REBEL YELL and Her Collaborators on the Themes and Experiences at the Core of ‘DESOLATION’

REBEL YELL | Credit: Jordan Lochart

Grace Stevenson released DESOLATION, her third album under the REBEL YELL alias, in October 2023. Stevenson, who is now based in Naarm/Melbourne, has been making music as REBEL YELL since the mid-2010s. DESOLATION is a work of dark, industrial and dance-oriented electronic music that builds on the foundation of the project’s first two LPs.

Those albums – 2018’s Hired Muscle and 2020’s Fall From Grace – came out via Rice Is Nice, while DESOLATION is Stevenson’s first release through Dinosaur City Records. The album features guest appearances from Black Dahlia, California Girls‘ Gus McGrath, Cong Josie, Tralala Blip and Tired Girl.

Here, Stevenson and her collaborators tell Music Feeds about the themes and experiences at the core of DESOLATION‘s nine tracks.


1. The Hell We Chose

Grace Stevenson: ‘The Hell We Chose’ talks of our inability to find authenticity within the city-scape, especially when spending time within various scenes as opposed to finding community. As I spent time away from populated areas, living in Iceland and back in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, I allowed myself the freedom to see my true self – looking at my past, my actions, my friends and acquaintances – from an outside view.

‘The Hell We Chose’ highlights how quickly we can immerse ourselves in an exterior self and in our belongings and how easily we cover up our past – good or bad – to please others around us.

2. Destiny 11:11 (feat. California Girls)

Grace: Before I passed this song to Gus to complete, I had tried many different vocals outside of the fantasy/destiny lines. I even tried to write a song about Magic Mike, aka Channing Tatum, which I have saved for another time.

I was playing with the idea that I often feel like a fantasy to someone I meet when we are in a dating phase, but would I ever truly be their destiny? They always seem to have a preconceived idea of who I would be as a person, usually due to the aesthetic of REBEL YELL, my alter ego, which has very few similarities to me as a normal human being.

Gus McGrath (California Girls): Some parts of these lyrics stretch back to a different song I made and played a lot live before Beat Boy. It was originally about how I can’t swim and I had a nightmare where I drowned. The song never came out and I sat with it, then it returned in a period during lockdown where I was mentally doing very bad and the drowning became a metaphor.

I liked my lyrics with Grace’s lyrics about destiny and fantasy because both of those things are about choosing and making your future, with some acknowledgement of the dream-like fantasy that fuels those motivations. I imagine Grace like an angel on this song, which makes sense to me because REBEL YELL always inspires huge confidence in me.

3. Kombat

Grace: I realised ‘Kombat’ is a totally a break-up song. It’s pleading with the listener to step outside of their mind and give love a chance. The song accuses the listener of stepping away from their true self, vulnerability and freeness. The song is a plea for authenticity and for people to lose themselves in order to free themselves.

Too often, women in particular are taken for a ride by the self-sabotaging recipient of their kindness or love. My plea is to not deprive ourselves of what we want, what we love or what we deserve.

4. TNT (feat. Black Dahlia)

Grace: ‘TNT’ is about the detonation into empowerment, through great bonds of the artists, from their past mistreatments from others. Inspiration comes from the history of King Kong. REBEL YELL and Black Dahlia, like Kong, rarely attack unless provoked, and after detonation, they show great degrees of strength in the battles to fight for their rights, and for life.

Black Dahlia: The vision was very indicative of two women rising from the swamps filled with the hurt inflicted upon us, and in the end, remaining vulnerable while ready to ignite into the beautiful monsters we are.

5. Reprise

Grace: ‘Reprise’ felt like a continuation of the track ‘Orbit’ from Fall From Grace. It has a similar sound and structure in that it layers calm vocals over an acid techno beat. The reverberating vocals in the background of ‘Reprise’ were recorded in a giant, freezing cold, empty fish silo in Seydisfjordur, Iceland. That fact is what makes this song feel special to me.

6. The Heat (feat. Cong Josie)

Cong Josie: I wrote verse after verse on a train to the city one night. Guided by fiery and nasty prompting words and a ruthless arpeggiated stomp track by Grace, I let the EBM shouted, rap-like phrase “Beneath it all” come to me and then pound my head.

I was inspired by the repetition of phrase that I had heard in Grace’s ‘Protect’ – a song I instantly adored when I first heard it in Eltham’s Hungry Jack’s carpark. The lyrics revealed themselves to be a description of the daily hypocrisy of public displays of ideology. Of media and social media outrage. Of torch-wielding gangs, all being only a few metres from burning the planet and descending to hell. A comedy basically.

When Grace played off these lyrics with shared Scorpio descriptions of binary forces of water and fire, it felt like telekinetic connection and completeness. The best ultimate beauty of what a collaboration can bring.

Grace: Cong and I met when I first got to watch Cong Josie and The Crimes. I was blown away by the command he had over the room and saw a similarity in how we both used alter ego’s for our music and stage presence. We bonded over our Scorpio tendencies and agreed it would be a crime not to work together on a song. I followed Cong’s lead lyrically and really dove into the fact that deep down we are all wicked little freaks in some way or another.

7. Protect

Grace: An anthem for many voices that was written initially in regards to women and our battles with safety and to have a voice (a continuation from ‘Night Drive’). Then when taken to Iceland, it felt adaptive to the environment and our climate and how young people now face the consequences of who walked before us, yet cop the blame for so much.

8. Shadow (feat. Tralala Blip)

Grace: Tralala Blip and REBEL YELL have a long history of admiring each other and playing gigs together back in Queensland. I love their melodies and ways of approaching writing. The process feels similar to that of my own and it was amazing to hear what they could bring to a track.

Tralala Blip: We can’t remember exactly why “shadow” was the word that got repeated over and over. We were talking about alien moonbases on the dark side of the moon during the drive from Lismore to Bangalow for practice that day. ‘Shadow’ mixes both light and dark ad I think this is the beginning of many collaborations between the two acts.

9. Rain On Me (feat. Tired Girl)

Grace: When I first heard this song, I thought how much Lady Gaga’s breakdown rap was such a REBEL YELL vibe. It stuck in my mind ever since and with the help of my friend, producer Thomas Brydon, I was able to recreate the pop hit and then add my own textures and sounds to it. I knew I needed a fab Ariana and who else better than the sultry cool vocals of Tired Girl.

REBEL YELL’s new album, DESOLATION, is out now via Dinosaur City Records. Stream and purchase it here.

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