When I sat down with Stavroula Giouzelis, she brought her two daughters. Not surprisingly, they’re fans.
“I like how she sings,” Laila said. Stav tells me that the girls regularly dance and sing along to the band’s music. Laila has helped with melodies, lyrics and other bits and pieces on the way.
Stav’s band – named Stav and the Dark play rock-structured songs. Basic formats, catchy and repetitive and a good dose of blues, soul and pop thrown in for good measure.
Stav’s drummer Benny Galagher also joins us. The introduction is simple. “He has a big background in music,” she said. “He used to play in Mofo is Dead.”
Stav’s band has undergone some evolution since we first met at a marketing workshop for bands nearly two years ago. “I met Benny. At the time we had Marty, JP and I was originally using session players,” she said. “But since then it’s mainly been Benny and I.”
“Music-wise, I’ve been writing a lot. Writing with the band, and on my own,” Stav said.
She’s also been working on some Greek music – a nod to her cultural heritage. One that obviously delights and drives her.
“It’s an old classic Greek tune I originally wanted to record for my dad,” she said. “But I’m going to take it seriously and release it.”
“I love my Greek music,” she said. “It’s very old school – a song from the 1950s called To Vouno. Eden (Telea, guitarist) is quite good with that Mediterranean stuff too – he might have a go on my dad’s bouzouki.”
“Greek music is so passionate. That passion also comes across in rock music for me which is most of the music I have written up until now.”
I’m curious as to what kind of audience a rock band from the Gold Coast thinks they’ll engage with a traditional Greek song and Stav smiles.
“Melbourne is the second biggest population of Greeks in the world, outside of Athens,” she explained. Seriously? I had no idea.
“I have lots of family there. I’d really like to get in and do a bit of promotion for it. It’ll attract an older audience, but if I use a live band it will attract the younger ones too.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a deviation from Stav’s normal rock programming. She and Benny assure me that they’re still tracking forward there too, although Benny says the songs that Stav has been writing have changed somewhat in the past year.
“We’ve gone from hearbreak and what you go through with life’s ups and downs to political and worldly topics,” he said.
Stav nods. “I used to write from my heart, now I write from my head. With illness, physical and mental health issues, I have learned so much.”
Stav has had a tumultuous ten years. She suffered from post-natal depression as well as chronic pain. The pain culminated in hip replacement but in the process caused untold amounts of depression and anxiety.
“It all stemmed from the pain,” she said. “For ten years I became a hermit. I couldn’t do my music. I couldn’t even sit here.”
“Mental health is massive in the music industry. And obviously there’s a lot of drug and alcohol problems as well,” she said. “People suffer so much. They don’t get paid well – it can cause a lot of issues – I guess that’s why people write songs.”
Adding to the complexity of life, Stav says that since leaving home aged 20, she’s had eight people in her life suicide or die from drug overdoses.
“The drug thing gets me. I’ve had a lot of issues with it myself – much of it in the closet – it all stems from the pain. The drug thing is crazy – it just leads to too many suicides.”.
Stav’s life seems rich now. She’s on the school P&C, she volunteers for the school reading group as well as swimming and on the canteen and its menu meetings. She says her husband is “amazing.” Sounds like it. He’s funding the band’s next single.
“He also writes funny songs. Sozzy – has all these references to Kevin Rudd – it’s hilarious. Without his support, this wouldn’t happen,” she said.
And the band sounds tight too. Benny’s partner Tanya is “a big value to the band”, Stav’s sister’s partner Eden, “a bonus”, Benny himself who Stav says is“a great rock drummer, he’s made everything so much better.”
“We’re like family – we have jams and then we have BBQs and stuff,” Stav said. The camaraderie is obvious as we sit together at Burleigh Brewing too. Benny is clearly a hit with Stav’s two beautiful daughters.
With news that Stav is writing more from the head than the heart I’m curious as to the breadth of topics she’s exploring.
“Everything from schools to indigenous issues,” she said, then laughed “it’s gone from Bon Jovi to Midnight Oil, rather rapidly too.”
Domestic violence is covered too – with the track She’s out to get me looking at abuse in relationships. And Fighting Demons, a mental health song she says is about fighting demons in this town will be the band’s first single which she hopes to record at Sunnyside Studios at Worongary.
“It’s a lot harder to write from your head. I want things to have an impact. I’m a Greek, I’m passionate.”
Benny said that while they’re all from the same school of rock, lineup changes have been challenging. “It’s taken a while to gel and start writing together,” he said. Stav is adamant she wants everyone to have an impact.
“Up until Eden (joined the band), it’s been all my music and lyrics. I’m limited too,” she said. “So four brains are better than one.”
“We’re really widening the parameters,” Benny added.
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Stav and the Dark’s new single and video are scheduled for release in mid-June. And they hit Currumbin Creek Tavern on 28 April with Salt and Steel, The Midnight Project and Nowhere Else
PHOTO CREDIT: Lamp Photography