Naarm/Melbourne darkwave post-punks screensaver: “I’m positive that our neighbours think we are crazy…”

Handmade collage by B.

Gimmie interviewed Krystal Maynard and Christopher Stephenson from Naarm/Melbourne post-punk, synth-heavies, screensaver. Last year they released demos with a lot of heart and promise and this year as well as featuring on two essential compilations – A Complication for Edgar – a fundraiser for Edgar’s Mission Sanctuary providing, shelter and care for homeless, abused, injured, or abandoned animals and the latest Blow Blood Records ALTA2 compilation – they released a new single ‘Strange Anxiety’.

How did you first meet?

CHRISTOPHER STEPHENSON (guitar/synth): We first met in 2014 in Berlin when our bands Spray Paint and Bad Vision played together. The following year Spray Paint travelled to Australia and played with Krystal’s band Polo.

KRYSTAL MAYNARD (vocals/synth): Yeah, our first official meeting was at some heinous hour of the morning on the very last night of Bad Vision’s tour at the kick on at some bar in a suburb of Berlin that I remember very little detail of.

I understand that you both started collaborating musically over the internet beginning in 2016 with Chris in Austin, Texas and Krystal here in Melbourne, Australia; what kinds of songs were you making back then?

CS: At the time I had a great 4-track in my share house bedroom, I didn’t have any real drum machines or great synths, so I tapped beats out on a thrift store Casio into a loop pedal and ran keyboard sounds through enough guitar pedals to sound somewhat synth-y. The project started as me sending over instrumentals and Krystal doing vocals.

What inspired you to go for a synth-punk, new wavey, gothy sound for screensaver?

CS: After I moved over we decided to expand into a full band format where Krystal played keys and I added guitar.  Once we brought in bass and drums with Giles and James the sound naturally settled into where we’re at presently.

KM: It wasn’t really a conscious decision, Chris’s original demos really lent themselves to the sound and vocally it made sense for me to go down that path. We’ve both played in a variety of different sounding bands over the years and I was enthused to do something I hadn’t dived into before but actually was core to my musical origins. When I was a teenager I was super into The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division as well as the 77 punk stuff. So for me, it’s been like tapping back into my origins but whilst having had many years of developing a broader palette to take those influences but ( hopefully) not just reproduce their sound but incorporate more wide ranging sounds. I find genre discussions both interesting and tedious. As a band you can’t really escape using genres to describe your music which is frustrating but unavoidable!

What’s the story behind the band name?

CS: I recall coming up with the name as we drove together to Office Works in Coburg in our black Volvo station wagon.  I think I had to print a certified copy of my passport that day.

Your debut single ‘Strange Anxiety’ that’s about to come out was recorded remotely in isolation; what sparked the idea for this song?

CS: Krystal had a garage band demo with the initial low keyboard and then sent it to James who programmed the beat.  She’s amazingly quick with lyrics and vocals in general, so by the time I started working on it as a session the structure was all there.

KM: I’m pretty sure that this song began as me teaching myself how to program drums in Garageband and having a play with making music that way, it could have easily been a throwaway practice session of mine that nothing happened with. When our drummer James got his hands on it he turned my basic beat into something super dynamic which brought the bass line to life and we built from there.

What’s something that we might be surprised to know about your writing or recording process?

CS: I suppose we’re still getting to know our process ourselves!  In an otherwise normal year I doubt we ever would have seen a song through from start to finish without going into a studio to amplify guitar or bass at the very least.

KM: Covid-19 and the restrictions in Melbourne have meant that we’ve had to reinvent our processes completely, it’s enabled us to stretch out into sounds we may not have if we were just jamming as a four piece is a room, the method of making (mostly) in the box music over the last six months has had a lot of positives for us and developing our sound.

The video for the song is a collaboration between screensaver’s bass player Giles Fielke and animator Juliet Miranda Rowe; can you tell us about making it?

KM: We filmed the video using our bass player Giles’ Super 8 camera at his apartment back in June when the restrictions were briefly lifted. Giles riffed off the simplicity of Andy Warhol’s screen tests for the black and white shots of the band members and he edited the foundation of the clip. Juliet came in afterwards and animated over the top of the footage to give it even more movement, working with the songs rhythm’s to give it punch in all the right places.

In 2019 you started playing gigs locally and then did a short run of shows in the US opening for Wiccans and Timmy’s Organism; besides playing, what was one of your favourite moments on the trip?

CS: Personally it was good to be back in my former hometown and reconnect with bandmates and friends in Austin.

KM: My first instinct is to say the breakfast I had in New Orleans! I still find eating food in the USA such a novelty, the diners and greasy spoons and the really regional foods. But yes, the shows were great too, tour is always fun, sometimes the best moments are just being juvenile in the van and flogging the tour joke until it’s got no life left in it.

screensaver are featured on the Blow Blood Records ALTA2 compilation (a comp of Australian bands who have made music whilst in isolation); how did the song you contributed to this get started?

CS: That one started as some Michael Rother worship I put over a terrible sounding beat on a cheap machine. James improved the rhythm track immensely and Krystal belted the vocals out in our apartment.

KM: I’m positive that our neighbours think we are crazy, because I am always laying down vocal tracks in headphones really loud, so all they are getting is vocals sans music which we all know sounds pretty bizarre/not very good. I’m now at peace with it. We hear things we don’t wanna hear in the apartment block all the time, so I guess its payback.

ALTA2 is a really impressive compilation and such a great idea to put out songs of artists who have continued to produce music during this lock down. It’s a big reminder of how much talent we have in own backyard, we highly recommend you pick up a copy and discover a whole bunch of new artists.

You also had a live track “Meds” on A Complication for Edgar – a fundraiser for Edgar’s Mission Sanctuary featuring 20+ punk bands; why was it important for you to be a part of it?

CS: In addition to supporting a great cause it actually happens to document our first live show at the Last Chance.  Max Ducker did a great job with the live sound and making it sound great on tape.

KM: Max Ducker is a really old friend of mine so we couldn’t say no! But honestly we are happy to support an organisation that is looking after the welfare of animals.

What’s something that has really engaged your attention lately?

CS: I thoroughly enjoyed Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta.

KM: I am very enamoured with Miles Brown’s album The Gateway released early this year, it’s so danceable, moody and evocative and the theremin works it magic to replace any desire you might have for vocals.

What’s next for screensaver?

CS: Working on the debut LP, stay tuned!

Please check out screensaver. screensaver on Instagram.

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