“It’s a bit repetitive”: We chat to Rebel Yell about why you shouldn’t play industrial techno to your mum

Tempering hard-edged industrial elements into pulsating dance tracks; Rebel Yell is quickly carving a place as one Australia’s most promising electronic acts. A solo project of Grace Stevenson, there’s been a certain buzz surrounding the Brisbane local since her signing to label Rice Is Nice earlier this year.

Catching up with Grace ahead of a blistering BIGSOUND set, we talked Billy Idol, the local scene and playing industrial music in your mum’s car.

rebel yell

Championing industrial music in Australia is Brisbane’s Rebel Yell, a producer known for hardware setups, cacophonous drum machine work and spicy techno leanings.

HAPPY: Industrial music is an element of your sound. It’s something that’s been through some real ups and downs since the pioneering days of Throbbing Gristle in the 1970s. Do you feel it’s ready for another comeback?

GRACE: Electronic music is coming back in a big way at the moment. I would love industrial music to come back. It’s something I’m always listening to.

HAPPY: It’s an underground sound, but it’s had its flirtations with pop (not always for the best). What is it about it that’s so enduring?

GRACE: I don’t know why I find it so enjoyable; I think for some reason it’s easy to dance and listen to. I was playing my music to my mother in car she the other day and she was like “It’s a bit repetitive.” (Laughs) I like the repetitive nature, I really like repetitive beats.

HAPPY: Is repetition something you try to bring out in your own music?

GRACE: I think it’s in there; I might try and change it a little bit in future. But it’s definitely in there.

HAPPY: It’s a genre label often associated with subversion, political dissidence, physicality and self-liberation. Do you feel that your music carries a similar message?   

GRACE: Lyrically?

HAPPY: Your vocals can be a bit distorted.

GRACE: Well I think I just randomly craft my music. But I do use it as a bit of a release for frustration and anger.

Happy: So you have a more experimental approach to making music?

GRACE: I think so. Obviously the way I make things is different in Rebel Yell than to 100%, structure-wise

HAPPY: 100% is another great Brisbane group you play in. What’s your involvement?

GRACE: I write all the drumbeats using the same equipment as Rebel Yell. With them I also play synth, but a different synth. I try to separate the sounds of the two projects, especially the way I write drum parts. Things are a lot more poppier in 100%.

HAPPY: Brisbane is your hometown, what’s it like to make music here?

GRACE: The actual creating part is great. I go down to this big warehouse you can rent out, where I can be really loud and just play to myself. Actually playing gigs is… a bit harder. A year or two ago there was a peak in electronic music here, but then so many people moved away. Now there are more mixed bills and people putting together awkward line-ups with odd set times. But that’s Brisbane for you!

HAPPY: The name Rebel Yell suggests that you’re a Billy Idol fan. Is this true?

GRACE: Billy Idol wasn’t an original inspiration for my music, but when I had to decide on a name it may have been a contributing factor. Originally when I was thinking of starting Rebel Yell I had a large list of potential names. I was trying ANYTHING to find names, like clicking through those random band name generators online. When I asked people which name I should choose they all reacted the same: “Yeah! Rebel Yell! That’s the Billy Idol song!” I do like him (laughs).

HAPPY: Do you feel there’s some essence of Billy Idol that’s slipped through to your music?

GRACE: Not intentionally? But maybe there is a bit? I do remember that one time I drove back from Newcastle and we had this Greatest Hits CD in the car. It was all we listened to.

HAPPY: You’ve only recently dropped your Mother of Millions EP. What’s your philosophy for releasing music? Do you think the album format has gone out the door for electronic artists?

GRACE: Yup. I think singles or 4-tracks. I like the idea of a single and a film clip. I don’t think albums are particularly helpful for electronic artists at the moment.

HAPPY: Latest clip Take Away was filmed during a recent trip to Iceland. What was that like?

GRACE: It was great. I had the idea before I went there that I wanted to film a clip. I tried to get my boyfriend Sean [one half of Brisbane’s Multiple Man] to film under my direction, but then my brother came in and was a little more instructional. It was his idea to do the dancing and clapping. It was good.

HAPPY: So a very DIY approach?

GRACE: Yeah, I just had my camera and said “let’s go film there!”

HAPPY: Is that reflected in you music? Is it a mostly DIY?

GRACE: Definitely. I recorded it just in one afternoon at a friend’s house. Then I sent it to my brother to mix and master.

HAPPY: Would you consider working with a name producer?

GRACE: Yeah totally! The other day we were at Sydney’s Volumes Festival and this band called Zero Percent played. The group is one of the guys from The Presets. I thought “I should hit him up!”

HAPPY: Where else could your music go next?

GRACE: I want to move more into techno! I would like to get some new equipment and play around with cleaner vocals as well as the distorted ones I currently use. A bit more dance heavier, maybe a bit cleaner.

HAPPY: Are there any artists you were thinking of as a template for that?

GRACE: The other day I was thinking… you know Sophie who did that song [Hey QT] with QT? Something like that… big parts and lots of drops.