Over the past 25 years, Screamfeeder has built a name for themselves as one of the top alternative bands in Australia. Consisting of singer and guitarist Tim Steward, bassist Kellie Lloyd, drummer Dean Shwereb and guitarist Darek Mudge, the band released six albums and have toured with the likes of Pavement and Sonic Youth. This month, they’re set to put out Pop Guilt, their seventh album and their first in eight years. We got the opportunity to talk with frontman Tim Steward about the band and their new release which is available for pre-sale here.
TYF: How did you guys get together and become Screamfeeder?
Tim Steward: It was back in the pre-internet era. So literally Kellie wrote me a letter asking to make a video for my then band The Madmen. We became friends and started rehearsing in her house, and one day we kicked out our bassist. We turned to Kellie and said “you know the songs right, you wanna fill in for a while?” That was in 1991.
When we parted with our original drummer in 1994 we’d seen Dean drumming, he was in a grind-core band called Hateman, and Kellie and I used to see them play and say “Man, imagine getting that guy in our band!” Then we got him. He was 19.
TYF: You guys released your debut album, Flour, in 1992 and released five albums after that. What was it like creating music in 90s versus creating it now?
Steward: Good question…it was different in so many ways. For one, recording and production was a bit of a black art, whereby the engineer would do all the work at the desk, and the band would just shout “turn the guitar up!” from the sofa behind him. He’d move some knobs and we’d whisper “did he turn it up?” Now every band member is crowding over the console asking for a bit more 1.5k in the snare – it’s a bit disappointing really – the mystery has kind of gone! The other thing was that we used to have all the songs totally road-worn within a few months of writing them, and recording would be very straightforward. For this album we really worked out a lot of arrangements and parts as we were recording them. It was fun doing that but a bit hit-and-miss at times.
TYF: You guys took a break in 2005. What made you guys slow down and take a hiatus then?
Steward: It seemed to be a weird time for the industry in general, the wave of the new breaking over the beach of the old world, with sometimes devastating consequences. The scene changed almost overnight. Returns were getting smaller across the board. We’d been working hard recording and touring for 15 years, something needed to give. In our case it was our drummer Dean who at the time felt he couldn’t really “do it” any more.
TYF: Were you guys doing anything interesting in that span of time?
Steward: Between Kellie and myself we recorded 6 albums of material with other bands. Kellie released a solo album and one with her band The Warm Guns. I released a solo album, and 3 albums with my other band WE ALL WANT TO – who are still going.
TYF: Now you’re back with a new album, Pop Guilt, which was released on April 21st in Australia and we’ll expect it here in America in June. When did you realize that it was time to come back and make music together again?
Steward: We released a new single in December 2015 (“Alone in a Crowd”) after realizing that we couldn’t keep going on tour playing the OLD stuff forever! Despite our audiences being our best ones ever, after not releasing anything for 9 years. Weird. After that we caught the bug again and remembered that we actually enjoy songwriting together and it comes pretty easy.
TYF: Has working on this album felt different than the previous ones?
Steward: We’ve all grown older and uglier and so with that there’s a lot more being able to stand back and take stock of what we’re doing and where we’re going. A lot more insight. In the 90s we were moving so fast we’d be recording an album, and already planning he next one. We’d even have songs for the next one ready! We literally never stopped to assess and appreciate what we’d achieved. It was kinda cool, the buzz of it all kept us really energized for a long time.
TYF: When you came into the studio, did you already have a bunch of songs that you’ve written previously or did you start from scratch?
Steward: Oh they were all songs from Jan 2016 onwards. There were songs “lying around” from earlier but somehow we never really picked them up.
TYF: Is there a certain theme for the album?
Steward: Not really. Our songs and songwriting kinda sit in a certain pocket. My songs are pretty literal and about human situations and observations. Kellie’s are much more stream-of-consciousness, poetic, abstract lyrics.
TYF: I noticed that there were five different producers on this project, what’s the reasoning behind that?
Steward: Originally we decided to do that so we could get the mixing done fast. But once the idea was up and running, it was super exciting to get the chance to work with some of these god-like dudes who we’d been listening to [their work] for 20 years, or more.
TYF: What was everyone’s favorite song to perform and work on Pop Guilt?
Steward: Mine are “Not Afraid to Listen To” and “Falling to Perform”. My least fave to play is “Going to California”, because it’s actually super hard.
TYF: Where there any major influences for the album?
Steward: We’ve been listening to music all our lives, so – yeah. Our own songwriting style and the sound of the 3 of us working together is pretty strong by now though so hopefully the influences aren’t too over-riding. We all grew up out of the punk and indie-rock scenes so that base is still there, if we hear a song by Seam, Urge Overkill, Jesus Lizard we kinda get all emotional! As music has changed all our tastes have broadened. Kellie’s into quite a bit of psych, Dean’s into some EDM, some jazz, he’s a very diverse listener, and me…hmm, I’m still running with the punk and indie rock thing most of the time.
TYF: Over the years, do you think your sound has changed?
Steward: It’s just gotten better, and more realised. It’s also gotten more honest. In the beginning we were pretty much only concerned about having loud guitars – above all else. Now we feel that it’s okay if the songwriting and the hooks and the melodies shine through a little more. That’s the important stuff after all.
TYF: You released a few tour dates for Australia, are there plans for some tour dates elsewhere?
Steward: Not yet, but we’d love to get out of the country again. We actually play our best when we’re going hard against the odds, using all borrowed crappy gear, in front of a crowd who’ve never heard us before, in a venue we don’t know…it’s fun!
TYF: Final question; what’s the plan for Screamfeeder over the next few years?
Steward: Ah that’s the Q everyone wants to know. At the moment I can’t say, it’s too early to know. You’ll just have to wait and see!