My introduction to Screature happened at a Chelsea Wolfe show in September 2012. Chelsea was doing a hometown of reunion of sorts with no touring accomplice, so two local acts opened. I was there to catch an E S S set, a band that aleviated my concern all the good bands in Sac had moved away, only to be floored by Screature's scarred take on post-punk. Frontwoman Liz Mahoney stood center stage, shooting coy eyes around the room between pelting outbursts. She didn't move much and didn't have to. Her expressions and disaffected cool was presence enough. Drummer Miranda Vera and organist Sarah Scherer kept the order in the back, while guitarist Christopher Orr punished his guitar with blistering riffs that reduced the sound to esoteric transmissions (see, “Siren”).
The following months I shot inquiries around town on Screature, eventually learning their debut was recorded with Chris Woodhouse, an engineer most notably known for handling nearly every Thee Oh Sees record since Warm Slime. With attributes like “Woodhouse-produced” and “frontwoman that howls like Grace Slick and yips like Karen O”, one would think a silent bidding war would be going down between indie labels, but Screature kept their record for themselves, paid out of pocket, and hand packaged the 300 pressings. Their self-titled debut paints the tableau of post-punk black, giving it two coats for good measure. The organ rumbles the low ends, the drums hold steady, the guitars are manic passages of sonic terror, and Mahoney is the guiding temptress into the rabbit hole.
The debut is streaming here for a week.
How did Screature form? Were any of you from previous bands that might resonate a bit?
Liz: The four of us have been friends for many years. When Sarah Scherer and Christopher Orr moved to Sacramento in 2011 we started experimenting with music together. So, it grew out of that. No previous bands for any of us.
You recorded the debut with Chris Woodhouse in the Hanger, which most consider synonymous with the last 5 Thee Oh Sees records. Obviously money is one answer as to how you book him for your debut… is there more to the story though?
Miranda: Liz met Woodhouse when she was running Fools Foundation (a music/art venue) and they became friends. When Screature started playing shows he came out to see us and one thing led to another.
What did he bring to the sessions? And did you bring him ideas as to how you wanted to sound that he could work from?
M: He listened to our demos a thousand times the week before we recorded. He basically became part of our band. We recorded live in two days and mixed in two days. We had sat down with him previously to work out the details and he intuitively knew what sound we were looking for. Being familiar with his work we trusted him.
What is it about Sacramento that breeds, goth-y, dark-minded bands? From our psych to the folk scene… it always seems to be inherently there.
L: Maybe darkness is inherent in all genres of music everywhere.
I'd like to know about the album art for the self-titled debut. What sorts of ideas/inspirations were kicked around?
L: Christopher presented us with a Polaroid that he had taken. We liked it. The image was cohesive with both our sound and our esthetic sensibilities.
You've taken on the task of self-releasing the record. What advantages did you see in that route vs. finding a home for it?
L: We wanted to learn from the process and have control of the process. By putting out our own record we figured a home would find it.
Vocally, Liz, who are your biggest influences?
L: I've been a huge oldies fan since I was a child. I love motown. My brothers are 8 and 10 years older than me so in the 80s and 90s I was exposed to a lot of music ranging from Husker Du to Ice Cube to Smashing Pumpkins and a lot of classic rock. My mom sang a lot around the house. She has a beautiful voice and knack for memorizing lyrics.
Chris has a knack for turning his guitar structure on its head and sending them into a visceral overload – to be grandiose. What's your philosophy when it comes to playing and building a song. Because it seems as though there's the rhythm or the melody and then there's this place of discovery that your keen on and able to go to when the time is right, that can be like a trapdoor on the listener.
C: Most of these trapdoors are inspired by playing with my band mates. All our songs are built by the four of us together in our practice space. Before a song is done it often goes through odd permutations as each of us experiments with their individual parts. This way of writing songs together lends itself well to accidents and gives me plenty of freedom for exploring. Though they're difficult to replicate, I'm always on the hunt for something I didn't mean to do- those parts stick.
Liz, that yip on “Exodus” sounds as though it took you by surprise. Was that the first time you'd ever made that noise?
L: Haha. I had made that noise there before. Although I involuntarily change things up a lot. Kinda the same thing Christopher was saying.
Screature's self-titled debut is available on vinyl at their Bandcamp.