Australian indie pop artist Phebe Starr dives into the intimate depths of debut album ‘Heavy Metal Flower Petal,’ a vivid and vulnerable record of pain transcending into beauty.
Stream: ‘Heavy Metal Flower Petal’ – Phebe Starr
Art should be like reintroducing ourselves to the strangers who we are but have never met.
Achingly heartfelt and stirring, Phebe Starr’s debut album is a raw and radiant indie pop reckoning: The product of upheaval in her personal life, telling an all-too familiar, yet nonetheless irresistibly intense story of love, loss, and renewal. A vivid and vulnerable record of pain transcending into beauty, Heavy Metal Flower Petal dwells in the depths of emotion as the artist undergoes an intimate journey of healing, empowerment, and internal evolution.
Don’t ever say you’re sorry and not mean it
Don’t ever say you’re sorry and not mean it
Cause baby it’s hard to believe it but I’m
Getting on a highway and I’m leaving
Getting on a highway and I’m leaving
hard to believe it that I’m gone
How many times can the heart break
How many times can it all take
Till it all comes down. Till it all comes down
How many weights can my heart take
How many times can it all break
Till it all comes down
Independently out March 11, 2022, Heavy Metal Flower Petal is the long-awaited and highly anticipated debut album from Australian indie pop “starrlet,” Phebe Starr. Active for the better part of the past decade, Starr has amassed a considerable fanbase over the years thanks to her arresting vocal power, her heart-on-sleeve lyricism, and the seismic passion she injects into every moment of her music. Previous EPs – from 2014’s Zero and 2017’s Chronicles, to 2019’s Ice Tea Liberace – showcase the sheer breadth and range of Starr’s art. She has held nothing back in the past, and so too does she put her all into her debut album.
Years in the making, Heavy Metal Flower Petal is the soundtrack of a soul exposed.
Eleven achingly emotional, evocative tracks detail Starr’s divorce from the man she married at 21 and the ensuing aftermath – from tender turbulence and pure, visceral heartache, to bittersweet nostalgia, longing, outright anger, betrayal, self-discovery, and empowerment. It’s a true, messy entanglement of real life emotions that can be a lot to take in no matter how you slice and dice them, but Starr shines boldly in every song. From the distressed, grief-ridden opener “Rollercoaster Man” and the cinematic, groovily gutting outpouring “AIR,” to the brooding, heavy-hitting “My Boy Cries” the gently glowing power-ballad “Edelweiss,” and the undeniably catchy, cathartic strut-your-stuff reverie “My Magic Moon,” Heavy Metal Flower Petal soars high and sweeps low in all the best ways.
“There is so much depth behind this record,” Starr tells Atwood Magazine. “My main desire was to transcend my pain into something beautiful. Heavy Metal Flower Petal is an album about sorrow and new beginnings… The whole album is about my process of letting myself feel things that I was afraid to [feel]. It’s about letting myself be tender and vulnerable, learning how to incorporate the feminine into my narrative.”
Lover, dreamer, warm receiver
I wanna wander like a stone-filled stream
Wondering, is it worth believin’ in?
Mornin’, you came to me with devotion
And all that’s lackin’ me, a lonely windin’ road
Heavy breather, day seeker
I wanna love you with my flesh and hunger, yeah
I wanna taste you like a rollin’ summer
I know sometimes it gets complicated
But, you and I are the white ones that grow
It’s alright, Edelweiss
I’ll be the light in your lonely places
Let’s build a home through all these changes
I, edelweiss, I feel your body when it starts reachin’
I’ll be the one there to embrace it
I, the night sky, gave a sly, Edelweiss
You and I, woman bride, it’s alright, Edelweiss
Opening up to the full spectrum of her emotions, Starr embraces both her resilience and toughness (“heavy metal”) as well as her sweetness and softness (“flower petal”). The resulting music is equally all-encompassing, and yet despite the contrasts between tracks like “Edelweiss” and its dreamily soft, acoustic neighbor “Alphabet Soup,” or the invigorating overhaul “Tornado” and graceful, lilting finale “Whiplash,” everything fits perfectly into place.
“Duality is a common theme in all my art,” Starr says, speaking to her album’s vastness (in more ways than one). “I wanted the complexity of two sides to be represented sonically and symbolically… The reality is there is more space, more producers seeing my skills rather than projecting their view of a women in music onto me. There are more opportunities now to be seen as a complex person. As a result, I was able to develop this softer, more vulnerable side of myself. I’ve experienced true liberation and love from my collaborators in the sense of respecting my ideas so much, that they could be received even if I whispered them. I’m incredibly honored to experience such healing and transformation in this industry and thus it is my hope that beauty is generously given to my listens and producers more vitally in our lives.”
Music has been a force of healing, guidance and connection to me. It was really important that the process of writing this was driven by my own experience of healing and transcendence…
Unapologetic; untethered; unrelenting; unshackled: Heavy Metal Flower Petal is as enchanting and captivating as it is utterly inspiring. Not only does Phebe Starr find her voice and her footing on her debut, but she also takes us along for the ride – manifesting her hopes, dreams, strengths, fears, faults, flaws, and more into eleven exceptional songs. Inner turmoil never felt so freeing.
Experience the full record upon its release on March 11, and dive deeper into Phebe Starr and Heavy Metal Flower Petal in our interview below.
A CONVERSATION WITH PHEBE STARR
Atwood Magazine: Phebe, can you share a little about the story behind this record?
Phebe Starr: There is so much depth behind this record; my main desire was to transcend my pain into something beautiful. Heavy Metal Flower Petal is an album about sorrow and new beginnings. I wrote it in 2018/19 when I broke up with my first love who I’d married very young and then moved countries from Australia to Los Angeles to process that relationship and how I got in it in the first place. When I was in LA I found myself surrounded by new dynamics. I had a whole group of friends who were strong people.
The music industry had also changed and all of a sudden I found myself exploring sides of myself that I wasn’t able to express previously. I read a lot about yin yang or soft and hard powers that we all embody and I wanted to deepen my exploration for soft power within myself. It was an intensely vulnerable experience. I learnt about how creativity works in seasons and how it isn’t liner. It’s like winter, summer, autumn, spring. The album was meant to be out before the pandemic, but it feels very symbolic that it’s now being released in spring.
What was your vision going into this record? Did that change over the course of recording this?
Phebe Starr: I originally wanted it to be an album of piano ballads, really raw and organic, completely stripped back, but over the course of the pandemic that changed. I felt I’d only experienced winter and it was sounding like it too, so the direction changed to try and make the album a more holistic vision, which embodied the four seasons. That means sonically representing autumn, summer, and spring, too. The album starts in winter – the ballads – and then the album gets more full as it grows, like a garden into sonic clusters. I wanted it to feel like a journey into a new world that expands and thus was symbolic of our lives constantly transforming and changing too.
Why the title “Heavy Metal Flower Petal”?
Phebe Starr: Duality is a common theme in all my art. I wanted the complexity of two sides to be represented sonically and symbolically. Sonically, I have two main influences in my music – I’m an old soul and grew up listening to a lot of folk and raw rock and roll. Everyone from Jonny Cash, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, and Waylyn Jennings. That era of music was the only thing I had access to living on a rural farm in Australia. In my teens, I discovered bands like Kraftwerk, Bjork and Sneaky Sound System. The way they bent and manipulated sound to create electronic landscapes had a huge impact on me. These two influences are what I carry both ground home from farm life and the desire for progression, invasion and transcendence.
When I began in the music industry, I was a very different person. To communicate a 10th of my vision, I had to be so strong. I can’t imagine what it was like for women in early decades but for me to get my ideas across, I needed to be extremely clear and I had to masculinize myself to be heard and taken seriously as a musician rather than just a singer… I’ve seen the world change dramatically in the last five years. The #MeToo movement has had huge consequences on the culture of sessions and the way I’ve been treated by authority.
The reality is there is more space, more producers seeing my skills rather than projecting their view of a women in music onto me. There are more opportunities now to be seen as a complex person. As a result, I was able to develop this softer, more vulnerable side of myself. I’ve experienced true liberation and love from my collaborators in the sense of respecting my ideas so much, that they could be received even if I whispered them. I’m incredibly honored to experience such healing and transformation in this industry and thus it is my hope that beauty is generously given to my listens and producers more vitally in our lives.
How do you feel Heavy Metal Flower Petal introduces you and captures your artistry?
Phebe Starr: I’m not sure really; I guess we will have to see how others receive it. I would have loved to have more money to make beautiful visuals or take my band on tour to play all the parts in the record, but I hope the soul of it translates. I hope it comes across and honors the time me and my collaborators invested in making something special.
As a lyrically forward artist, do you have any favorite lyrics in these songs?
Phebe Starr: They are all sacred to me. Lived, not just written. I do love “My Magic Moon” and the fun I had with the alliteration and assonance. It’s a silly, fun joke and was created around the repetition of MmmmmmmmmM Mmm. I took a lot of inspiration from Talking Heads and had a lot of fun, whereas all the other songs felt like emotional work, this felt like play!
Do you have any definitive favorites or personal highlights off this record?
Phebe Starr: They are all so special to me in how they were created. I was so honored by my collaborators. I heard Prince once say that the songwriter’s gift is birthing the song, and we have no control over how its raised. Well they are my words, but that was the idea, and I couldn’t agree more. My favorite part is writing and that gift gives me so much reason to keep playing music and getting up in the morning.
What do you hope listeners take away from Heavy Metal Flower Petal? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?
Phebe Starr: Transcendence. I am very intentional about this. Music has been a force of healing, guidance and connection to me. It was really important that the process of writing this was driven by my own experience of healing and transcendence and my collaborations or process of writing this to be one grounded in improvisation to leave the music to speak to me about what it wanted to say. Art should be like reintroducing ourselves to the strangers who we are but have never met. It’s my hope that through releasing this to the world, that even if it reaches a small amount of people, that’s what it would do for them: Transcend them to meet themselves.
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