The rocker from Alpena who’s making waves in Detroit talks with Local Spins about the ’emotional mess’ of songs on her new album and the struggles of touring. She plays The Pyramid Scheme Saturday.THE ARTIST: Stef Chura
THE MUSIC: Lo-fi indie-rock with a punk swagger
WHERE YOU CAN SEE HER: 7 p.m. Saturday at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids (with Heaters, Humons and Michigander); May 4 at The Empty Bottle in Chicago; May 13 at the Patchwork Art & Music Festival in Saginaw
Stef Chura exudes the kind of grit and soul that Detroit is known for cultivating: There’s an unapologetic punk aura about her. She speaks her mind unequivocally, editing on the fly as the words leave her mouth (and sometimes afterward).
Her rhythm of speech is like a boiling pot of water simmering on a stovetop, gradually intensifying until there’s a burst of words as she bubbles over with enthusiasm while speaking of the things she’s most passionate about — before returning again to a simmer.
“We just did two months of touring and we just got home, so that’s been nice,” Chura says, before her words reach their candid boiling point.
“Touring is f—– up. Like, I love it and I feel like I’m useless when I’m not touring, but touring is hard on your body, it’s hard on your mind. It tests the relationships you have with people in your band really hard.
“I’m not at a point where it’s super glamorous. It’s a luxury, I feel, to be able to do music full time. It’s a lot of work but if it’s what you want to do, it’s the right work for you to do, it’s the right thing for you to put your mind to.”
Chura’s story begins nearly 250 miles north of her current Motor City, in the secluded northern town of Alpena, situated in the crook of Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay.
AUDIO: Stef Chura, “Slow Motion”
“The second I turned 19, I moved away. Well, in a way, maybe I didn’t appreciate the subtler aspects. But it was really boring. There was a Wal-Mart and a Dunkin’ Donuts where we hung out and that was it,” Chura says. “I started playing guitar when I was 13. I just wrote songs.”
Since her early days of writing songs to stave off boredom, a lot has changed.
RAVES FROM PASTE, PITCHFORK AND MORE
The wakes created from her songs have turned to powerful waves: Music magazine giant, Pitchfork, gave her song “Slow Motion” a rave review last year; Paste magazine recently spotlighted her among the “Best of What’s Next”; Chura and band toured supporting indie-rock darlings Car Seat Headrest; and their set as part of a Michigan House showcase at South By Southwest in Austin this spring stood out for its truly unique, punk-like vibe.
Upcoming shows this summer include support for Mac DeMarco at Royal Oak Music Theatre and a slot at Detroit’s premier riverfront music festival, Mo Pop.
Chura makes her Pyramid Scheme debut in Grand Rapids as part of a “Mo Pop presents” show on Saturday night, playing a solo set alongside Michigander, Heaters and Humons. The show begins at 7 p.m.; tickets for the all-ages show are $10. Details and tickets available online here.
After her high school years in Northern Michigan, Chura relocated to Detroit where she dipped her toes in the burgeoning east side music scene. She attended school at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies and began playing solo around town. It wasn’t until meeting drummer, Ryan Clancy, that plans to craft an album materialized.
“I definitely had like a ‘take the plunge’ time period,” the 28-year-old reminisces. “I felt like I had to do this now because nothing else was working out, because nothing else was as satisfying.”
Heartache ensued when Chura was blindsided by the death of her best friend, leading her to depression and eventually prompting her to ask questions about her own life.
“I got really suicidal,” she recalled. “And it made me think about the things I wanted to do before I die. I decided I needed to make a record.”
In January, “Messes” was released on Urinal Cake Records.
“Messes” feels far from a debut LP and more like a steadfast, confident, lo-fi rock ’n’ roll dagger straight to the heart.
Chura’s colorful voice delivers one witty, melancholy, shrugging line after another. Her guitar work is shimmery and metallic, hyper with movement, with just the right dissonant tinge. Sonically, there’s a somber, surf-rock vibe to the collection of songs, splashed with a hue of ’80s and ’90s punk nostalgia.
When it comes to lyrical content, “Messes” provides an introspective look into cognitive dissonance and discontent.
“I kind of feel like it’s about emotional mess and I write in a way that’s very cathartic for me. I feel like there is this theme of kind of emotional mess and confusion. I guess I’m just really confused on the record,” Chura sums up through laughter.
One thing that stands out most about the record, and about Chura herself, is the intentional nature of her art. It isn’t contrived. The album goes without filler material. Instead, each song serves a purpose.
“It wasn’t something I did on accident and it wasn’t something I did to be derivative,” Chura offers. “It’s kind of for fun, but this is something very real to me and I kind of hope that’s what people take away. I just hope that they like the record.”
Listen to Chura’s record and purchase it online here.
VIDEO: Stef Chura, “Spotted Gold”
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC