Lewis Stephenson began his musical education hating every instrument except the guitar—because it was “nice and loud”.
Luckily, Stephenson’s parents forced him to persist—because that musical background has helped form one of Australia’s most exciting and varied up-and-coming songwriters.
Stephenson’s first attempts at songwriting were, in his own words, “poor imitations” of some of his musical idols—like Foals, Caribou and Foxygen. But surrounded by friends, family, and bandmates who pushed him to get better, he did just that. He stopped trying to please others with his songs, and started trying to please himself.
And it’s not just Stephenson who’s been pleased by his development as a songwriter. He’s behind the songs of hotly-tipped bands like Morning Harvey, Confidence Man and Moses Gunn Collective. Plus he’s the lead singer of the Belligerents, a Brisbane five-piece making waves with their fresh take on psychedelia.
Across this range of musical projects, he uses a range of songwriting techniques. From humming melodic daydreams into his voice memo app, to writing riffs on piano or guitar, to making a laptop beat by himself and jamming on top, Stephenson’s varied approaches yield diverse results. If there’s a distinctive touch to his tunes, it’s his love of a groove, of songs built on top of a steady percussive foundation.
“I always have a soft spot for a lovely pop song with a sweet melody and chord progression,” Stephenson says of his musical inspirations. “Probably why I’ve always been a Paul McCartney man.” It’s a lofty name to invoke, but as a young songwriter who’s come so far and done so much already, he’s right to be ambitious.