Sacramento garage goth band Screature makes the feel-bad record of the year
Liz Mahoney and company want to terrify, possess and rock you
There’s a scream on the Screature self-titled LP that ranks up there with any howl laid to wax. We’re talking Iggy Pop at his most primal on Fun House or Jim Morrison’s ode to oedipal rage on “The End.” But Liz Mahoney’s isn’t a guttural cry or pained expression. Rather, the singer for the Midtown quartet possesses a certain joie de vivre, like she just discovered that she was capable making such a sound. It’s a liberating, shiver-down-the-spine moment—just one of many on the record.
The three women and one dude who make up Screature have assembled on a sprawling Midtown porch, beverages in hand. An affable, downright happy bunch, it recently recorded its first vinyl release with local engineer Chris Woodhouse at The Hangar. Since forming a year-and-a-half ago, the group has quickly risen to the top of the local “must-hear” list.
Such attention is well-deserved. Screature’s shows are a force of nature with guitarist Christopher Orr vacillating between Nuggets-styled garage riffage before exploding into a hail of pedal-damaged notes that rain down pure acid, while Sarah Scherer and Miranda Vera (on organ and drums, respectively) lock tight, adding rhythm and forward motion to the proceedings. Then there’s Mahoney, with her noir streams or screams-of-unconsciousness lyrics and that voice: A unique beast that conjures (never copies) chanteuses from the past and present—Siouxie Sioux, Zola Jesus and Dinah Cancer from 45 Grave all come to mind. Combined.
Still, similarities to other music aside, Screature lumbers along its own shadowy path, sounding like no one else—a chimera stitched together from post-punk, ’67-era garage psych and early goth. It’s a supernatural thing.
The 11 songs on Screature are a set, a unified whole. There is a lack of color and brightness, just varying shades of black and gray, musically and lyrically. Themes of the paranormal and life gone seriously awry permeate the songs. There are no happy endings—just endings. Scherer points to Joy Division as inspiration, calling them “an obsession.”
“That was like the real kickoff,” she says. “Soon as I got that box set, it was over. It was like a sickness!”
Many of Mahoney’s influences, however, are inward.
“I think all my lyrics are inspired by my equal love/hate for life,” Mahoney confesses. “I equally despise and adore everything. I don’t want to make songs that everyone jumps around to, you know, like beats that sound like … fun. I want to terrify you.”
When she’s not helming Screature, Mahoney also performs solo under the nom de guerre Peggy Benks, her creepy yet wonderful somnambulist lip-sync cabaret act. Both acts are imbued with a particular mind-set.
“Being alive is fucking scary! Stop fooling yourself thinking, ’This is so much fun,’ because sometimes, it’s really not fun at all,” Mahoney says. “A lot of my lyrics come from that standpoint. Being on some kind of edge or being chased. Being completely out-of-control or possessed.”
But for all the existentialism and nocturnal hue displayed, the album sounds–dare I say—fun. And it rocks. Hard. The opening track, “All in All” for example, starts with a ghostly apparition of keyboards, a kick drum that recalls some lost soul pounding the castle door in a Hammer horror film, and subterranean fuzz guitar that keeps coming to the surface to bare its teeth before burying itself again. Then—boom!—a Cramps-styled beat begins and a voice intones sternly, “Fighting along you see / all and you’re lost and me” as a wash of wah-wah pedal whirls around Mahoney’s urgent vocals.
The self-released Screature is a definitive Sacramento album, sitting comfortably somewhere between the Twinkeyz Alpha Jerk LP and the entire Mayyors oeuvre. Check it out for yourself: The band’s put up a three-song preview on its Bandcamp SoundCloud page (https://soundcloud.com/screature). It’s the feel-bad record of the year.