Tools Crew Live: Stef Chura


MP3 for "Slow Motion"
720p video

Tools Crew Live is an ongoing video series where we invite artists to perform with gear borrowed from the Ann Arbor District Library's Music Tools collection:

When not on tour, indie-rocker Stef Chura runs several karaoke nights in Detroit, the city where she lives. It's common for karaoke hosts to sing a few songs to set the stage and encourage the crowd, and Chura told in a January 2017 interview that The Cranberries are one of her go-to bands to croon.

Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan comes up a lot in articles about Chura. Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks comes up, too. So does Liz Phair and The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. Bettie Serveert's Carol van Dijk has also been mentioned, and so have Destroyer's Dan Bejar and Television's Tom Verlaine. There are hints of Billie Holiday, too.

Basically, Chura inhabits the same artistic ground as singers who are atypical, stretch syllables and time to fit their needs, and float easily from vibrato yelps to nasal coos -- and there are some great ones in that idiosyncratic camp.

All of Chura's wonderful vocal tricks are on display in the stripped-down June 9, 2017, session she did in the basement of the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library. Alone with her own guitar, plus a bundle of guitar pedals and two amps from AADL's Music Tools collection -- none of which she had used before -- Chura delivered "Slow Motion" and "Human Being," two powerful renditions of songs from her debut album, Messes. (You can also hear these tunes performed with her full band in an August 2017 Audiotree session: MP3 or videos.)

Since returning from a late summer/early fall five-week jaunt that took her to Poland, Germany, Canada, and through much of the U.S., Chura has been hard at work recording her new album, and she's already cut two singles with Will Toledo from Car Seat Headrest. The next area show for Chura is Dec. 14 at the El Club in Detroit.

Below, we did a short interview with Chura that focuses on the gear she used in this session. For a more in-depth interview, check out our long chat with Chura in March that covers her background and the origins of many songs on Messes.

MP3 for "Human Being"
720p video

Q: What is your usual pedal setup on stage?
A: I use:
Korg tuner
Xotic EP Booster pedal: I've used this for solos but it also gives a nice gain-ey sound to "Slow Motion"
Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive pedal: This is used on the song "Messes" and a solo in a newer song. Crunchy ;)
Boss CH-1 Stereo Super Chorus pedal: A classic. I tried to boutique upgrade it, but I still really like this one. I use it for "Faded Heart."
Moog Chorus pedal: I use this for "On and Off for You" on the vibrato setting.
Strymon Flint pedal: I splurged for this bad boy but it was TOTALLY worth it! I play out of a Super Reverb but this is a great substitute for any Fender-style reverb/tremolo amp when I have to use backline or my practice amp. I was really surprised: I got it for the reverb but I REALLY like the tremolo! On a regular basis, I use both settings for "Human Being."

Q: Why did you pick these songs and pedals for the session?
A: They were both songs that I thought would go over well solo.

Q: Did the gear change the way you performed the songs?
A: Honestly, no! But if I had to do it again I might have played different songs.

Q: You didn't have a chance to borrow any of these before you came to the session. Did any of the pedals end up giving you problems, or do you remember really liking one?
A: No problems that I remember. I liked the RAT pedal a lot.

Q: When you lived in Washtenaw County, did you ever check music tools out of the library? If so, do you recall what you borrowed?
A: They did not have the program yet. Or maybe they had just created it? I left in 2012.

Music Tools on "Human Being" + "Slow Motion":
Line 6 DL4 delay pedal
MF Ring Minifooger ring modulator pedal
MF Trem Minifooger tremolo pedal
MXR M324 analog chorus pedal
Rat-2 distortion pedal
BigSky reverb pedal (not circulating yet)
Shure SM58 microphone
Roland Micro Cube GX amplifier
Critter & Guitari Terz amplifier

Other Tools in these the videos:
Giant Chess set
Spinning Wheel
Topographic Moon Globe from Sky and Telescope (not circulating yet)
➥ Hadrosaur Skull cast (not circulating yet)

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

For more information on Stef Chura, visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp.