Gear Talks: screensaver

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Gear Talks: screensaver

Photo by Kalindy Stevens
Words by Bella Venutti

screensaver are pushing the boundaries of punk with their own take on a melting pot of subgenres.

screensaver are a Naarm-based band harnessing the darker, moodier side of post-punk. The five piece combine synths, drums, synths, bass, synths, guitars and vocals for their own take on genre, melding and between between them. Their new LP Decent Shapes is out October 20th, and ahead of the release we spoke to the band about making the record!

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

Hi guys! To start things off, I’d love to ask whether you made a conscious effort to expand your sound when approaching the writing and production of this new release – I’d love to know what kind of sonic/thematic palette you were working from when you began this body of work?

We definitely wanted to expand on our previous work, there was no intention to explore unknown territory or redefine our sound. I reckon the palette stayed consistent from our debut which was already fairly eclectic to begin with, rotating from post punk with disco/ funk leanings to more tech driven synth punk and touches of DEVO-esque catchiness

What inspired you? What was the vision?

Our inspiration for this album came from all over- as the primary songwriters Krystal, James, and I have a lot of overlapping taste as well as distinct areas of focus. Personally I’ve drilled into lots of the ‘arty’ sides of punk (Swell Maps), classic rock (Beefheart) and a long time love of all things Kosmische.

Regarding vision I think we let songs develop naturally instrumentally, Krystal is always quick with vocal melody and lyrics and generally we’ll cut songs that don’t seem to fit rather than attempt to write for a specific mood.

Tell me about your songwriting process – is it a collaborative affair, do you tend to tinker alone and build from those skeletons, or is it a combination of both? 

Definitely a combination. For a couple songs we switched instrumentation with myself on bass and Krystal on guitar over James drumming, “No Vacation” was written over lockdown in mine and Krystal’s old apartment, “Drainer” came straight out of thin air in the rehearsal space after a couple hours of trying ideas that wouldn’t take.

Talk me through your recording workflow from demo to track completion. Do you begin in the bedroom or head straight to the studio? Any preference of DAW/special or demo setup that goes the extra mile?

Our workflow varies song to song for sure, “No Vacation” was the only tune we actually imported tracks from the demo to use for the final version. We definitely workshopped the songs as much as we could before getting into the studio as it’s a bit costly to start from scratch when you’ve hired an engineer and studio space. Krystal comes up with a lot of ideas on GarageBand and I’ve learned to use Reaper, both great programs that cost nothing!

Which pieces of equipment are the most integral to you when it comes to translating your project’s essence from a recorded to a live context? Are you trying to replicate your studio sound when you perform, or do you prefer to let the songs breathe and find their own live groove? How do you work together to bring it all to life?

Being lucky enough to play with bandmates that make time to rehearse weekly keeps the songs in great shape, we’re often keen to start playing new material live as soon as possible which is a great way to test what’s working and what isn’t. To my recollection we haven’t drastically changed any arrangements once they’ve been recorded, but we’ll still make some slight tweaks here and there to keep them feeling fresh. I reckon the most integral pieces of gear for our sound are the Roland SPD drum pad, Korg Minilogue, and Fender Super Reverb.

Are there any pieces of gear you’ve acquired, be it something cheap that punches massively above its weight, or a less-wallet friendly splurge, that have tangibly influenced the way you write and record music to this day?

In addition to the aforementioned pieces of gear I think just being able to record discernible demos on a phone in the rehearsal space is the best way to bottle lightning. Perhaps someday the tech will get to the point that a room recording will be all you need to mix pro sounding music? Whether that’s good or bad I couldn’t tell ya …

What are the visual mediums that you find best allow you to express yourself as an artist outside of music – is it important for you to be able to display your creativity in every aspect of this project’s output? 

In former projects of mine photos from my phone were used as album covers as I’ve not developed any visual art skills beyond framing a shot. We’ve been lucky to draw from the talent pool here in Melbourne to get great cover art from Merda and Rowena Lloyd on our first and second LPs respectively.

We’ve also made several film clips with a few talented directors and editors, Krystal often has a real clear vision in this department and James is in the midst of editing together his directorial debut at the current moment.

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How do you recharge your creative batteries? What in your life inspires your music that isn’t music? It could be as logical as watching a film or listening to records, or as obscure as gardening or taking a long walk.

Unwinding after work throughout the week generally involves a couple hours of television. Working full time generally doesn’t allow for a recharge, I find musical ideas perpetually rattle around in my head throughout workdays and if I’ve got a moment I’ll get a voice memo recorded or note something down. Sadly many ideas of mine evaporate as work or travel to and from work take precedent.

What’s on the horizon? What exciting things can we expect from you for the remainder of the year?

We’re excited to be doing our first Australian tour in November, a couple Melbourne shows in December as well as the album launch in October. We’ll be in Europe mid 2024 and we’re already well into writing LP 3!

screensaver’s second album Decent Shapes is out Friday 20 October via Poison City/Upset The Rhythm Records (UK).  Keep up with screensaver here, or pre-order Decent Shapes here.