Story and Images by Dylan Marriott
We meet in the lobby of Chase, Ella and Tommy’s housing complex. The three share a small apartment in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, the building somewhat run down, in that classically Australian way. The elevator doors shut violently, while cranks and pulleys groan, reluctantly transporting us to the top floor. Their balcony overlooks a children’s hospital and Melbourne’s anonymous city skyline. Inside there’s a makeshift studio in each room, various keyboards and speakers strewn across the floor and tables; in the centre of their lounge room hangs an image of Christ, its glass frame slightly cracked, and directly below it, a poster of SALEM’s 2010 album, King Night.
Chase (Production, Keys), Ella (Vocals) and Tommy (Vocals, Production) formed Stay Healthy in early 2021, amidst Melbourne’s endless lockdowns. During this time, the trio would speak over Discord to one and other from different rooms of the same apartment, each working on separate DAWs, the apartment becoming a kind of host to an aural machine. They tell me this process was foundational and has since become routine.
Their first release, Sickem, is a two-track EP that sets the mood for their sound; rough, scratchy vocals peak through overblown guitar riffs, trap drums and heavy synth leads. Ella and Tommy’s vocals intertwine throughout the two tracks, the project feeling like an anthem to accompany a paranoid come-up and a dazed comedown. Chase’s synth leads carry the project with immense momentum, cementing a sound the band has continued to pursue.
“Our first release wasn’t necessarily the music we were trying to be known for – it was just what we had and could work with at the time. Especially now, as we produce more and get better at it, we’re able to express ourselves much more clearly. Tommy will start something and then give it to Chase and then Chase will go a completely different direction with it and the whole sound will change… we all do a little bit of everything…“
Stay Healthy’s roots are entrenched in their Melbourne surroundings; the band proudly embrace their accents, influences and landscapes. Their sound is starkly unique and sincere, with inspiration ranging from obvious sources in witch house, trap and dance music (imagine Nirvana, White Ring, Gucci Mane and Haunted Mound combined and turned upside down), to less references far more obscure.
As we drive to the location of our photoshoot, Ella and Tommy blast sleazy 2010’s club hits, singing along to every lyric. We travelled to the outer western suburbs to take photos in a makeshift dump yard I had stumbled upon a few weeks prior. Planes flew low overhead as we explored the wreckage, the glow of street lights and drone of a nearby highway never out of reach – if Dirt was a place, it was here.
“We haven’t found an avenue that we’ve felt at home in,” Tommy reflects, when asked how the group feels about Melbourne’s music scene. “It’s got quite a low ceiling, but we love it. Australia follows suit with what the US is doing, but we can have a lot more freedom with what we choose to be influenced by.”
“I feel like in other places these niches are much more alive,” Ella chimes – “Maybe in places like the US and Europe it’s easier to find a scene and get super involved, but then your sound becomes the same as everyone else within that group of people… We haven’t really found a ‘scene’ yet so we’re just doing our own thing.”
Stay Healthy have just released their debut album, Dirt. At 24 minutes and 7 tracks, the project is a cohesive look at what they’ve been working on over the past year. Lyrics are confessional, winding through the oscillating synthesisers and 808s; Dirt feels high and low, like simultaneous ecstasy and agony, or a soundtrack for the apocalypse.
Witch House has been raised from the dead, its corpse is propped up by a small number of artists pushing boundaries and redefining its sound. Stay Healthy’s Dirt is intoxicating; you know it’s bad for you, but you stay along for the ride.
From dirty street lights, Dumtek 4evr.
Stay Healthy can be found online