Riding a dark wave
The cold synthy sound of Chico’s Iver
The goth scene in Chico is looking bright these days. Or is it looking dark? Dark and cold, sending reverb and sadness shivering through the music community. At the center of the local storm clouds is Iver, born as a duo in the spring of 2018 (currently a trio) and specializing in a chilly brand of synthy goth music. And that’s it … Iver is the beginning and the end of the list of Chico bands currently playing original dark wave, or cold wave, or any other goth-like synth-based post-punk music.
But being a scene of one hasn’t stopped founders (and engaged partners) Mackenzie Zevely-Howlett and Sawyer Goodson from cultivating a neo-goth movement of sorts in Chico; they’ve just had to reach outside of the area to make it happen. Over the past year or so, working in conjunction with the Chico Area Punks, they’ve introduced Chico to Nox Novacula (goth rock from Seattle), Clayface (goth/“grief wave” from Olympia, Wash.), Terremoto (goth-inspired post punk from Australia/Oakland) and Cruz de Navajas (dark wave from Mexico), among others.
“All these bands are amazing,” said Goodson. “[We’re] stoked to play more shows with them and more like-minded bands soon.” Next up: Tuesday (July 23), LOVATARAXX, a dark-wave band from Grenoble, France, with Iver and others at Blackbird.
The tool that’s made it possible for Goodson and company to plug Chico into this worldwide niche is, of course, the internet, which also is where Zevely-Howlett (21) and Goodson (25) have taken a deep dive into musical genres that were born more than a decade before they were.
In a one-hour interview with the band (including new bassist John Simcox, who recently replaced Miles Claibourn), the topics ranged from Zevely-Howlett describing with admiration how German musician Blixa Bargeld (of Einstürzende Neubauten and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds) used to squat in warehouses, and that the band’s namesake—musician/music-show host Peter Ivers—was bludgeoned to death with a hammer, to Goodson singing the praises of the trashy noise of a cymbal used by former Cure drummer Boris Williams. “You can’t have [that] era of The Cure without that China cymbal.”
The depth of knowledge is a bit of a jolt at first, until you realize that the two youthful bandleaders are already seasoned local players. Goodson has been playing music since he was 10, starting with his junior-high crew, Jet Fuel Only (which had a 15-minutes-of-fame moment courtesy of an appearance on the Rachael Ray Show), before moving on to playing drums for dozens of local punk bands. Zevely-Howlett started writing and singing songs for her first band, Lips of Renegade, when she was 13, before joining Goodson in Cell Block, the gothy punk band that was the precursor to the current project.
“Iver started because we would lay in bed at night and say we’re going to be in a band called Iver,” Zevely-Howlett said. “[It’s a] band that we talked about throughout our whole relationship.”
Despite the members’ goth preoccupation, Iver is not a nostalgic replay of the likes of Siouxsie Sioux or Bauhaus. Instead, the two have studied the dark sonic elements and repurposed them to create their own sound
“I love sad music,” explained Zevely-Howlett when asked about the attraction to goth, and the aesthetic that Iver has achieved is well-suited to projecting such a mood. With a melodic bass guitar driving in its own lane, the lead couple present a striking visual side-by-side, sporting contrasting black and blond new-wave mullets (or the more fully shaved “skullet” in Goodson’s case) behind their their sparse keyboard setups. While her fiancé keeps a cold repetitive beat on a Roland drum machine (and accents with clangs on his own solitary China cymbal), Zevely-Howlett’s reverb-coated voice takes flight alongside the soaring synths.
“Musically, I think the appeal is how cold yet dreamy this music can be. It can be like a blanket of sound embracing the listener, but it could also be [an] icy gust to cement you in reality,” explained Goodson. “For me, it feels like a healthy escape from continual anxiety and gives me something to look forward to: playing the style of music I enjoy/can relate to the most out of almost 15 years of being a musician.”