Interview: HNRY ST and S.T.P on their new collaboration NVR
Leigh Russell, known professionally as HNRY ST, is an Australian music producer, songwriter, artist and label owner from Melbourne. HNRY ST infuses curiosity and a true love of music into contemporary sounds, creating a unique brand that uplifts and inspires.
S.T.P is an unapologetically honest artist whose heartfelt lyrics explore the depths of love, loss, and hope, fearlessly sharing her emotions with the world. Her performances are a mesmerising tightrope walk between power and vulnerability, captivating audiences and leaving them spellbound.
Their new collab NVR showcases both of these emerging artists strengths, resulting in a killer vocal house cut. With the single out now, we caught up with both artists to get the lowdown on this fire collab!
Thanks for talking to us. Has it been a positive year for you?
HRNY ST: This is great – thanks for the opportunity. I really appreciate the chance to talk to you about the new track, NVR, and everything else that’s going on.
This year has been extremely positive. I’ve put out five releases (singles) on my own label so far this year as well as a remix I did for Web Gem. It has felt incredibly fulfilling laying down the foundations for not only myself as an artist/producer but also for my label, HNRY ST mzk. So much more to do and look forward to but at this point it has been great.
S.T.P: This year has been up and down but that keeps life interesting hey! The upcoming release of NVR is soo exciting and been such a thrill to be a part of and help me feel connected and inspired to keep music flowing. Love how your music can resonate with certain people and watch how it can take on a path and mind of its own!
What’s your earliest memory involving music?
HNRY ST: It would have to be as a kid when my parents, particularly my Dad, would have music playing in the house. I can still see the cassette/vinyl set up he had in our lounge room. Personally, I remember getting into music in the later years of primary school through the radio (top 40) and on weekend tv. I also remember I used to get my hands on a music magazine called HIT Songwords that had the lyrics to the songs of the day – I just loved it. One of the first few albums I owned was Cheap Trick’s Lap of Luxury and INXS’ Listen Like Thieves – both on cassette. I was lucky enough to have this really cool double deck cassette player in the early 90s – this player had an awesome function where it could play cassette tapes both ways so when Side A finished, Side B would play automatically without having to physically switch the cassette around. I have vivid memories of listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magic every night on repeat as I fell asleep thanks to the magic of that player…
S.T.P: Music has always been in the house. Always on the stereo, always being hummed, always in the air! Living with parents who weren’t necessarily musical but lived and breathed music through the appreciation of it. Being a kid and listening to music evoked soo much emotion is probably my earliest memory. I just remember always dancing and feeling elevated to such a state of expression. Limbs flailing and singing so out of key but a real state of uninhibitedness! That’s the brilliance of music.
Who were your biggest musical inspirations growing up?
HNRY ST: I just mentioned the Red Hot Chili Peppers – my all time favourite band. I saw them in Melbourne twice earlier this year and probably 7-8 times in my life.
I also mentioned the 90s in my previous answer which was certainly a formative time for my musical inspirations. I grew up in the 90s as a hip hop teen and took in all that I could from albums, radio, concerts and magazines. I even wore the clothes, too. I had the likes of Snoop, Dre, 2pac, Naughty, Ice-T and Ice Cube on heavy rotation. And while my production isn’t in the hip hop / rap space, it certainly influences my sound in terms of bass elements and groove. I just love a rap vocal on a house track, done right, it works brilliantly – I just happen to have one of those tracks. It’s called MLKY, a house track I put out this year with UK MC/Artist Taja.
S.T.P: Talking Heads are such a huge inspiration – musically, their esthetic and David Bryne’s storytelling is just next to none. Having fun with music in all elements of it is what I strive for and see them doing through and through.
When did you know you wanted to make music? And what were your first steps in trying to make it happen?
HNRY ST: I wanna say it was the mid to late 90s when I realised it was actually possible to do so. I came across SAE Institute here in Melbourne and went to their open day. Instantly hooked by what they presented, I enrolled immediately into their Audio Engineering course. Once I had completed the course, I took out a personal loan and bought a Korg keyboard, studio monitors (which I still have today), a PowerMac G4 Tower as well as Pro Tools and Cubase. The sales guy definitely saw me coming, that’s for sure.
S.T.P: I played music in school and decided to not worry about grades but do subjects that I was actually good at and made school enjoyable! I think having that opportunity was really where it all started for me. Getting to play with people who also loved music was just the best feeling and have chased that in every way since!
How did you hook up with each other on the new single?
HNRY ST: S.T.P and I met through a mutual friend who I had met through a DJ Social Club community here in Melbourne. We’d hung out at a few parties and got to know each other through them. I then came across S.T.P’s EP, Matter of Time, which I had discovered via a live performance on YouTube where she performed one of the tracks called Never Going Back. I was instantly drawn to the song – beautiful vocals, amazing lyrics and awesome arrangement / production. The next time I saw her I asked if I could work with her on reworking the track as an S.T.P & HNRY ST collaboration and thankfully she said yes so we did!
S.T.P: We’re both DJs and meet each other in the Melbourne scene. HNRY ST listened to my EP and thought the track had legs to remix. Was blown away with what he did with it and feel so honoured to have someone remix a track without being asked!!
What messages or stories are you trying to convey through the lyrics of NVR?
S.T.P: The track is about recognising a connection is not right for you. Allowing it to have been what it was but telling yourself and being confident in the fact that you’re “Never Going Back”! Hard to say to yourself sometimes but it was a cathartic thing to write and allowing people to celebrate that in their own lives.
The presence of vocals used to be a vital element in house music, playing a crucial role in shaping the track’s narrative and helping to establish a deeper connection between the artist and the audience. Do you think this is still the case?
HNRY ST: I certainly think this is the case. For me, there is something special about connecting with a song and in particular with the lyrics and vocals of a song. It can help turn a song into an experience, an occasion and even a time stamp. The nostalgia associated with songs that you resonate with is undeniable.
S.T.P: Absolutely, anytime I’m making music or listening or djing house music vocals are such a driving force. It is such a vehicle that very few instruments are able to achieve. A horn section or cheeky sample definitely holds a similar weight but vocals are the most relatable connection for us to emotionally attach to the music. A contrasting voice is also such a good way to get that, give us a gruff or accented voice that stands out from the beat and you’ve got a hot mixture!
Were there any specific bits of hard or software that contributed to the sound of this one?
HNRY ST: I’m a Logic user, all of my production is done using that DAW. I’m also a big Native Instruments fan so pretty much all of my sounds are sourced using their software. I do also spend a heap of time using Loopmasters as my sourced sample platform. I can (and do) get lost in there for hours.
What do you have in the pipeline for the rest of 2023?
HNRY ST: I have at least two more singles to release before the year is done. Once NVR has had time to breathe and make its way in the wild I’ll be looking to start working on the promo and release for those tracks. I’ll also be continuing to keep establishing HNRY ST mzk as a label and myself as an artist/producer. Exciting times, that’s for sure.
S.T.P: I’ve got plans to release a few more singles before the year is out and have some fab DJ gigs lined up as well with my trio Tandem Reserve!
What final message would you like to leave for our readers and your fans?
HNRY ST: I’d like to thank them for their support and for having an interest in our release, NVR. This song is an absolute tune and I hope that they love it as much as I do. It would be amazing if they do enjoy it, that they share NVR with someone who might also like it? Also, keep an eye out for my future releases and if they have time please check out HNRY ST and S.T.P on their favourite platform. As independent artists, we couldn’t be more grateful for all the support. Be sure to reach out and let us know what you think.
S.T.P: Make music that makes you happy, it’s not about what the audience thinks (always the best feeling when people love your work). But making and creating things that bring you the most joy is where the magic is at!