Sydney trio Julia Why? have released ‘Starman’, the second track off their upcoming sophomore album, reflecting on deeply personal issues while diversifying their sound. Hitting the scene in 2015, the group has steadily grown, leading to the release of their second album, Hysteria, later this year. The first single from this latest album, ‘Pocket’, featured heavy drums, grungy lyrics and a strong riot girl sound. In comparison, ‘Starman’ is a more poppy track that heavily contrasts with its themes of mental health and mania.
"This song traces my personal journey with madness. It is an homage to David Bowie, whose death in 2016 triggered hallucinations and a manic episode that eventually led to hospitalisation and a bipolar diagnosis. David Bowie became a transcendental source of strength while I battled and danced with my own demons,” said frontwoman Julia Wylie.
While the track still contains the heavy drums and rocking guitar of ‘Pocket’, it is melodically brighter. This is in part thanks to Wylie’s soft, dream-pop vocal performance that mimics Bowie, paying homage the Thin White Duke. There is a strong amount of reverb, with a lot of the dirtier low-end noise of the guitar and bass being mixed in with the brighter high-end. This creates a powerful shimmer, which fittingly creates a large and spacey soundscape, with the music booming out into the stars. This ethereal pop rock tone is essential for the juxtaposing lyrical content.
The tale of mental illness and a Bowie induced manic episode is powerful. Lines like “I just hallucinated” and “at least I know I’m going crazy” are so deeply personal that it’s hard not to be moved in some way. Whether the story confronts, comforts or shocks the listener, it does not shy away from the reality of mental illness. While mental illness is a strong motif in the lyrics, the theme of the song is much deeper than that. It is a song about the power of music to comfort.
The chorus, “is there a Starman to pull me back together again,” not only tells the story of how Bowie’s music helped Wylie, but also exemplifies how ‘Starman’ is doing the same thing. The track uses the bright, upbeat instrumentation to drag the otherwise horrific and dark narrative out of the depths of depression, just like the Starman himself did for Wylie.
Julia Why? is set to play at the Bank Hotel, Newtown with Pleasure Chest and August Auzins for the official ‘Starman’ launch on April 9. Event info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/377454923093281/