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Stella Explorer
Photography Celine Barwich

Stella Explorer, the YEAR0001 singer making pop anthems about Atlantis

We catch up with the Stockholm-based musician to discuss sea monster conspiracies, old lady massages, and her new EP Lost Kingdom

“I tend to write as if I’ve already lost something,” muses Stella Explorer, absorbed by the weight of her own thoughts. “Even if it’s not entirely true, that’s usually what I do... like I’ve already made the mistakes. It’s a pretty destructive way of looking at your life, instead of seeing it from the positive side, but I guess I’m just trying to change the negative into positive.”

It’s a lofty ambition, turning darkness into light, but on new EP Lost Kingdom, Stella does so with veritable ease. The forlorn nightlife anthem “Club Atlantis” sees the musician deliberate hedonistic distractions that don’t turn out as planned (“I go to the club get nothing but hurt”), her emotions echoed by mid-tempo strings and wailing synths. On the opening track “Questions” the musician asks “Can I pretend life hasn’t slipped away from me?”, her rich voice gliding across a shimmering expanse of synthesisers. Making anguish sound this beautiful is no mean feat, and Lost Kingdom is a first-rate example of a musician in their prime.

This comes as no surprise, though. Up until this point, Stella’s career trajectory has shown that she creates art at the cutting edge. Audiences first heard the singer on DJ Seinfeld’s 2021 track “She Loves Me”, her voice manipulated across stuttering drum loops, then came 2022’s debut EP Dorkay House, a four-track exercise in understated experimentation. Both this and Lost Kingdom were released on the Swedish label YEAR0001, the home of Yung Lean, Drain Gang and Viagra Boys. If the company she keeps is anything to go by, there’s plenty more to come from Stella Explorer.

Below, we chat to the musician about their internet obsessions, nightmare blunt rotations and the inspiration behind their new EP.

Congratulations on the release of Club Atlantis. Can you guide me through your inspirations for the EP?

Stella Explorer: The main inspiration is sea and water. When I read all my lyrics back to myself, I realised that I mentioned the sea in different ways and in every song, and that wasn’t a conscious choice. I tend to read a lot about the sea and watch a lot of documentaries about sea animals. The whole idea of not living one single second above the surface and just spending all your time in a subterranean world – I keep thinking about that. And also using the sea as a metaphor for different sorts of feelings that you have.

In that sense, it’s both a positive and negative force for you.

Stella Explorer: Yeah, for sure. It can be used for many, many purposes. Like drowning, or being lost – just general panic. And also the fear of the unknown, because it’s so beautiful and it lures you in, but then if you do make one mistake, you die. 

What are some of the positive associations you have of the sea?

Stella Explorer: Freedom is the most positive one. But it‘s such a double connotation. You’re free, but you’re also susceptible to all kinds of events when you’re free. That's the price that you pay. I do have an obsession with that – a feeling of being free, a feeling of being on the verge of things you just don’t know. And I have an aversion to too much safety.

What’s the music scene like in Stockholm?

Stella Explorer: Stockholm is like a small part of London. You already know most of the people that you’re meant to know, that are in your field or that you want to work with. So it can feel very small sometimes. 

On the surface, the music scene is very, very commercial pop-oriented – and pop in a bad way, not pop in an interesting, ‘let’s see what we can do with the framework’ way. It’s not very experimental, but we do have all the experimental things as well, but it’s just not as commercially successful I guess. So that’s a very boring part about being here.

But it’s also very inspiring if you go beneath the surface. We do have so many fucking amazing artists here. There’s something here in the waters, I don’t know why people are so damn good. The melancholy melodies people write are cool and very inspiring.

When did you first become aware of the power of good music?

Stella Explorer: I was on a bus on my way to the northern part of Sweden sitting next to my dad. We were going on a ski trip which we'd never done before or since then – it was kind of weird. I had my Walkman, and he had A Night at the Opera by Queen with him. He played me “Killer Queen” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I was maybe 12, and when he played me those songs I felt like time kind of stood still. I remember the atmosphere in my ears and the bus all just went silent, and that was definitely the first time that I heard something like that, actively listening to it. 

What’s the most recent note from your Notes app?

Stella Explorer: It's a note about the album Just Before Music by this artist called Lonnie Holley. It’s insane. If you haven't heard it yet, you have to listen to it, by yourself in a quiet, dark place. Or in the forest, if you have access to the forest where you are. It's an amazing album.

He’s 73 years old from Alabama. He still lives there I think, and he makes a lot of artwork out of scrap metal and other people’s trash. He just sings about believing in humanity, even though it'’ such a hypermodern, frenzied world at the moment. I see it as a portal straight into his soul, and his soul is so soft. He's like an oracle, almost.

What would be your ghost outfit?

Stella Explorer: I think naked.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

Stella Explorer: I just had a phone call with my dad and he gave me advice, but the old advice that he used to be given when he was a kid growing up in Sweden in the 70s, which is bad advice. It was kind of like every man for himself – it sounds better when you say it in Swedish. I think he was just saying it as he used to be told it, and that’s why he ended up the way that he is, and I can’t reach his innermost feelings.

What's your star sign and you're a typical one of that star sign?

Stella Explorer: I’m a Leo, but I don’t know that much about astrology.

What’s your weirdest internet obsession?

Stella Explorer: I tend to watch a lot of massage videos to wind me down. There are old ladies who are very knowledgeable about anatomy and the human body’s need for recovery. I’ve been watching them for maybe 15 years and I’m still obsessed. I can’t stop. It’s like anxiety medicine.

What conspiracy theory are you actually quite into?

Stella Explorer: I’m definitely keen to believe all the sea monster conspiracies like the Loch Ness Monster. There’s one in the north of Sweden called Storsjöodjuret. I want to believe that they exist, but I also kind of don’t. 

Who is your nemesis?

Stella Explorer: Oh no, I can’t say that. ​​Can I say that I don’t have one?

Would that be a lie?

Stella Explorer: Yes!

What would the line-up be in your nightmare blunt rotation?

Stella Explorer: Mark Zuckerberg would be one of them. 

What do you put on your rider?

Stella Explorer: I put Explorer Vodka and Stella Artois.

Like your name?

Stella Explorer: ​​Yeah – one of the reasons I named myself this. A mix of beer and vodka.

Club Atlantis is out now.

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