Observation Songs | Music | Weekly style
Growing up in a house without a TV and a neighborhood without other children, Adrienne Shurte recalls a childhood focused on self-reflection, reading and crafts.
When the 10-year-old found an old classical guitar at a relative’s house, she had to have it. Her parents had the gifted guitar repaired, and Shure soon found herself addicted to songwriting.
“The classical guitar was fun to learn because it’s small and the strings are so flexible, so it was a great guitar to start with,” she recalls. “Inevitably I ended up trashing it but I’m glad it was the guitar I learned on.”
Over the past decade Shurte has played in a range of familiar Richmond bands – Magnus Lush, Fire Bison, Hail Hydra – but when she started playing in 2005 she was hearing a lot of comments about her gender.
“It was infuriating. I didn’t know why I couldn’t just be a guitarist without it always being mentioned that I was a woman,” she says. for which I am very grateful.”
She has also watched developments as the local music community has become increasingly aware of the importance of minority representation and the POC.
“I love our scene. I’m so proud of all the different subcultures here and how far I’ve come since I started,” she says. “It’s become more inclusive, which is wonderful.”
By design, his early projects were abrasive and extremely noisy. The tone was always dirty, the lyrics pissy and nonsensical.
“It was fun! A little destructive and very misunderstood,” she explains. “Over time, this period of my life softened and I began to tap into what was important to me: how I could use music as a platform to discuss issues that I find important, but in an engaging way. I think I got soft in some ways.
She admits to still producing quite surly, almost dry texts – “I will always be pessimistic” – but by making the blows less explosive, she hopes to be heard better. Call it maturity.
Having formed more than half a dozen bands since 2005, Shurte felt like he was exhausting his songwriting abilities by writing specific songs for specific projects. Bands broke up on average every two years for the usual reasons – band members moved, new jobs, families started – and then she had to pull the songs she wrote with that project, even if they were formed. around his guitar. game and voice. She found it exhausting.
“I realized I needed a project where the albums can be conceptual and if the members want to tour, they can do it freely without sacrificing past songs or albums,” she says.
The resulting band, Ages, consisted of Shurte on guitar and vocals, Christian Monroe on guitar, Tristan Brennis on bass and Tim Falen on drums. They recently released their debut album, “Must Be Nice”, on Ossein Records.
Recorded at Stereo Image Recording Studio in the spring of 2020 by Bryan Walthall, just as the pandemic was beginning to affect everyday life, the songs were written in a pre-quarantine world. Shure recalls being thrilled to see what the quartet could do together, having saved a lot of riffs and acoustic songs she wanted to perform with a backing band.
“Tristan Brennis started writing very unique bass lines and since he mainly plays saxophone in Dumbwaiter, I think his musical ear tends to find quirky nuances in the songs,” she explains. “From there, we were able to refine the vibe of what we were creating.”
While the sound of Ages can have a languorous, even dreamy feel, the lyrics of “Must Be Nice” focus on telling the stories of people with mental health issues and people living in destitution.
“I realized that sometimes we have ugly, uncomfortable thoughts that we don’t understand,” she says. “A lot of songs express voyeurism, observe people with mental illness and how, without knowing the full story of someone’s actions, it can be disconcerting. So jumping to conclusions can have disastrous consequences.
Shurte frequently uses a lyrical technique when writing songs that changes the identity of the storyteller throughout the verses, giving some of the songs manic undertones. The song “Death Farm” jumps from wife to husband throughout. “Sidewalk Rooftop” shifts from third-person to first-person as the title character takes on the role of the song’s antagonist and protagonist, the result of being homeless and suffering from bipolar disorder.
Because “Must Be Nice” was written before the pandemic, Shurte also sees it as shining a light on the pre-pandemic world.
“There was unrest building up all around us with the volatile political news. Richmond is a progressive city and the younger generation was expressing issues that would really be amplified in the coming months,” she says. “I think in some way we’ve all tasted something bad on the tip of our tongues, but we didn’t know it yet.”
The album will be released digitally as well as on cassette, as it is small and affordable. “Records are expensive to make, CDs are extremely obsolete, but a cassette tape is something that you can physically hold in your hand and feel like physically putting music in a player,” she explains. “It’s intimate and frankly, I find the tapes adorable.”
For Shurte, making music is like putting together a strange and unique puzzle. She enjoys the constant challenge of writing new parts and using muscle memory to create a cohesive song that makes others feel.
“The best thing is to play and have someone tell you how much it meant to them,” she says. “It’s an expression, and it feels good to tap into its feelings and have others embrace those waves.”
“Must Be Nice” is available digitally or on tape on Ages’ bandcamp page.