Stef Chura

Messes (Urinal Cake Records)

Contact Jacob Daneman about Stef Chura

Stef Chura’s debut studio album, Messes, is born of her years of experience playing around the Michigan underground, setting up DIY shows in the area, and moving around the state—nearly 20 times. “Right when it starts to feel like home / It’s time to go,” she sings literally on its opening cut, “Slow Motion,” a twisty, dim-lit guitar pop song where she curls and stretches every word. There are worlds of emotion in the ways Chura pronounces phrases with twang and grit, alternatingly full of despair, playfulness, and abandon. Chura calls her music “emotional collage,” eschewing start-to-finish storylines in favor of writing intuitively about feelings, drawing from experiences and references related to a certain sentiment.

 

Originally from Alpena, Michigan, Chura moved to the Ypsilanti area in 2009, where she began playing shows before ultimately moving to Detroit in 2012.  Chura has been home-recording and self-releasing her songs for six years, playing bass in friends’ bands as well. With a trove of demos and 4-track home recordings, some of which she’d released on small runs of cassettes over the years, Chura says she wasn’t sure what to do with her life before heading into the studio.  “One of my best friends passed away and I thought, what do I have to do before I die? I have to at least make one record.”

 

“Faded Heart” is an ode to that friend. “I thought I saw you standing on that little cloud / How did you get so loud,” she sings. The second verse references something she heard Joni Mitchell say in a documentary— “If you hold sand too tightly in your hand, it will run through your fingers.” Like Joni, Chura favors finger-picked guitar, a style she’s been honing for over 10 years, drawing inspiration from other folksingers such as Leonard Cohen and Buffy Sainte Marie in addition to Cat Power and 90s feminist punk.

 

Later on “Thin”, she sings, “Thin like the skin on a lottery ticket / Tried you on for a bit just to see if it’s fitting / I forgot who I was.” A song written about her old job cocktail waitressing at a strip club, she recalls “It’s funny because it sounds like a folk song, but it’s more about the disgusting feeling I would have when I would come home from that place. And I was just like, who am I? I am not this person, I’m just in a weird place in my life right now. I feel like everyone has done that. You try something different just to be someone else.”

 

Messes deals with these sorts of internal anxieties: power struggles, friendships falling apart, even one song about a conflict with a landlord. “It’s more about pain than anything,” she says. “A lot of these songs are a cathartic release of overwhelming emotional stress. “On and Off For You,” for example, deals with being gaslighted and controlled by a lover. “Putting in overtime to get my revenge on you,” she sings. “When I look back on that time period I obsess about how I should have left or done better for myself or been a stronger woman. It’s the emotional or mental overtime I think a lot of people endure.”

 

She recorded the entire album with Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good To Me) throughout 2015. Thomas plays bass on most of the record, and a bit of guitar and drums. Drummer Ryan Clancy of Jamaican Queens and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. adds the bulk of the drums. Through intricate guitar work and warm, textured production, Messes finds her trying to make sense of life’s ups and downs. “It’s about emotional mess, not physical mess,” Chura says. “The title track is about knowing that you are going to do something the wrong way, but you’re doing it anyway because you want that experience. I’ve had to do a lot of things the wrong way in order to figure out how to live my life.”

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Tour

  •  
    Jan 31, 2017
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Club Cafe

  •  
    Feb 02, 2017
    Brooklyn, NY
    Alphaville

  •  
    Feb 04, 2017
    Detroit, MI
    Marble Bar

  •  
    Feb 09, 2017
    Chicago, IL
    Beat Kitchen

  •  
    Feb 10, 2017
    Madison, WI
    Der Rathskeller

  •  
    Feb 11, 2017
    Minneapolis, MN
    7th St. Entry

  •  
    Feb 15, 2017
    Vancouver, BC
    333

  •  
    Feb 16, 2017
    Seattle, WA
    The Vera Project

  •  
    Feb 17, 2017
    Portland, OR
    Disjecta

  •  
    Feb 18, 2017
    Eugene, OR
    The Boreal

  •  
    Feb 19, 2017
    Oakland, CA
    Starline Social Club

  •  
    Feb 20, 2017
    Los Angeles, CA
    The Echoplex

  •  
    Feb 22, 2017
    La Jolla, CA
    Che Café Collective

  •  
    Feb 24, 2017
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Diabolical Records

  •  
    Feb 25, 2017
    Denver, CO
    Lost Lake Lounge

  •  
    Feb 27, 2017
    St. Louis, MO
    Off Broadway