Track x Track: screensaver - Decent Shapes
Naarm / Melbourne post punks walk us through their highly anticipated sophomore album, track by track
Image credit: Grace Stevenson
After making waves with their acclaimed debut full-length Expressions of Interest in 2021, screensaver are back with album number two, the synth-drenched exploratory and experimental post punk sounds of Decent Shapes.
Across 10 tracks the band touch on themes of modern materialism and corporate capitalism, and the knock on effects of such symptoms, through a witty and satirical lens, set to the an atmospheric post punk soundscape packed with angular guitars and driving rhythm sections.
To celebrate the release of Decent Shapes, Chris Stephensen (guitar / synth) and Krystal Maynard (vox / synth) took us through it, track by track, with Krystal explaining the lyrics and Chris the music - have a listen and get to know:
Lyrics: Redlines is a song about anxiety, how it feels both mentally and physically. Being a millennial it’s pretty overplayed to write a song about anxiety but the lyrics just came to me for this one and sometimes it’s good to go with the first thing that your brain comes up with.
Music: Real happy this ended up being the album opener, it’s got a good tempo to it without being overly happy or major. It’s got just the right amount of funkiness to it without going overboard, I remember being real stoked on the guitar line just before the chorus, such a good hook!
Lyrics: The Guilt is a song for the modern age. It’s about the guilt we all feel, never being enough, never achieving enough, never having enough time, never being good enough. I wrote it as an attempt to exorcise the feelings of guilt I have far too often and hope that listeners will consider how they can feel less guilt in their lives. Sometimes recognising the feeling is half the battle.
Music: This, as well as a few other tracks were written as a three piece in the rehearsal space. Giles, our original bassist and the player on this album was busy preparing for parenthood so Krystal and I switched instruments, myself taking over on bass and her on guitar. We achieved immediate results, at least building blocks for what became The Guilt, Redlines, and Future Trash.
Lyrics: This is my favourite song on the record, at least lyrically. The lyrics are based on imagined conversations in a variety of corporate and business scenarios. The phrases and terms will feel familiar but in the context of a synth punk song feel unsettling, because corporate and business language is unsettling; it’s hollow, it’s meaningless, it’s purposely manipulative. It can be aggressive and warlike in its sentiment, just watch an episode of Succession!
Music: Party Interest switches gears to our heavier side, definitely some of my teenage heavy metal past in the guitar riff without the palm muting and complete distortion saturation. I love the interplay between the synth and guitar, it’s got a beautiful melodic chorus that lifts out of the grind of the verses. Real happy with the structure we landed on, it’s got a real nice flow, been loving playing it live.
Lyrics: The lyrics for this song were born accidentally as our drummer James named the demo version ‘Nylon’ which got me thinking about the fabric and in turn about the mass production of unsustainable materials/products that are marketed as ‘must have’ items but are really just destined for landfill and are ‘future trash.’ At the time of writing the song we were planning to move house and were thinking about buying new furniture, it was so much work to find furniture that would fit the new space and was sustainable so the content of the song also echoed my growing frustration with this.
Music: We started mixing this song right away as we’d been getting good feedback on our live performances not too long after the release of our first LP. As mentioned previously it began as a jam with Krystal on guitar and myself on bass but really came into its own when Giles fleshed the bass idea out in full. A lot of polyrhythms happening on this one, real proud of the end result!
Lyrics: Another song where the lyrics kind of just came to me, I wanted to write something that matched the intensity of this song. Musically this song is pure fire and very cathartic to play live. I wanted the lyrics to be a catharsis of sorts and I ended up writing lyrics about observing an emotionally draining relationship that two people are locked in. Each day the protagonist wakes up hopeful thinking things will be different but they’re doomed to repeat the cycle.
Music: Drainer was bottled lightning straight out of the rehearsal space, one of the few songs that seemed to write itself. I remember trying to improvise and conjure some ideas to no avail, taking a break and coming back into the room and the song just manifested. Definitely the meanest song on the record, another great one for the live show.
Lyrics: This song is kind of like an allegory for escaping the modern world and getting a payout. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking for a utopia, a world where our worth is not based on our economic productivity. In this imagined scenario we get a nice fat payout to live the rest of our days without working.
Music: I remember working on this one on and off not long after the completion of Expressions of Interest, it’s definitely more considered than a song like ‘Drainer’ as it's more of a composition and more dynamic. We’d done all the tracking before leaving on our USA tour and I finally felt I’d gotten the guitar line where I wanted it in the midst of tour, so real happy our engineer Julian Cue patiently let me overdub what’s on the LP.
Lyrics: Weirdly this song has a few sports references in it, which is strange for me, not being a sports fan but it makes sense in a way as the song’s theme revolves around tactical strategies of dealing with people that drive you nuts.
Music: This is about as sunny as we’ll get, I’d say from the same sonic family tree as our 7” single ‘Clean Current.’ James spiced up the middle with a nice ascending synth line and well-placed tambourine hits. It’s just a comfortably paced pop song with an anthemic quality that isn’t too ham fisted.
Lyrics: Another song that fits into a similar category to Party Interest, it’s mimicking a typical response you receive from a business when they can’t help you, it’s dripping with overbearing, overused phrases, false empathy and emotion that businesses try to use to convince their customer base that they actually care.
Music: Here is as close as we’ll go to Devo worship, definitely unintentionally landed there after writing in the room with me on James’s Roland Alpha preset synth using a very 80s bass tone that ended up on ‘Signals’ as well. I do love the build in the chorus, it skews a bit more towards Neu! which is never a problem for me, also love the Tubeway Army style synth solo towards the end.
Lyrics: A real downer song, for those moments when you feel like you’re being crushed by the weight of adult life and there’s simply no way out.
Music: The only remnant from the Covid lockdown demos, a lot of the original instrumentation stayed intact on the finished product. James made it heaps better laying down a live drum track, the flimsy harmonized guitars I did with a Danelectro straight into the interface actually give it a bit of personality and relief from the dominant Strat thru Fender amp sound that runs through the rest of the album.
Lyrics: This song’s about taking acid to avoid reality, but the acid actually makes you hone in on the aspects of reality that you’re trying to actually escape. A story as old as time!
Music: The other tune with the 80s synth bass tone, it’s got its own distinct vibe from Cancellation Notice. It reminds me of the rolling bass theme from ‘Shogun Assassin’ soundtrack set to some classic Italo Moroder-ian disco thump. The Sabbath/Country Teasers breakdown is a nice surprise as well. Definitely the perfect closer!