#SpotlightOn Luca Stef, a satirical songwriter with a free spirit

“I am not at all interested in being original.” If there’s one thing you need to know about Luca Stef, it’s this.

The Durban-born songwriter, now based in Cape Town, draws abundantly on the history of alt-pop for his musings, whilst also exploring the sounds of computer jazz, experimental electronica and rap. The result is wildly offbeat, textured by a kind of outré so to speak.

Swamp Thing, his latest EP, is a seductive reiteration of his style, where MGMT meets Tame Impala meets Guided by Voices. Sunken in lo-fi tones, Stef tells me, “During the time that I was writing and recording these songs, I was often in a state of melancholy or low energy.”

“I would describe the feeling to friends as being in the swamp, and then I remembered the character of the Swamp Thing, even though I don’t think I ever saw the film. It made sense to me, and well it just stuck.”

“Everyone In Cape Town Is So Sad” is perhaps Stef’s quintessential take on sad-boy pop, with its playful, sometimes messy production and teetering vocals. Stef cites a wide range of influences, including Arthur Russell, Thin Lizy, The Strokes, Ariel Pink, The Velvet Underground and even Harry Styles.

“Favourite Arthur Russell song?” I ask him. “‘In Love with You for the Last Time'” he replies. I’d take Stef for more of a “Calling Out Of Context” kind of guy. But then again, Swamp Thing‘s soft energy echoes a similar sadness to Russell’s piano, albeit less frank.

The EP is accompanied by a collection of fittingly offbeat visuals, directed by Jarred Figgins. “We wanted to create something that illustrated the different yet connected moods of the EP,” says Stef, “sad goofiness and classic elegance,” he continues. “I liked the idea of mixing my normal life in Cape Town with something more spectacular.”

Brilliantly satirical, the five visualisers may only be one minute each, still they very quickly bring you into the weird world of Stef’s mind. He’s got chips stuffed up his nose, he’s sitting on the toilet, he’s stretched out across a Persian rug in a loose-fitting pair of white underwear – Luca Stef may not be concerned with being original, but there’s a part of him that certainly wants to be provocative.

“I find humour to be a really interesting tool in music,” he tells me. “Some of my favourite artists are funny in their songs, and it seems like a nice way for me to balance the more serious parts of making art.”

“Nothing feels serious,” he admits. Sometimes taking things as they come, not thinking too much about the meaning behind your work but rather allowing yourself to be led by gentle intuition, it can really pay off.

I’m not so sure that Swamp Thing can or should be compared to the brilliance of Arthur Russell, but Luca Stef has certainly found a niche for himself. His casual approach is refreshing, especially in an industry of pseudo-artists, and he’s embracing his free spirit. Although, hidden behind the humour, I see a light that’s full of real love, and real fear, and perhaps something original too.