Words: James Frostick
Artist image: Jordanne Chant
Grace Stevenson of Rebel Yell and 100% fame is today releasing a brand-new EP under her Soft Touch guise. Empty Lovers see’s Grace digging into a tender side of her creative well, drawing upon unfamiliar experiences and a recent displacement to bring to life a sonic aesthetic pumping with vigour and vulnerability.
The past year has seen a plethora of changes for Grace Stevenson. The former Brisbane native (who is familiar to many through her work as Rebel Yell) relocated to Sydney last year. While Sydney is not a wholly alien city when compared to the gritty streets of Brisbane (both are sun-blasted hellscapes in summer), any move to unfamiliar surroundings is bound to cause a measurable amount of emotional upheaval at first. Thankfully for Grace, it seems as if the Sydney scene has been quick to bring her into the fold, and soon after establishing her new life Grace no doubt made connections with the city’s abundance of creatives. I can’t properly guess what sort of impact this has had on Grace as an individual, but I can say for certainty that it prompted a musical evolution. The Sydney move was largely the impetus behind Soft Touch – Grace’s new buoyant pop-adjacent electro moniker, which is releasing its new EP today through Tender Collection. A markedly different sound than the system-shock immediacy of Rebel Yell, Soft Touch is a gentler outlet – one that revels in a slower vibe-y seep without the harsh, propulsive dissonance Rebel Yell famously employs.
While less abrasive than the industrial sonics of Rebel Yell, there’s still an element of distance between listener and Grace herself. Her vocals are still saturated in effects and lowered in the overall mix, but this serves to further lure listeners in, like it’s a vital component that adds a necessary piece to the puzzle. ‘Fright’, ‘Touch’ and ‘Glass’ were the first tracks penned as Soft Touch, and one can discern some very loose similarities – the same subterranean echo, the aforementioned affected vocals – but at the same time you can also tell that Soft Touch is a bit more malleable and limber in its construction. We’re listening to Grace find her footing under this new guide in real time, and by the latter half of the EP begins we are listening to an entirely new artist. Songs like ‘Dream Date’ hint at a playful side to Soft Touch, while the heady dreaminess of ‘Empty’ is almost as far removed from the pointed sounds of Rebel Yell while still remaining in the same genre.
While geography doesn’t necessarily factor into the sound of Soft Touch, it’s not hard to imagine that new scenery and creative influences filtered somewhat into the EP’s evolution. The very experience of moving no doubt offered plenty of chances for reflection and introspection, which has had a discernible effect on Grace’s lyrical direction. Potentially leaving behind a bittersweet history and discovering her true self has played a part. In press material Grace states that “some of these songs are a giant fuck you to the users and abusers out there, whereas some are for the gentle heartbreak of the lonely.” Empty Lovers as a whole is less a documentation of a brand-new artist emerging from a chrysalis, but one that has already spread its wings to find new territory.
Indulge your ears and listen to Empty Lovers now:
If you like what you hear, purchase a cassette or digital copy of the EP now through Tender Collection. You can catch Soft Touch launching the cassette at two shows in the coming weeks: