars, nostalgic and rocking pianos that at once fractures and challenges the listener. Tempered melodies and uninhibited yodelling breathes life into the lyrics while there is an unyielding quality to the way Stewart delivers the stories, seemingly with a precise knowledge of who they are and their patterns within intimate relationships.
The fierce honesty of Stewart’s lyrics reveals a vulnerability that has in their previous works, been lurking, always present, waiting to be truly seen. “My arms are full of pictures of my failures … its the only way I can show my vulnerabilities” opens the first track Seeking Love, quickly exposing Stewart’s quest for a deeper truth of the inner self.
With a voice that aches, Stewart sings about patterns of broken relationships, in Fragile Bones Will Break, about trying hard to be a better human by owning your shit and changing it. They are stories of losing a child, being a single mother and the judgement that comes with it, echoed in Song Without A Voice.
Stewart is a wordsmith who manages to gracefully and effortlessly challenge the status quo with blistering compulsion. “I’m angry and I’m tender and I won’t apologise” muses Stewart in Price Of A Free Soul, before launching into a passionate spoken verse to challenge the patriarchy, the distractions and addictions of the human condition, and finally a gracious ode to the prominent women who have inspired movements toward change.
The album is completed with the heartbreak of Song For A, a song that yearns with a deep sense of missed opportunity.“If these words had feelings this page would cry tears of sadness” reveals the intimacy that has always been present in Stewart’s records. This album appears to peel back the layers, revealing an artist who is becoming increasingly comfortable in their own skin.
FOR THE FANS: THEY/THEM/THOSE STORY
Bek-Jean Stewart entered the Australian music scene in the early 90s as songwriter and vocalist for indie-pop band, Eva Trout. Their band was signed by US label Trauma Records and toured both Australia and the United States during 1997 and 1998. During that time their song, ‘Beautiful South’ received significant radio play and the band appeared on GNW, VH1 and numerous US TV programs. Eva Trout went on to make four LPs and numerous EPs from 1993 through to 2003.
With Grant Shanahan (who played bass in Eva Trout and whose other credits include The Catherine Wheel and The Honeys) they create and produce their own records. Their solo albums expose their inner truth without compromise.
Shanahan has engineered and mixed all Stewart’s solo records. There is an undeniable connection between these two artists. They share a deep musical bond that speaks loudly through the work, including a shared understanding of song. With Shanahan, Stewart allows themself to be vulnerable; as a result their solo records are raw and lyrically tender, expressing impassioned heartbreak through complex stories of the human condition. At the same time they declare that, like a beginner I don’t know who I am. Bek-Jean describes songwriting as an inexplicable force
It’s true that I am an extremely sensitive person who most of the time has no clue where I fit in to this majestic and hostile world. All I know is that the songs that come out of me are a way of communicating. They are the reason I get dressed every day, put my shoes on and walk outside. Other than that, I know nothing about anything.
Stewart has a powerful narrative style. They have been influenced by the storytelling approach of artists such as Suzanne Vega, Liz Phair, Aimee Mann and The Go-Betweens, while simultaneously having a deep affection for albums such as AC/DC’s Back in Black and Split Enz’s True Colours:
I love rock. There is something so powerful yet simple about Back in Black that transforms my body into a shocking mess of movement. Being able to move people like that is enviable.
Like many of the artists who have inspired them, Bek-Jean uses vivid, haunting melodies to tell stories of loss, love and redemption. The spirited and even jubilant style of their music starkly contrasts with the deeply-felt emotions of their lyrics. Often referred to as desolate or raw, their words nonetheless transport listeners to a place inside the song. Stewart refers to their songs as poetry set to music.
As a self-confessed recluse, Stewart often struggles with playing live, or being away from home for extended periods:
I feel like I've spent decades listening to what other people wanted me to do, and how I should do it. Now I do things the way I want to do them, not how a record company expects things to be done. I’d rather spend my time writing and making records, sitting in nature & staring at ants, than putting myself out there in this over-saturated world we live in. I have to honour what makes me peaceful.
Stewart’s dedication to their music is undeniable. Since 2007, they has produced and toured six solo albums, showcasing the depth and range of their musicianship. Their fifth album, Songs from the North, was released in July 2019. Stewart launched her solo career with Junior Years (2007). Released internationally through Laughing Outlaw, the album was lauded by critics as ‘a superb female rejoinder to Ryan Adam's Heartbreaker’ (David Cowling, Americana UK, June 2007).
In their second solo album, Winter, Summer, Suburban Exile (2010), Stewart grapples with the complexity and dysfunction of loving someone who no longer exists, and maybe never did. These stories expose as much about their youth, including the urban streets they grew up on, as they do the anger and sadness inside all of us: the loss that always lingers, despite the light being on.
In Amos v Ann (2015) they tell their father’s story through their own words. They say of their father:
Here was a man who was full of story, but void of words. So, as a result, I would get fucking this, fucking that because that was all he was capable of. The discomposure that came out of him was palpable so I decided to give his experiences words, to make them come to life. Probably more of a cathartic undertaking for me than him I suspect.
Stewart’s fourth solo release, Records Are Written In The Bones (2017) explores fear and solicitation, the importance of the animal bond, the beauty of the natural world, living by rivers, and the transformation of one’s soul, while not hiding from the loneliness and isolation that is ever-present in their songs. Stewart is unafraid to examine difficult thoughts and feelings, from the challenge of being born into the ‘wrong’ body, to fantasies of murder, or suicide. Records Are Written in the Bones confirms Stewart’s prodigious ability to make the listener’s heart ache with emotion.
Stewart describes their forthcoming album, Songs from the North (2019) as a response to:
the push me / pull you of a fucked-up, ultimately destructive love. Sometimes, I fear that the only way I can truly love someone is to walk away, and love them from a distance.
Shanahan’s expert musicality is showcased on this record. His skill is heard on drum tracks that hark back to the ‘80s, while his innovative layering of string sounds creates a complex soundscape. Glenn Thomson, who played piano and synth sounds, writes of playing on the record:
I ended up at a light night dance party where, for a small cover charge, I was drugged and then encouraged to dive deep into Smithdom, but not before just saying no to any further offerings.
Over the course of more than a decade as a solo artist, Stewart’s turbulent yet tender songwriting has showcased the increasing maturity, courage, and complexity of their musicianship. Bek-Jean Stewart’s albums demonstrate, time and time again, their capacity for astonishing and moving songwriting.
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