Thursday, July 2, 2015

Interview with Screature

Four Columns is Screature's second LP working with Chris Woodhouse, long time Thee Oh Sees producer, and the band wears its confidence on its sleeves. Mirroring the itinerary of the first record, Four Columns boasts eleven short blasts of psychedelic postpunk, guaranteed to scare the neighbor's kid and make you feel okay about it. Frankly, it's fucking great.

On Four Columns, Screature takes the listener further into their realm of haunted urgency. Though they have always been intense, the band's sophomore full-length proves their ability to dual wield strength and restraint without ever losing venom and zeal. From larger than life (and death) vocals to darting, effervescent guitar sections, a sinister but meditative rhythm, and shadowy, blooming organ, the finely tuned four-piece scratches that horror-driven postpunk itch you always had.

Screature hails from Sacramento and consists of Liz Mahoney (vocals), Sarah Scherer (organ), Miranda Vera (drums), and Chris Orr (guitar), who have been playing together since 2008, though they performed for the first time in 2011 with Death Grips, and self-released their first LP, recently repressed on Ss Records, in 2013, which made it onto Chelsea Wolfe's best of 2013 list.

The band is set to tour the Northwest in August and are looking to tour the East Coast some time soon.

Jordan Reyes: Since 2011, y'all have been playing shows with heavy hitters like Chelsea Wolfe, Milk Music, Death Grips, and White Lung. Do you think that playing live has given you new perspectives on the creative auditory process? How does a live set influence what or how you guys will decide to record?

Screature: Absolutely. Our initial intent is to capture our live sound in the studio for aesthetic as well as practical reasons. Hearing and feeling the songs in an alien environment changes our perspective of them. It sharpens the knife. It's only the strong songs we want to survive. Performing live before recording is a must for Liz, in order for her to connect and grow with the songs.

JR: Your debut LP Screature came out in 2013. Do you think you guys have changed at all in your approach to what you will write or record?

S: The longer we're at it the better we are at our various roles. Our process is pretty comical at times, but it seems to work for us. We still throw a bunch of shit at the wall and see what sticks, so in that respect it hasn't changed a bit. If anything, we have a better understanding of our process and it feels less rigid.

JR: You all just released your sophomore LP "Four Columns." I know that this one was produced by Chris Woodhouse, like your first record. From what I've heard, you recorded and mixed the first LP in four days. On the second LP, did the process feel even more efficient? Were there any hiccups during recording or mixing?

Four Columns
S: Each time we record the process evolves. We have to be efficient because we're on a budget! Fortunately we had a fifth day on Four Columns. It gave Liz an entire day to lay down her vocals. We were able to double the vocals, guitar and organ. Who knows, maybe next time we'll have six days and some back up vocals will show up on the album. Highly unlikely but we're open to anything and everything. We have a lot of fun working with Chris, it's always smooth sailing. The worst part was recording over the old record - wiping that tape felt so wrong!

JR: That hand on the cover for Four Columns is haunting but a little absurd. I can't help but think of the Addams family! Where did you guys get the idea for the cover? Do you guys do much visual art outside of Screature?

S: Hahaha! It is a little absurd, isn't it? Well, we are a little absurd. We wanted a cover that spoke to the first album and embodied the concept of four columns. Even though Thing was not our inspiration for the album cover, we certainly like the reference. Hands are an easy thing to trip out on. Our goal was to create something that's open to interpretation. We're all visual artists outside of Screature with individual styles and mediums, but we work collectively in the band.

JR: You also decided to release the second LP as a co-release with your own imprint and SS records. I have a lot of respect for that degree of ownership, though I'm sure it's taxing in terms of time and energy. Why did you guys decide to do that?

S: It felt like the right thing to do. After self-releasing the first one we were happy to have the help and excited that Ss cared. Ss is also repressing 300 copies of the s/t LP. We have a lot of respect for Ss, plus they're down the street! I guess we're just control freaks, but in the end who really wants to give up control of their art?

JR: I read this feature with y'all on the Sacramento News & Review where Liz mentioned the equal love/hate of life. It was striking and observant. I think people are often all too comfortable with making blanket statements of things being "good" or "bad," but don't see the gradients that no doubt compose reality. Do you think that this desire to perceive shades of grey rather than black or white is important to your music as Screature?

S: As individuals we are all operating in those spaces so we would assume it has an influence on our output.  It's the shades of grey that are more elusive and intriguing to us.

Liz: I can only see gradients if I am making a strong effort to see both sides of something. I'm not a fan of bogus regulations, but I like rules and guidelines. Or I feel uplifted by the wisdom and love that comes from trauma and sorrow. All of this is very important to my writing of the lyrics, but it's all a bunch of bullshit that has nothing to do with how I write the lyrics.

JR: I think oftentimes people associate darkness with hopelessness, but I also think that creating music at all is an act of hope or at least a type of rebellion against an unfeeling universe. Naturally your music embodies darkness, but is there hope in it as well? Do you think music making has elements of hope in it?

S: Yes, you HOPE people like it! It can be an uplifting and positive experience even if it resides in the shadows. We don't see darkness and hope as mutually exclusive. Sometimes you need to feel around in the dark to find the light switch.

JR: I know you guys have a bunch of shows coming up (including one with Lydia Lunch on July 29th? Can we just talk about how cool that is!) in your neck of the woods. Are there any plans for you all to tour in the future?

S: Definitely. We'll do a Northwest tour in August and hopefully another east coast stint. Ideally we'd love to tour in Europe. In the meantime we'll just keep ripping a strip here and there.

JR: I was an English major so I have to ask, since I'm always on the lookout. Do you guys read much? Any books you'd recommend that you've read recently?
Sarah: Rodney Dangerfield's autobiography was surprisingly good. I enjoyed Kim Gordon and Viv Albertine's memoirs. I'm currently reading "When the Drummers Were Women" and I'm pretty excited about it.

Screature s/t
Liz: I read a ton of horse books as a child, a ton of Henry Miller as a teenager and a ton of Kurt Vonnegut as a young mother.

Miranda: I recently enjoyed "A Natural History of the Senses".

Christopher: "Four Novels of the 1960's" by Phillip K Dick seems relevant.

JR: Do you guys have a favorite classic monster movie? Why?

S: We're all pretty partial to Frankenstein. Aren't humans just some alien's monster.

JR: What all is in the future for Screature?

S: Let's consult the crystal ball...loading and unloading.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?
S: Just thanks!

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