Don’t be misguided by their comical name. Schmear is New York trio Chris, Turner, and Tom, who describe their sound as “caressing harmony with seismic battery,” are subtly bold musicians. ‘ eponymous debut LP is filled with a sweet rock reminiscent of Marc Bolan vocals and late 60’s guitar riffs, yet travels towards unfamiliar and haunting melodies that enthrall. PopGun had the pleasure of conducting Schmear’s very first interview after their performance on June 23rd.
Is Schmear your first LP?
Yes, it is our first almost full-length album. We are currently recording a new album right now. It should be finished mid-August.
Each track seems to flow nicely into each other, like chapters with motifs. “54321” is almost like an overture guiding the listener. How did you begin writing the album?
Turner: Well “54321” was probably the first song Chris and I wrote together. It came from a little riff I came up with before we called ourselves anything and developed as we grew into our elements. Its potential was only realized when Tom Stephens got involved in the band; he studied Jazz Percussion at Oberlin and his abilities really set us free. It sounds crazy but this was the first song we showed him. It was kind of a test, if he could stick that song then we knew he was the guy. He totally blew us away and hasn’t really changed since.
Chris: We didn’t really write it as an album, it’s more just a collection of songs we wrote. There were others but we decided to stick the ones that made sense together.
Do all of you contribute to lyrics?
Chris: We have a “you wrote it, you sing it” kind of deal. Turner and I write all the songs.
Turner: Usually our process is oriented in way that we bring songs that we write to the group and flush them out through repetition. They settle themselves kind of like that muck on the bottom of a pond.
Your sound is a little haunting filled with minor chords and sliding harmonies. Have you always been into creating spooky music?
Turner: I have always been drawn towards the underside of beauty in music. It’s not always the brilliant and sanguine that appeals, sometimes its contrast and relation to the dark are what makes a piece so compelling.
Chris: I think yes. I’ve always liked music that sounds isolated. Outsider stuff like blues or bedroom recordings are really exciting. We tried to get some of that vibe by not letting ourselves get to wrapped up in having everything done perfectly, instead we just tried to capture emotional performances.
I am curious about your song titles. They seem super patriotic (“Pride”, “Stars”, “Waves”) .
Chris: “Pride” is about the detriment pride can do to one’s self. The other two are just someone looking around and trying to figure things out. I don’t think patriotism could help with any of that.
Turner: That’s definitely a first for us, I don’t think you could find a less Patriotic band, I mean America the continent is a beautiful place, with some amazing beautiful people, music and art. As for the Patria there’s no love lost there, but I’m speaking for myself here.
Do you speak French? I ask this because of your song titled “L’appel du Vide” (defined as the tiny voice that is telling you to jerk the steering wheel).
Turner: I speak some French, but with disuse it has started to wither. The call of the void, I’ve felt profoundly that feeling throughout my life and the song relates to the fact that it’s not uncommon to find unsettling aspects of ones’ personality, especially that of self-destruction.
Chris: I don’t speak French anymore. I was executed via guillotine, Reign of Terror-era France in my previous life.
How much do you guys like bagels? (Favorite cream cheese?)
Turner: Chris and I are both from NYC and bagel culture here is pretty significant, there was a time, a long time that I think I must have had a bagel with schmear for lunch almost every day, not the healthiest choice looking back from this enlightened organix era but I was a picky eater and those did it for me. They still do! I gotta make a shout out to Ess-a-Bagel on 21st. They never failed me during lunch recess.
Chris: Right now I’m really into the Poppyseed Flagels from Peter Pan in Greenpoint. I like to get bacon, egg and cheese, but only sometimes. I always go for plain cream cheese. I like it with fish, tomato or whatever. Usually I have my schmear on toast with scrambled eggs.
Thank you, Schmear! We’ve put on two incredible performances by these guys and look forward to jamming with them in the future.