Stef Chura opens herself up to change on 'Midnight'
It’s barely been seven months since Stef Chura released her sophomore album, Midnight, but that hasn’t stopped people from asking her when she’ll release her next album (this reporter included).
“I just used all my fucking blood, sweat and tears on this one, and everybody is just like, ‘When's the next one?’
“With [2017 debut album] Messes, I was like, ‘Let's do another one!’ Now I'm just like, ‘I hate my life,’” a Chura said, and laughed, quickly adding, “I don't hate my life.”
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Joking aside, Chura — who grew up in northern Michigan and has called Detroit home since 2012 — said she has enough songs written for another album, if not two, but for now she’s happy to focus on Midnight.
If Messes’ “Slow Motion” was one of the best opening tracks of 2017, then Midnight’s “All I Do Is Lie” is one of 2019’s best openers. The nearly six-minute, guitar-driven song — with its delicious little double meaning of a title — fully displays Chura’s beautiful, warbly voice. (As Pitchfork pointed out, trying to describe Chura’s voice can lead writers to “fall into ditches,” so I’ll leave it at that.)
“All I Do Is Lie” fades out at the 3:34 mark, leading listeners to think the next two minutes are an entirely different song (they’re not). As Chura explained, that was intentional, and is a small nod to the indie rock band Car Seat Headrest, whose lead singer, Will Toledo, produced Midnight.
“[Toledo’s] songs will do that. They'll be like 13 minutes long and they'll weave in all these different parts,” she said. “That was an experiment, because that was a part of another demo that I actually sent, and we took it out and reworked it and had it be the end of 'All I Do is Lie.'”
It’s just one pleasant surprise on an album full of them. On “Scream,” Chura instead opts to draw out her plaintive vocals as if she’s sonically pulling taffy. Then Toledo joins her on “Sweet Sweet Midnight” and together they craft a duet that has the feel of an experimental rock song with a heavy dose of raw emotion.
“That song was a complete Frankenstein,” Chura said. “It kind of sounds like a krautrock song. I do not know how we got there. My drummer, he came up with the beat, and Will did a lot of instrumentation around it, almost messing around.”
Besides producing and playing a variety of instruments on Midnight, Chura said Toledo also helped her to be a little less protective of her songs. It’s why different instrumentation is heard on the album, whereas on Messes, Chura said she shot down producer Fred Thomas’ suggestion to add different instruments to the guitar-heavy album.
“I'd just been used to hearing them a certain way,” Chura said of the songs on her debut. “But with these other songs, it was a combination of being a little less attached and a little more open to what they could sound like.”
Chura once told a reporter that she worried she would “have nowhere else to go” musically after releasing her debut album. But with glowing reviews from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone— and a spring tour opening for Against Me! — it’s clear the road from Midnight is wide open.
“It becomes a craft, where you're like, ‘Where can I improve? How can I get better at this?’” Chura said. “Part of me is still like, ‘I’m insecure and I hate seeing pictures of myself.’ That is kind of there, [but] it is nice to connect with people. You realize things that are meaningful to you are meaningful to other people.”
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