Sam Swinson and Adam Pressley (Ohtis), Ezra Furman, Stef Chura, Beth Jeans Houghton (Du Blonde) Talk Duets and Relationships

In celebration of “Schatze” and “I’m Glad That We Broke Up.”

This might seem like a random assemblage of musicians, but in fact there’s something that ties them all together — recent duets. The band Ohtis just released a single about a shitty relationship called “Schatze,” and it features Stef Chura. By sheer coincidence, Beth Jeans Houghton — aka Du Blonde — just released a single with Ezra Furman, also about a relationship, called “I’m Glad That We Broke Up.” Some people on the Zoom had met before, others hadn’t, but they got along great. 
—Josh Modell, Talkhouse Executive Editor

Ezra Furman: Last time I saw you, Stef, was days before the pandemic shit got real.

Stef Chura: I was thinking about that, like, Man, Ezra and I had a very specific pre-pandemic moment hangout. Adam was there too, technically.

Ezra: Yeah. March 10 or 11 definitely, it was the last time I went out, I think.

Stef: Yeah, that venue closed the next day. They were like, “We’re closing for COVID, there’s no more shows after tonight’s show.”

Ezra: It was right after you played, they made an announcement on the loudspeaker like, “This will be the last show.”

Stef: “Of all time.”

Ezra: If you can’t have shows here tomorrow, why is it safe to have a show here tonight?

Stef: I was reminiscing about that because we played another show with Against Me! to 500 people or something the next day and I’m like, Oh. Right before everything shut down, we still played that show to a ton of people. It’s kind of crazy to go from something that big to nothing for a whole year.

Ezra: Yeah, I was in the mosh pit.

Adam Pressley: Your bedroom looks good, Stef.

Stef: I need to hang stuff up on the walls. I’m afraid to move in because once I do, I’m going to move it out. You ever have that feeling?

Beth Jeans Houghton: I used to do that all the time.

Stef: As soon as you put one thing on the wall it’s like, I get it, I guess I’m moving. I’m living at my brother’s house right now. I’m in New Orleans, happy Mardi Gras.

Ezra: Oh, is it?

Beth: Do you guys have pancake day in America? It’s pancake day in England today.

Stef: Really? That’s the same day as Mardi Gras? But wait, I didn’t want to totally shift off the COVID conversation. You know what I think is weirder than not playing shows for a year? Not going to any shows for a year.

Beth: It’s funny because before all this happened I had like a year of just playing too many shows and festivals.

Stef: I was definitely a little burnt out on touring and now I’m like, I miss it and I don’t have an identity without it. I miss those smelly windowless venues that had no air in them and no one cleans them.

Ezra: I want to see a dick drawn on a wall somewhere!

Stef: Yeah. What do they even look like if I don’t see them drawn on a bathroom wall?

Ezra: Now that’s gone too. So how do we do this?

Stef: I think we were going to have a conversation about doing duets as couples when we’re not couples?

Beth: Yeah, that’s all I have to say about that.

Ezra: I think this is my first real duet. Can this be true? Beth, you got me to do a duet only by kicking and screaming. I was like, “I don’t know how to record things, it’s not going to sound good, I’m so bad with the tech.”

Beth: Yeah but the sound I was going for was intentionally not super great so that was perfect. So whatever excuse that you used at the beginning didn’t fly.

Ezra: I’m just glad I did it. I wanted to do it so much, but I was like, “I wish we could just get in a studio and sing together.”

Stef: Did you record at your house, Ezra, for the vocal?

Ezra: In this very room. Is that how you recorded yours?

Stef: No, We recorded in the room Adam’s sitting in because we recorded it before the pandemic. Was it late 2018 or was it in 2019?

Adam: Forever ago.

Beth: And how did it come about for you? Did you all know each other beforehand?

Stef: Yeah, Adam lives in Detroit and I’ve known him for years. He was playing in my band for the few months before the pandemic happened.

Beth: I have a question. So the title of your song is…

Stef: “Schatze.”

Beth: What does that mean?

Sam Swinson: I don’t speak German, but it’s “sweetheart” or something like that. It’s the name of my friend’s cat.

Ezra: Did you co-write the song?

Stef: We kind of did not. Sam just kind of busted the song out.

Ezra: Is it, may I ask, based on true events?

Sam: I played video games a lot. That part’s true.

Beth: What games?

Sam: The most recent one was Ghost Recon: Future… I forget which one. There’s 20 of those games.

Stef: What was the one you were playing at the time of writing the song?

Adam: Can I guess this? Was it Assassin’s Creed?

Sam: Yeah, probably.

Ezra: I personally have been playing a very old game from the ’90s called Sid Meier’s Civilization, which is like the slowest, blocky, crappy graphics where it’s the opposite mood. It’s so orderly, you just move guys around and you build and then you’re like, I’m going to build a temple in my city and then I’m going to harvest these resources.

Beth: I didn’t know that you played video games.

Ezra: It’s come back during the pandemic for me because it’s a comforting throwback to me being 12 years old and it’s just such orderly progress. It simulates doing something. It’s so comforting to me.

Stef: I remember this game. I’m looking at pictures of it and I completely blacked that out of my early computer memories.

Ezra: Yeah, it might be because I’m watching what seems like the collapse of civilization and I’m like, This is what it all looks like when we have to start over and it’s just going to be simple. Maybe we’ll have a war with the Carthaginians but I know how to handle that. I’ve got my chariots.

Stef: Oh my God. I just played video games when I was younger and I did the same thing during the pandemic. I got really into playing Stardew Valley over the summer, really into it. I lost three months of my life to the game, but it was worth it. I don’t know if you guys have played in that game, it’s a farming RPG. You get married and you create relationships with the people in the town and there’s holidays and stuff and there’s little competitions. There’s a mine where there’s zombies.

Ezra: That was a twist.

Stef: Yeah, it’s like 16-bit, but it’s really beautiful. It’s like the Harvest Moon games. I don’t know if you guys played those, but that was the only game I played as a child — this farming game was the only thing that appealed to me. It’s a very slow, very long game created by someone who was obsessed with all those games. So when I found it over the summer I was like, This was made for me. Someone my age made this game and then they made it for me because it was a much better version and then three months went by and I went, I need to get up, I need to walk outside, I need to breathe air, exist.

Ezra: This song, I feel like, is about digital relationships and that all feels like a video game sometimes. It’s like a relationship video game to text people. 

Stef: Technology is a huge part of dating now. It’s a different way to navigate things.

Ezra: It doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t feel right to me, apps and the swiping. It creeps me out.

Stef: There’s something a little cringy about it but I feel like there’s a lot of politics to texting that I don’t understand, like when to text someone back, don’t double text them. Or someone only wants to text, they don’t like phone calls.

Ezra: Some people I know seem at home in a text conversation. But then in person, they’re not good.

Beth: I’m definitely better at texting if I have something uncomfortable to say. I like the opportunity to think about what I’m going to say and how it’s going to be perceived and then edit it and then send it. Whereas if I call someone to say, like, “You’ve upset me” — you can’t take anything back that you say on the phone.

Stef: I just have such a dry sense of humor that I have to really be careful what I’m texting about because it could get totally taken the wrong way. I do like phone calls. A lot of people don’t like them as much anymore, even people my age or older.

Beth: I love phone calls. Ezra and I have some good long phone calls.

Ezra: Yeah, FaceTime has become the default for me and a lot of people since pandemic began. I need to see faces.

Stef: Yeah, I’ve been FaceTiming more since the pandemic has started. Did you guys co-write your song?

Beth: No. I wrote it and I didn’t initially intend it to be a duet. It was kind of written from the point of view of me and my ex-boyfriend discussing stuff at the time we were still together. It had the kind of energy that I feel from a lot of Ezra’s thrasher songs. I was like, “Do you want to sing on it?” Initially, we were going to sing just alongside each other for the whole time but the vocals were kind of distorted so when they were put together, it was kind of unclear. Then I separated them out, but it made sense for the whole call and response, singing at each other kind of thing. I’ve always loved duets and it was a good opportunity to have one.

Ezra: Yeah, it reminds me of new wave, maybe Blondie or like… It just seems like one of those songs that’s kind of fun and bratty and about love.

Beth: When we first started talking about it, we were talking about that quintessential, ‘60s girl group kind of thing where they’re talking about someone who’s stolen their boyfriend or whatever, but punk. I think we got there.

Sam: Your song’s got a really good hook.

Beth: Do you know what’s funny? I don’t even really know what a hook is.

Adam: Like the part that gets you hooked to the song.

Beth: Yeah, so does yours. I’ve had it in my head all day, I listened to it again this morning.

Stef: Sam, what inspired you to have all the F bombs?

Sam: I don’t know. I didn’t think about it, I just went for it.

Beth: Are you going to do a radio edit with beeps instead of fucks?

Stef: We did do a beep version but the song was just swiss cheese after that. We did a radio version but, we’ve just given it to radio people. We say “screw you,” which is not squeaky clean.

Beth: I just had to do a radio edit of a heavily expletive-filled song and we did the beep thing at first and it didn’t sound right so we just did the reverse-word thing.

Stef: We kind of did it so we could played on BBC and I guess they were fine with “screw,” but I guess that’s the nighttime thing.

Beth: I think we were going to try for daytime with mine but it’s kind of a gross song anyways so maybe they wouldn’t care.

Stef: “My song’s disgusting so maybe they won’t like it.”

Beth: “It’s ugly, I’m sorry.”

Ezra: It’s such a stress dream for me when you have to edit your profanity on a radio performance and you just have to remember to do it.

Beth: I hate that.

Stef: I’m very bad at that.

Beth: Me too. I sweat and then I mess up the whole song just to try and get that one bit right. It’s horrible. If I know I’m not meant to do something, it’s so hard not to do it. It’s just going to come out. If I know I shouldn’t say something to someone it’s in my head like, Don’t dare say this thing.

Stef: There’s definitely been little interviews we’ve done and I’m sitting there at the end of it. They have a swear jar or something and at the end of it like, “I did a good job.” and they were like, “Yeah, you said fuck three times.” 

Sam, did you picture “Schatze” being a duet when you wrote it? Were you thinking about us collaborating or did you just kind of thought about it afterwards?

Sam: The verses, yeah. I think the chorus started off just whistling it and then I took my guitar out onto the balcony and I was vaping, which my wife really hates and I need to quit soon, and then that’s when I was like, “I do what I please, I’m a piece of shit.” That part happened there on the balcony. Then I formulated the idea of your parts and wrote those for you.

Stef: For me?

Sam: That’s for you.

Ezra: You met in high school? How do you know each other?

Sam: I don’t know Stef.

Stef: We don’t know each other. Have we ever met in person, dude?

Sam: I don’t know.

Stef: I don’t think we have.

Adam: I’m the glue that holds you all together.

Sam: Nice to meet you, Stef.

Stef: Yeah, fuck you very much, sir. Who even says that to each other?

Ezra: That’s something you would text.

(Photo Credit: Stef, Danielle Dabney; Ezra, Jessica Lehrman)

Formed nearly two decades earlier while in high school, Ohtis entered a 15-year hiatus as a result of lead vocalist Sam Swinson’s addiction issues before reforming to make the record following his sobriety.  A deeply personal and honest record, Curve of Earth presented an autobiographical journey through Sam’s recovery as well the demons of his religious upbringing. The band just released a duet with Stef Chura called “Schatze.”