With hypnotic, alluring vocals and thunderous drums, Richmond post-hardcore band Magnus Lush returns with Hell is Real, their latest album on Trrrash Records. The Feb. 24 release uses classic storytelling techniques to weave together a dark yet happy story that suggests the works of Neil Gaiman.
Their influences range from Richmond and personal experiences to the more universal themes of classic literature. Frontwoman and guitarist Adrienne Shurte’s influences include Nick Cave, whose “And the Ass Saw the Angel” is her current read, Henry David Thoreau, and most notably Joyce Carol Oates, who she described as,“a really cool feminist. She was bringing these stories in the 40s and 50s. She’s got undertones of hatred, and I’m like, I get you, girl. She says some crazy shit. I can’t imagine people writing this kind of literature now.”
The punk and hardcore scene both have a rich tradition of being avowedly political, with bands and artists announcing their political views in their work, during interviews, and now, over social media. Magnus Lush is an outlier in this regard. Although the band has political views and will play shows to support causes they care about, they leave politics out of the lyrics.
“All of us are incredibly politically motivated and active. We discuss the news, did you see this thing, this really upsets us, etc,” Shurte said. “But when it comes to my music I tend to write more of fictional stories based on my experiences. I tend to leave politics out of what I write because I don’t like to discuss politics with strangers.”
The goal is to make music that sidesteps the divisiveness of politics and transforms the listener, Shurte said. “I don’t want to be a political band. I just want to write stories, personal experiences that affect people.”
Shurte started the band in 2015 as a trio with drummer Christian Monroe and bassist Kyle Pederson. The latter two provide the harder rock sound, to the moody, atmospheric sounds produced by Shurte and the newest member, keyboardist Tori Hovater. The members layer sound in a collaborative process, heard clearly on songs like “Into the Woods” and “Engine Breaker”, building to a haunting, surreal effect.
“It’s really cool when you’re playing music with people, and everyone’s like ‘I see what you’re going for. You played those minor notes, I’m going to play some minor notes, too. And then we’re going to do this weird thing over here,’” Shurte said. “And then you get Tori [Hovater] doing some weird crap on the keyboards and she just makes it even darker, and you’re like ‘Yes, go darker! More reverb!’”
Shurte talked about the deeply personal ways that music touches the listener, something she hopes her work will do too. “I just want one person to listen to it and be like, ‘Thank you for giving me those moments,’” Shurte said. “You know when you heard that record in high school, and it just changed everything for you? And it got you through the end of the day, or it helped you survive a moment? I was going through a breakup and I was listening to Neko Case and she has this song…I don’t know if I could have made it through that break up without that song.”
The new album, recorded by Bryan Walthall and mastered by Allen Bergendahl, had a release party on Feb 24 at Mojo’s. Upcoming work includes a planned mini-tour for the end of this summer and a return to the recording studio for their next album in August. Their next show will be a benefit for the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project at Strange Matter on March 28. Snag your tickets with a suggested $8-10 donation.
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond