Scully: Playing for Progress

Some years ago, four girls met by fate at UC Berkeley and began making music as The Splinters. Eventually they lost a member to academia, dropped the name, and moved to Brooklyn where Scully was born. The group consists of Caroline Partamian (guitar/vocals), Courtney Gray (guitar/vocals), and Lauren Stern (bass/vocals). As the trio spent their formative years ripening their sound and developing their identity in the Golden State, they possess a sprightly vibe, yet it’s unmistakably and curiously entangled with a hardcore, no-bullshit fervor.

In 2011, Scully recorded their EP No Sense, and last Friday they brought the community together, in all-powerful sense, by planning and executing a Planned Parenthood benefit show and raffle. Local bands and businesses eagerly followed suit, joining their neighborhood girl gang to stand up for what’s at stake.

The sold-out show consisted of five motley Brooklyn-based acts. In between sets, Scully raffled off a variety of items from dinner at Spotted Pig and an evening at Nikehawk Cinema to a vintage quilt and a vibrator (taken home by one lucky man). Winners took to the mic to vocalize the importance of the night and were met with unyielding camaraderie from the audience. By the end of the night, thousands of dollars were raised to support an institution that has supported so many of us.

Tell me about how you formed the band and some highlights from touring together.  You are a bit of a blend of east and west coast sounds but based in Brooklyn?

Courtney: We all met at UC Berkeley. I, Caroline, met Lauren when her ex-boyfriend knocked a tray full of food in my face in the dining commons one night, and the two of us met Courtney through our close mutual friend Ashley, who we played with in our old band The Splinters in Oakland. Ashley stayed in California to pursue a PhD and the three of us moved to New York City and formed Scully. Living on the East Coast in addition to more years of collaborating together on music has definitely honed our sound. We still think about California a lot while writing our music but try to challenge ourselves more and more – it keeps it fun. Touring together is really rewarding – going to different cities with your close friends and playing music on which you have collaborated, where you have strong audiences appreciating and listening to your music is really wonderful. Our last tour was a pretty unique one, however. Our first night of tour we played an all-female fronted concert on election night (which was presumably supposed to be a celebration for our country’s first female president), and the country’s current president was confirmed president-elect during our set. The tour, despite surreal circumstances, ended up being a really positive outlet for concerns on our mind about the state of our country and its citizens – while we can’t tackle every issue at once, we were pretty certain we needed to work together to make something happen. Complaints and negative judgement won’t get you too far. You need to be active. Lauren brought up the idea of organizing a Planned Parenthood benefit upon getting back to NYC and now it’s happening (we’re also playing an ACLU benefit in February) – so many people have offered their support – bands and local business. Any party we asked to participate had a “duh, yes of course” attitude. Despite the negative circumstances in our recent political climate, I think that that this election has really woken up a lot of people and has brought a lot of friends and strangers together to work together and towards the same goals. We hope and encourage all parties to organize something that they believe in – work with each other, not against each other. If we do the latter, the bigots win.

Courtney Gray: As soon as I said the words “Planned Parenthood Benefit,” the owner of Sharktooth Antique and Vintage Textiles excitedly exclaimed, “YES! We absolutely want to contribute!”  She then rushed to the back of her store and returned with a beautiful $375 blanket and placed it in my hands.  This was the first store I asked to contribute to our upcoming Planned Parenthood Benefit Show & Raffle, and many more have since joined. It has been inspiring to see how many community members are eager to come together to support this cause.  We now have 20 local businesses (restaurants, boutiques, designers, artists, and more) that have donated raffle prizes in various forms, from gift certificates for music stores and restaurants, to beautiful blankets, to sex toys!  We also have 6 amazing Brooklyn-based bands and an awesome venue in Bushwick contributing to a fun night of music, solidarity, dancing, and prizes!  Decorum, NOIA, B Boys, a side project by EZTV, and Milk Dick will be joining us on Friday in support of Planned Parenthood. It’s happening at Alphaville which is one of our favorite venues in Brooklyn, this Friday, January 27th! All the bands will be playing 20 minute sets and there will be a raffle between each set!
There are hints of surf and rock in your recordings.  Maybe its the SoCal influence.  Was that always the focus of your sound or something you arrived on naturally?   Are there particular influences on your work or other band’s sounds that you like and where you find inspiration?
Surf and rock, or any one particular genre really, have never been the focus – we never try to sound like one sound exactly, just whatever feels right to us. There’s undoubtedly hints of influences from various styles we’ve loved over the years, but we never aim to produce one kind of sound. That said, we are big fans of Brian Jonestown Massacre, Cocteau Twins, Nirvana, Kleenex, X, Wire, Lush, and more. Here’s actually a link to a little Scully Influences playlist our label, Fire Talk, asked us to make last year. Check it out if you want – maybe you’ll enjoy it 🙂 not sure if it will help anyone make sense of our sound but we definitely love those artists on the playlist.
So, let me get the story right.  You arrived in Brooklyn from the west coast post-The Splinters.  Caroline, Courtney, and Lauren met Burgers at SXSW where your were still in The Splinters and The Numerators respectfully. Caroline, you lived down the street from Death by Audio?  What was each of your first year in NYC like?
Wow you’ve done your research!! 🙂 That’s true – that’s how we all met. We are currently playing with our friends Kyle and Alex on drums. Kyle we met in New York City and was our first drummer, and also came on tour with us in November (and is also Courtney’s partner). Alex is one of our closest friends from college who also happens to be an incredible genius mathematician/computer scientist. I, Caroline, did live down the street from DBA! Lauren moved in with me there too and it was great! We had been living in the Bay Area for a long time and we just needed a change of pace. Being so close to Death By Audio was a gift – it helped us build a strong community of friends and allowed us to be exposed to people music and kindness more rapidly than we may have otherwise. We’re both very grateful for that experience.

Death by Audio was a favorite spot.  Did going to shows there influence a need to organize a community event like this one coming up at Alphaville?  We don’t usually talk political but the catalyst is the potential defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Absolutely! I think those things are very connected. We were involved with lots of community driven organizations in the Bay Area as well. That camaraderie is definitely contagious. Getting things done with other people who believe in something as strongly as you do is empowering.
You have No Sense Ep out as of last spring.  You have toured that around.  Where have you been and what happens when you hit the road?  Also, did you have a car accident outside of Reno?
The No Sense EP digital came out the beginning of last Summer and the vinyl and Burger Records cassette for it came out in the Fall – we had our record release for it at Alphaville, actually! We have since also put out a 7″ on Greenway Records (last October). When we hit the road we unfortunately eat more Taco Bell than humans should probably be allowed to consume. And yes, we unfortunately had an accident on our route from Eugene to Reno during our West Coast tour last November. It was pretty surreal but we are just so thankful that we are okay. It’s surprising talking to people about it after the fact because it seems like everyone has a buck/deer/wild boar accident story on the road. Be careful everyone! And don’t drive at night! Deer have crazy sex drives and will just cross the road to get to some of that doe. That said, I never have and never will eat venison in my life.
So, a little more politics here.  Tell me about the auction and what it was like going business to business and trying to build buzz around the upcoming show!  What should the audience expect?
It was so easy! As Courtney mentioned, people were so welcoming. Every place we asked said yes. We have a few friends who are artists who were enthusiastic about contributing, and others, like Greenway Records and artist Jess Hutchison, offered to contribute without us asking, in addition to many others. AUDIENCE, expect to be overcome by the desire to buy many many raffle prizes, feel good by spending money towards a good cause, and walking out with a prize that is much greater than the value of the $2 raffle ticket.

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