Detroit’s Stef Chura has always followed her own path, crafting indie rock that mixes in her intriguing vocals in a time where she was being called everything but what she was. Chura, one of the better new acts in music is about as straight indie rock as it gets, and her early recordings had the mark of an artist on the rise. Her new album Midnight, produced by Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest however marks a new era where Chura is not only trying new things, but owning all of the power her music creates. Ahead of her tour in support of the album, we chatted with her about Michigan, working with Toledo and what she has planned for her current run across the country.
Born in Alpena, Michigan, Stef Chura has lived all over the state before settling in Detroit. When you look up Alpena online, the imagery portrays the little town as a touristic destination, something that Chura says isn’t really the case. “Originally, I didn’t agree to move there, it wasn’t my choice to live there. It’s pretty, but it’s not really a tourist town. It sounds like I’m shit-talking it, but I just wanted to live somewhere else.”
Detroit has a pretty thriving music scene with Protomartyr, Fred Thomas, Anna Burch and Jessica Hernandez to name a few. While Chura has had the chance to leave multiple times, she’s stayed there and made it her home base. “Well, it’s cheap to live there and I’m in love. My partner and I are getting a house so I’m there for a while. Sometimes I get the bug to move, but to me it’s familiar and hard to leave sometimes,” says Chura.
When her debut Messes dropped, she soon found her way to working with Saddle Creek Records who reissued the record. In a time where it’s hard to get anywhere with the label system, we were curious as to how Chura broke through and found her way on the label. “I got on because the label owner liked us and they hired a new A&R rep who I knew from her time at Anti- before. I had sent her some demos I’d been working on and she liked them and thought I’d be a good fit for the label,” remarks the guitarist.
Her new album Midnight takes bold steps in terms of songwriting and production that pays off in big ways. The songs have a tighter feel while there’s new instrumentation that adds depth to the songs. Produced with Will Toledo, their coupling may seem a bit left of center, though it was a wonderful working relationship says Chura. “Car Seat Headrest had asked us to do a tour with them in 2016 in July. That’s how he and I actually met. When I went in, “All I Do is Lie” and “Scream” were essentially done. But on “Scream” we slowed down the solo and added harmony stuff that he’s really good at. For “All I Do is Lie,” we added these choral vocals and added the end from another demo song to round it out.”
One of the biggest stand out songs on the album isn’t a song written by Chura at all, but rather the Billy Idol song “Eyes Without a Face.” In a time when you don’t see many artists adding cover songs, we were curious how that had come to be and why it was added at all, though it’s a lovely addition to the record. “We had what we wanted, and we had considered not putting the song on the record at all. I had a lot of unarranged songs going in, so as a back up we had the cover. I happened to know the song from doing it for a friend’s movie. We noticed how we didn’t hear a lot of covers on albums anymore, so it just felt like the right fit to finish it off,” replies Chura.
On the live side of things, Chura has never disappointed. Her live shows are always something that’s not only entertaining, but a mixture of energy and emotion that comes through with each note. On stage with a Fender Mustang in hand, Chura has always mixed things up. So with the new record, it’s only natural to wonder what fans will hear when she heads out on tour. “I’ve had the same drummer for three years, and this band is working great. The new songs are fun to play live, so much so that they make up about eighty percent of the current set. I like lighter and smaller guitars, so that’s why I’ve stuck with the Mustang. I’ve considered mixing it up though, so I dunno. Maybe an SG in the future is what I’ll play, we’ll see.”
Midnight is available to purchase digitally in all online music stores, it can be streamed on all streaming sites or purchased in multiple formats directly from Saddle Creek Records. Stef Chura is on tour tonight in Washington, DC at Comet Ping Pong until November 07 in Bristol, UK at HY Brasil Music Club. A complete list of all of her available tour dates can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Chloe Sells.