When mathy rock quartet As In We went on hiatus, all kinds of Santa Feans—including yours truly—were basically like, “Aw, shit!” Then there was Future Scars, and with Haven Willis focused on black metal, three out of four members ain’t bad. Of course, the knee-jerk reaction from most—including yours truly—was something like, “What’s the damn difference?” Turns out, though, that we were wrong … mostly. Eliza Lutz, Gunnar Lyons and Ben Durfee’s similarly complex, though altogether more focused, project hearkens back to that As In We sound just enough to remain familiar, yet they’re just a tad more risky. Or should I say they’re forging enough new ground as to prove they’re not in it to present the same old tricks?
This is the question at the heart of Before, There Was Fear, Future Scars’ debut EP out on Lutz’ own imprint, Matron Records, next week. Fear represents a healthy dose of what we’ve heard from these local musicians before, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg for the band and adheres well to that old axiom about keeping them wanting more. Which isn’t to say the EP is lacking. At five songs, Future Scars still provides us more than plenty of full-lengths do, plus it’s jam-packed with explosive and catchy post-punk ballads comprised of melodies that sound almost like what could have been if the mathy emo movement of the mid-to-late ’90s hadn’t gone by the wayside; this is evolution, for the band members and for the Santa Fe scene, and it is excellent. Think of Fear like a brief yet ever-ramping overview of everything Future Scars can do—which can be a lot given that Lutz, who is the main songwriter, likes to dream up her own guitar tunings and chords.
Lutz has written more lyrics this time out, and the rhythm section adds dimension to everything they touch.This means there's beauty to be found on tracks like “A Reason to Stay,” a mid-album number that begins with layers of dreamy guitar picking and minimal drum work unexpectedly akin to something like the outro of Weezer’s “Only In Dreams.” Lutz’ wordless crooning in the opening minutes and Durfee’s almost robotic technical drumming prowess adds up to something entirely more emotional and complicated, however, like a song by Braid in its complexity, though original and new enough that we can’t quite liken it to anything else making waves right now. No, this isn’t the dawn of a new kind of music, but it’s erratic and diverse enough to be fresh, and one hell of a promising debut.
Future Scars knows when to groove, like during the poppy finger-tapping guitar intro on titular track “Before, There Was Fear,” or when to go all-out like on the heavy/dirty riffage and angsty shout-singing of “The Weight of What’s Left.” Thankfully, Future Scars also knows the value of holding off during a buildup just long enough that we’re dying for the resolution; this keeps us thirsty for the next song time and time again. In many ways, the decision to release an EP first was a smart choice.
Many will be hooked now and ready for more, which should mean big crowds at the release for Fear (7:30 pm Thursday Nov. 17. $7. Skylight, 139 W San Francisco St., 982-0775) and a strong contingent clamoring for a full-length release whenever they're ready, it'll probably just take some patience. But believe me, it's worth it. Given the fervor surrounding the band, the quality of the recorded material could've fallen victim to over-hype, but Fear strikes the right tone between what we know of Future Scars and what we were hoping for. As for the release show, Albuquerque heavy-hitters The Coma Recovery and Santa Fe's Bodies (with members of We Drew Lightning!) open the night and Future Scars will do what they do best—remind everyone that Santa Fe fosters more than bar bands and solo Americana whiners.
SFR is proud to exclusively stream Before, There Was Fear a full week before its release date.