Sonically documenting their own awakening to the bright lights and dirty basements of London’s club scene, Stresshead are pulling together the pieces of past passions and forging something new entirely – something rich, vibrant and foreboding.
Both members of freshly-formed duo Stresshead have roots in indie music with previous groups defining their musical adolescence, but recent revelations lead them down a path that their past selves couldn’t follow – instead, a layer of shiny electro-pop paint colours their rebirth and reintroduction in the form of debut single, ‘I Need U’.
“We didn’t realise this song would manifest itself as the start of a new project, but as new material delved deeper and deeper into a new well of sounds, it became the obvious answer,” the elusive pair begin to explain. “We’ve all learnt so much… it’s been two years since we did our last gig; we’ve relocated physically, met new people and had so many different experiences. We feel better armed, but also ready to adopt a totally different approach in which we’re more in control of the whole process.”
The move to a bigger, more vivid home base grounded Stresshead’s creative approach in ruthless energy and high-reaching ambition as the artists stalked the never-ending streets to find inspiration in a new world. “When we moved to London and reconvened down here, we immediately began to discover new forms of alternative music: pop, electronic, disco, garage; the whole scene around us. That gave us the kick that we both needed to get things off the ground.” Wide-eyed at the sense of scale looming in near sight, they were not intimidated but instead fully liberated for the first time, breaking the shackles of old circles in exchange for something more freeform: “electronic music felt so massive that as soon as we started exploring, we realised we could go in any direction that we wanted. Exploring more of that scene opened us up to more possibilities.”
DJ events showed a new side to performance art, with the welcoming atmosphere encouraging open collaboration and less focus driven towards a singular face to front it all. “Dance is driven by enjoyment of the music rather than who’s behind it,” they elaborate. “When you’re free to throw together other people’s music, to some degree it doesn’t matter who you are – you can become anyone. There’s less of a pressure to conform to trends that you see around you, and the rules are less black and white.”
Feeling less constricted to their influences and an alleviated sense of expectation, Stresshead found sharing their new style far less daunting. “When we did headline gigs, we’d get so nervous – all eyes were on us and everyone was just staring at you. We always used to hate that,” they recall. “When you’re behind some turntables, you can be doing it on the fly and nothing needs to be set in stone. We’ve enjoyed abandoning the practices we felt confined to in the past.”
Debut single ‘I Need U’, dropping April 1st, is a clear manifestation of embracing flexibility into Stresshead’s sonic style. While first impressions indicate it’s a song of devotion, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as the pair explain: “it’s about having an addictive personality, so saying ‘I need you’ isn’t necessarily about a person. I have an addictive personality and it gets to the point where I rely on these addictions to avoid stress in my own life. It’s procrastination that becomes a dependence. This song describes an unhealthy relationship, pining for something that you come to crave and think is good for you, when obviously it’s not.”
Complimenting a caged expression of toxic obsession with a catchy alt-pop instrumental, ‘I Need U’ is less of a definitive statement of intent and more of a quick introduction to lay the groundwork for what comes next. As they declare: “this song is the last true remnant of our old indie roots.” Undeniably, the best aspects of both old and new have collided here. “This is basically a bridge between the two. Over time, we’ve abandoned the pursuit of an indie sensibility. We’re very production focused and the alt-pop sound felt natural to lean into.”
This progression is soon to be unveiled through an upcoming demo’s mixtape that dips into new pools of sound, with ego and self-esteem imprinting the thematic through-line. Although crafted behind closed doors through various lockdowns, these tracks have “less to do with COVID, and more to do with a lack of gratification. We had an outlet of putting out art and getting a sense of how it lands and without that, we retreated into ourselves. Not knowing what to do with yourself, not knowing if any move you make is the right one, not knowing if you’re good enough – that’s what all these songs deal with in one sense or another.”
A strong, compelling introduction to Stresshead shows a clear evolution and the desire to learn – and then reveal – even more of themselves further down the road. “In many ways, this set of songs feels like a primer of what is to come. We’re exploring our interests and influences in various different ways before we move forward; ‘I Need U’ is the first taste of that.”