It started in Adelaide. There, an infant Stina Thomas learned to walk and play piano among instruments and piles of records released by her father’s home-based record label Greasy Pop Records, and a teenaged Thomas played double bass and flute in school bands.
After high school, she picked up stumps to Perth, where she studied classical music before switching to visual art. In this new environment, she traded the traditional structures of fugues and sonatas for the boundless ephemera of sound art.
Her experiments with sound art were productive, and she began releasing short musique concrete compositions on CDs the size and shape of business cards. These formed some of the earliest output by boutique Perth label Fuckface, a precursor to now-iconic avant-garde label Meupe.
After two years as a sound artist, she enrolled in a degree of music technology. In this course, she was able to combine her classical music and sound art training into a species of composition that would become her present druthers.
That style was showcased on her first major release, Pocket Songs, in 2004. This mini-album (it had ten tracks, but most of them weren’t much longer than a minute long) contained snatches of melodic ideas and found sound made from objects in her studio apartment.
It drew comparisons with the then-hyped Icelandic laptop folk band Múm because they shared in common plinky-plonk trimmings and quiet claustrophobia, but in fact Thomas’ music was bolder. It swept more vigorously and its experiments were more challenging, inviting a listener to bounce to a muted synth skronk as well as be soothed by the sound of air breezing through a wind chime.
When she took it to Perth’s live scene, her eclecticism, accessibility, and status as a solo artist landed her on a broad spectrum of line-ups. She was equally at home alongside experimental artists, indie rock bands, and singer-songwriters. She added grace and beauty to the noise scene, and complexity and restraint to the rock scene.
After making considerable headway into Perth’s music community, in 2005 she took a break from music to have a baby in her hometown. She returned to Perth in 2006 and started playing occasional gigs soon after. Fall Electric, an experimental rock band that combined members of Adam Said Galore, Schvendes and Ghost Drums, recruited her to add soundscapes to their stringed indie rock. She played with them, and released a pair of b-sides on a split 7-inch with The Tigers on Perth label Love is My Velocity, while working her way back up to writing and performing solo.
This culminated in a three-way split album with Chris Cobilis (frontman of The Tigers) and Gutter Guitar (a.k.a. Predrag Delibasich, lynchpin of experimental Balkan folk supergroup smRts) on Perth label Heartless Robot Productions, titled Smell You Later. Her third of the album featured longer, darker, and more song-like tracks. Whatever cuteness had been present on Pocket Songs was being phased out, and gradually replaced with thicker, more complex sounds.
Following the release of the album, the three contributors to Smell You Later conducted a tour of Japan. The tour was turned into a verite-style documentary made by director and Perth musician Kenta McGrath, Three Hams In a Can, which screened at the Sydney Biennale 2010 and the Bradford International Film Festival 2010 in the UK, and the Revelation Film Festival 2010 in Perth.
These events got Thomas back in the game of writing and performing, and she began working on the material that would become Summers in Mariana.
Now a composer, producer and arranger for her own music as well as film, theatre and dance scores, and with a new album in tow, Thomas is poised to attack the sub-structures of contemporary, independent composition in Australia. Join her on the ground floor of this exciting new era of music-making.
bio by Matt Giles