Ohtis and Stef Chura Team Up to Take Down Toxic Dudes with “Schatze”

Alt-country outfit Ohtis enlist the voice (and production skills) of beloved Detroit artist Stef Chura for their audio-visual fuckboy call-out “Schatze,” released digitally at the end of January (a 7″ vinyl is available for pre-order ahead of its February 26 release via Saddle Creek). Starting out like a guided meditation accompanied by Fred Thomas’s ambient track “Backstroke,” the brief moment of Zen is promptly squashed by the unrelenting, familiar chimes of an iPhone. The messages come rolling in, narrated by lead singer Sam Swinson – “I do/do what I please/it’s my Shatze/it’s my treasure/it’s not difficult, I do it with ease.” Chura replies to Swinson’s apathetic admission with an appropriate “Fuck you very much sir!” – a line that serves as a mantra throughout the song. 

It’s an appropriate and timely catchphrase for the past few years we’ve had as a country, bleeding from the effects of men who think they can get away with anything. But recently, we’ve also seen slow steps towards a reckoning – lies coming apart at the seams, survivors stepping forward to bring their abusers to justice, and the grand finale of a bigoted predator being removed from office. And although the villain in this song doesn’t exactly sit in that rung of evil, he serves as a symbol of that one guy – or guys, and the toxic culture that enables them – we all know that just really, really sucks.

“It’s a story about a fictional character and his faults. As I see it, crafting this song as a cultural commentary, but through the lens of humanity and humor, makes for a more accessible listening experience,” explains multi-instrumentalist Nate Hahn (pedal steel guitar, guitar, bass, keys, trombone). “We hope that this encourages more people to listen and reflect on the issues explored.” Those issues range from binge-playing video games, cheating on your significant other, and just having a general air of entitlement and indifference to one’s surroundings. “The title is a reference to a friend’s cat who’s a vicious beast of the same name,” adds multi-instrumentalist and producer Adam Pressley. 

Granted, an unruly cat is arguably a much easier beast to tame – or at least tolerate – than the character than Ohtis creates in “Schatze” – a self-obsessed, vape-loving, mask-hating gamer blob that admits things like, “I’m a piece of shit/I just think I’ll get away with it.” Chura’s gritty vocals are the perfect counter to Ohtis’ Frankenstein douche and serve as a sort of accountability angel. She says that the collaboration came together naturally, as Pressley was playing in her band at the time and the two had talked about working together. “We kinda jokingly tossed the idea around about the collaboration,” says Chura. “I really like Sam’s singing voice and was down for it. Then one day they just kind of hit me with the actual song. The rest is rock ‘n’ roll history, baby.” 

Hahn adds that having a female voice on the track was essential to rounding out the song’s message. “From the beginning, it was clear that the story needed to be told from both sides of the relationship,” he says. “We loved working with Stef because she’s a friend of the band and she’s the rockinest.” Aside from contributing her voice, Chura also co-produced the track and prevented the band from “keeping some silly digital DJ Khaled style vocal chopping we had in the track early on in the process,” according to Pressley.

While the song is a slight departure from Swinson’s deeply personal lyricism on Curve of Earth, the character in the song serves as a self-aware caricature of what we can become without actively checking ourselves. “I think it’s incredibly important that everyone takes stock of the way they might act in relationships and how actions could affect other people,” says Swinson. “Hopefully it can bring about some self-reflection in people as to how they could be better to the people around them.”

Outside of the commentary on personal relationships, the song also nods at the fact that white men have historically gotten away with doing evil shit, and a lot of them still do. It also nods at the role – however divisive it can be – that the internet has in unveiling the truth (or spreading lies) about people. The video even sneaks in a text from “Ohtis” reading, “do you liek ariel pink?” a reference to his troubled reputation and recent “cancelling” after he was spotted with John Maus at the pro-Trump rally preceding the insurrection. And while the members of Ohtis are galaxies away from being caught at a MAGA gathering, Swinson admits that they still have work to do when it comes to deconstructing the patriarchy. “There are definitely lingering bits of toxic masculinity from our conditioning that we can still identify and ultimately hope to carve out of ourselves in the process,” he says. “ [We] have no problem being self-deprecating about that.” 

Whatever your opinion on call out/cancel culture may be, this song and video serve as a relevant reflection on the moment we’re in – a chaotic e-landscape swirling with accusations, accountability, and assholes. For the listener, maybe it’s an opportunity to reflect on how you act in your relationships. Maybe it’s just an excuse to say “fuck you very much sir” a lot. For me, it’s both, and I’m better for it.

Follow Ohtis (via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and Stef Chura (via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for ongoing updates.

BAND OF THE MONTH: High Up Premieres “Alabama to the Basement”

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Photo by Andy Lachance

Ever been to a karaoke night and heard a voice rise up that actually sounded… really good? Christine Fink has one of those voices. She’d relegated her talents to karaoke nights in crowded Alabama bars – that is, until her sister Orenda, well-known for her work with Saddle Creek mainstay Azure Ray, dragged her into a bigger spotlight.

Christine moved to Omaha to form High Up with her sister, brother-in-law Todd Fink (also of The Faint), Josh Soto, and Matt Focht. This month, they released a self-titled four-song EP that blends classic Southern rock and soul, with a little punk vibe thrown in for good measure. Thematically, its songs capture longing and love in the tradition of Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, but also critique the Capitalist machine with sassy bangers like “Two Weeks” and “Your System Failed You.”

Whether belting out a protest anthem or crooning an ode to a crush, High Up is a band that feels good to listen to, like slipping on a favorite jacket you haven’t worn in a while. Their debut album You Are Here, slated for release next month via Team Love, continues along the same lines, mixing up bluesy, heartfelt ballads and raucous shout-along refrains, like on album opener “Alabama to the Basement,” which we’re premiering below.

The song is a celebration of letting go and rocking out, with clear autobiograpical vibes regarding the band’s origin story. As a kid in middle school, there were certain songs I would set my radio to wake me up to; this song has that same rush, that energy you need to fight through another day, or push through a shitty situation on your way to something better. It’s the perfect introduction to an album that that tonally runs the gambit from high energy cheer to soulful sorrow.

We sat down with Christine to talk about loving your parents music, what it’s like writing with her sister, and when we can see High Up out on the road.

AF: You’re originally from Birmingham, Alabama correct? What did you grow up listening to as a kid?

CF: Yes, born in Birmingham, but spent varying years of my life in other towns – Ashville, Oneonta, and Muscle Shoals. My parents exposed me early on to stuff like Pink Floyd, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Hank Williams, Graham Parsons and the like. I was really into oldies as a kid – Frankie Valli, Beach Boys, etc. My first real exposure to soul I think was when I saw Smokey Robinson on Sesame Street in the late ’80s. I was never really the same after that. As I grew older, I developed a taste for punk and indie as well, and all those styles kinda melded to form my tastes as an adult.

AF: I always find it funny when people initially reject their parents music, only to come back to it later on with more perspective. Music can be so interesting when styles collide.

CF: Absolutely. I don’t remember really ever having disdain for what my parents listened to. They have great taste! Of course, they might remember differently!

AF: The story goes that your sister and band member, Orenda Fink, saw you perform karaoke in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. She was blown away and immediately thought you should start a band together. Was this a scary proposition?

CF: I jumped at the idea. It was really a big reason for me moving to Omaha to begin with – giving up the corporate grind and pursuing more creative endeavors. I’ve always had such great reverence for Orenda and her work, and wanted a chance to work with her creatively. The scariest part is probably the financial instability of playing music more or less full time. And rejection of course. But those fears come with the territory and the rewards outweigh the risks in my eyes.

AF: What were your go-to Karaoke songs?

CF: I love trying out all genres, so I pepper in a little bit of everything. My go-tos are usually midnight train to Georgia – Gladys knight and the pips, whole lotta love- Led Zeppelin, sometimes I’ll throw in some Radiohead or Dolly Parton for kicks.

AF: Can you tell us a bit about the songwriting process for High Up? Is there a lot of back and forth between you and Orenda? Or does she take lead when it comes to composition?

CF: Orenda does the bulk of the songwriting, but I co-write and we have a few other co-writers. The whole band collaborates on the tunes to varying degrees. It’s very open and collaborative.

AF: I love the video for “Two Weeks.” It really nails the playfulness and soul of the band. What was the production process like?

CF: Thanks! We recorded the video over the course of two days I believe? Harrison Martin directed and filmed and we had so many friends help. It was a blast and very low stress. It’s important to have a good time and we wanted to reflect the good vibes of the group who gathered to help us. It was a relatively quick and easy process because of the professionalism and talent of everyone involved. The scariest part was probably me having to stand on the table without busting my ass!

AF: “Blue Moon” really hit me in the gut. Can you give me a little background on its genesis?

CF: It hits me too to be honest. I’ve struggled with mental illness most of my life, and the song is really a way to express an almost constant sinking feeling, of feeling like I’ve exasperated those I care most about. There’s a little glimmer of hope in there: “I can’t take it much longer… Or so I say.” Because I can, I hope we all can, and can learn compassion, patience and love for those in our lives who are struggling.

AF: It’s wonderful that you felt comfortable sharing that kind of emotion. I myself struggle with anxiety and depression. It can be comforting to hear someone else’s journey. Were the lyrics difficult for you to share with the band? Or was it more of an unburdening?

CF: I feel like not sharing that emotion would be disingenuous. It’s who I am and I’ve gotten such comfort from other musicians who have been brave enough to open themselves up. Orenda and Morgan Nagler of Whispertown actually wrote that song for me, culled from many tearful admissions on my part. They took what I was experiencing and their reactions to it and wrote the song. It was heartbreaking to read for the first time, but also very cathartic. I’m so very grateful for their talent and ability to fine tune my messy emotions.

AF: Many of the songs on the album take their subject matter loosely from the Bible, such as “Glorious Giving In.” How does spirituality (or your reaction to it) play into High Up’s themes and material?

CF: I can’t speak for other members of the band, but I don’t have any kind of religious belief system. I love religious iconography and many of the allegories associated with religion, but I don’t subscribe to the actual belief system. We use spirituality and references of such because they do speak to the human condition a lot, and I appreciate that. I’m more of a nihilist, with a heavy dose of the Golden Rule.

AF: Can we expect to see High Up on tour soon?

CF: Yes!! We have a nationwide tour in the works for the month of March in support of our first full length, You Are Here, which comes out February 23rd on Team Love

AF: What do you hope the audience takes away from a High Up show?

CF: Lots of merch! Just kidding… My goal is to entertain and connect. I want people to have fun, get mad with me, get sad with me, laugh and cry with me. We’re all pretty fucked up, right? And so many times we feel like we’re the only ones, but we’re not. It’s important to reach out to others and say hey, you’re not alone, we can get through this together. If you can dance and sing along through the anger and tears, so much the better.

Preorder High Up’s debut album You Are Here via Bandcamp, and be sure to check them out on tour this Spring.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]



We are all searching for something on this earth. Whether it is truth, love, acceptance, or even validation, we’re convinced that the questions we have are deserving of answers. But we spend so much time looking out into the world for answers that we sometimes forget to look within ourselves. Singer-songwriter Orenda Fink’s third solo album Blue Dream utilizes self-exploration first and foremost to answer life’s biggest questions. Prompted by a series of dreams about death, Orenda began writing introspective songs that expressed precisely what she experienced through her dreams. She’ll share those thoughts with the world on August 19th, when Blue Dream is released.

It has been said many times that dreams have varied, and invariably deep meanings, and with Orenda’s new album comes an opportunity for all of us to dig deeper into our own unconscious selves. While her previous solo LPs Invisible Ones and Ask the Night relate to events in her life, Orenda feels as though Blue Dream is far more personal than anything that she has created before. With this album, Orenda finds new ways to cope with immense pain and heartbreak. She truly believes that if we gain a better understanding of death, then we can live a better life — an intriguing perspective that challenges us to dig a little deeper, rather than just continue on, scratching the surface of our feelings. I was fortunate enough chat with Orenda about Blue Dream, as well as her progression as a musician. Here’s what went down.

AF: How would you describe your music and your sound?
OF: I usually use the words melancholic and ethereal for music and sound. I usually write about things that are very personal. I guess it’s confessional in some ways, but maybe slightly a little romantic too.

AF: What affect do you think growing up in the south has had on your music? Do you feel as though it is a strong presence in your songs?
OF: Yeah, I think that growing up in the south definitely had an effect on my music, it’s not an obvious literal musical influence, but it’s not just in sensibilities. I tend to think that the south is kind of romantic. I mean people take issues and they kind of get blown up into these kind of archetypal situations of epic proportions (laughs). At least in the deep south where I come from, and I think I get that flair for the dramatics probably, from the south. But also…you know I think there’s just something about the heat and the humidity there. It kind of holds people, holds emotions in; kind of pulls them together until they’re almost visible, tangible things outside of your own body. You know, like you can…almost have an experience with them. Like ghosts I guess, they’re almost like spirits; and I feel like that’s something from the south that seeps into my work. It’s kind of that true connection with things that could leave you, but they don’t.

AF: Tell us about your upcoming album Blue Dream. What was the creative process like for you, and what are you most looking forward to?
OF: Well the creative process for Blue Dream…I mean it kind of feels like a dream in a way because I started writing it after my dog died. Which doesn’t seem like probably a huge deal for a lot of people, but I had him for 16 years, and we had an extremely codependent relationship with each other (laughs). I mean I took this dog all over the world. So it was really really painful when I lost him. But outside of that, I had this deeper emptiness when he left that was kind of like…in a way, an existential crisis where I realized I didn’t have a framework of how to deal with death. You know, whether it be a dog, or my husband, or my friends, or myself, and it kind of left me reeling for the better part of the year, until I started doing this dream analysis through psychotherapy and during that time I just was having an insane amount of dreams, every single night, and they were all about death. And my dog was in a lot of them, but not all of them. And this went on for about six months, and I felt like I was having the answers or something close to the answers said to me, through my dreams; in a way that I could never have imagined. You know, because in my conscious waking life, I felt despondent and kind of nihilistic about everything at that point. But in my dreams there were different stories unfolding that pointed away from that. It was a powerful time for me and that was when I started writing this record. It’s not necessarily a concept record; it’s not a record about death, or not a record about a dog, or anything like that but these are the things that were happening in my life while I was writing this record. I was just writing and writing and one day I realized at the end of it that I was standing outside of the tunnel looking in, instead of in the darkness and thinking “I think I’m out of the tunnel. And I think I have correctors.”(laughs) So that was kind of what the process was. I think the creative process was going on in my dreams and the writing was just something I did outside of that.

AF: In what ways would you say that this album is different from your last two solo projects?
OF: Some people might chuckle at this, just because of the nature of my writing; but I do feel like this record is more deeply personal than the other two solo records, just because of where I was when I wrote it. You know, when I wrote the other records I wanted to break away from singing about love and love lost which was a big theme of Azure Ray ‘s because I was happily married and I just didn’t really feel those emotions, so I was looking for outside influences with Invisible ones and Ask the Night, you know Invisible ones was heavily influenced by my travels to Haiti, and Ask the Night was kind of like an exploration of southern Gothic folklore if you will, so even though those records related to me in a personal way, they weren’t deeply personal like this record is. This is the first time that I feel like I’ve felt this kind of intense heartbreak of a different nature, but that I had felt during that Azure Ray work.

AF: What is your favorite song on the album?
OF: Hmm that’s a tough one, I mean it’s hard to say because I feel like they do kind of represent different stages of that year, so there’s ones that are more redeeming, and something that are just in the darkness. And so, it’s kind of a journey for me. It’s hard to pick one or the other, but I guess I’d say either “Holy Holy” or “Poor little bear.”

AF: My favorite is definitely “You Can Be Loved” — it’s just so beautiful.
OF: Aww thank you!

AF: So I know that in the past some of your solo music was inspired by Haitian Folk music, is this also the case with your new album?
OF: You know, someone else asked me this question. I’d say probably not consciously, but when I kinda look back at some of the backing vocals, and the treatment for “This Is Part of Something Greater” it kind of has…what I hear as plaintive cries and traditional voodoo folk music. You know, I love the way the women sing and they just belt out these plaintive cries kind of in unison so I think maybe inadvertently I just hear that sometimes in my head as the backing part, without even meaning to. It’s what my ear wants to hear as part of the piece. So I think there could be some unconscious influences in there for sure (laughs).

AF: I feel like many people search for the meaning of life, but very rarely do you hear about someone searching for the meaning of death. So on your journey what did you find, in searching for the meaning of death?
OF: It’s interesting, because I feel like that’s such a good observation, but you know they’re so closely connected, but it’s just that death is scary. It’s horrifying, and that’s why you don’t search for the meaning of death because you don’t wanna think about it. You just wanna think about life, because that’s what’s in front of you, and death is this terrible thing at the end that’s unavoidable but you have to literally deny it in order to live a full life. So it’s really tricky to go down the rabbit hole for the meaning of death, and it was a weird place that I was in but I guess I feel that exploring the meaning of death can help you live your life. Through my dreams I found that I have less of a fear of death, or less of a fear of losing because I don’t feel like anyone can really know what the meaning of life or death is, but I think that through some real searching you can find out what it isn’t. If that makes sense. And I feel like what I do know now is that there is some kind of life after death. What it is? I’m not sure. But I feel like that’s what’s been told to me through my dreams and I think they’re just as good a source as anyone else in the world that tries to tell you what they think, because it’s a direct source from you; your wisdom that you can’t access in the conscious realm.

AF: I read somewhere that you feel very strongly about the idea of human beings healing, through finding their “Interior God.” Could you elaborate on this concept? I’d love to hear more about it.
OF: That is actually a quote from Alejando Jodorowsky. He’s a filmmaker, a writer; he’s made the movies El Topo and Santa Sangre and Holy Mountain. He’s an amazing experimental art film director. He’s also written a lot about spirituality, and magic and art and how they connect. So that quote is a direct quote from him that I just felt like really summed up the work that I had done, the dream work; and the journey I had gone on which is that your Interior God is basically just a way to tap into the source of something that is beyond your conscious mind because our conscious mind only drives about 10% of our actions, our thoughts, our feelings. There’s this whole other welt of something, we don’t understand what it is that is really driving the ship. And I think in that there are some archetypal truths about life and death and humanity and if you can tap into that, that’s your “Interior God.” That’s what anyone who’s ever created any religion has done. Or any kind of spiritual philosophy, I feel like is basically just people tapping into their “Interior God” and trying to essentially translate what their hearing. So I guess that’s why I feel like if you can find that within yourself it’s gonna be the purest source of information. Cause everyone can tap into it. You don’t have to have someone tell you what it is. Not to say that it’s not good to listen to a certain type of religious or spiritual background, but I think that it can work in conjunction to find like a more truthful version of life and death when you listen to your own self. And that to me is your “Interior God.” It’s the collective unconscious, it’s your personal conscious, and it’s tied into everyone that has ever lived.

AF: How have you progressed as a song writer? What are some important lessons that you have learned along the way?
OF: You know, it’s weird when you do this for a very long time, because I feel like you go in cycles that are kind of prolific, and have quality, and a lot of it has to do with inspiration I think, but also there’s an element of craft to it. That I… In previous years sometimes I kind of just scratched the craft element and just went on pure inspiration. So I feel like even though this record is darker than a lot of my other stuff, it’s “poppier” in a way. I kind of like revisited the craft of writing a song. Like the pop structure and I think that’s easy sometimes when you have heady, heavy subject matter. It’s more digestible if you can deliver that in a way that is beautiful and pleasing to the ear, so I guess I learn lessons with every record that I write, but this is where I’m at right now so we’ll see how it plays out.

AF: What are some advantages and disadvantages to being a solo artist as opposed to being in a band?
OF: Well I definitely love collaborating with people. That is where my heart is. But I do think it’s important to release solo records because they are the most self-indulgent type of art. You don’t have to consult with anyone, it’s all about you, but I think like for me, especially on this record; I don’t think it would be fair to another collaborator to even share this material with them. You know, because it is so deeply personal, but I think there is an advantage to having a solo outlet that you can do that, but at the same time I do feel like I am a collaborator at heart, I love working with other people. I feel like mentally it’s really good for an artist because you get to share the creative process, but then you also get to share the heartache, or the celebration, the triumph, all of it. And I think that being a solo artist is a little isolating for me, but I like having the option to do both.

AF: Dead or alive, who would your dream collaboration be with?
OF: Oh Gosh (laughs ). Alive: Dr. John, and Dead: Nina Simone. I actually ran into Dr. John at the Atlanta airport a couple months ago! I got off my gate and he was sitting in the airport wheelchair at the gate that I got off of and I was like: “Oh my God! Dr. John!” And I could tell he was like trying to get help and no one was helping him. So I got up my courage and I walked over and I was like: “Are you Dr. John?” and he was like “Yes.” And then I was like “Do you need help?” And then he was like “Honey, I do need help.” And he said “Would you come stand in that line for me?” And I was like “I would be honored to! (laughs).” So I stood in line for him and I got him help, and he gave me a huge hug and was like “Do you wanna take a picture with me?” And I was like “Yes!” So that’s my weird little Samaritan moment with my biggest idol ever.

AF: You got a picture with him too? That’s so cool! Are there any upcoming shows or live performances that our readers should know about?

OF: Yeah. I’m hopefully doing a tour in September. But we’re still putting that together. So my plan is to do a full length tour but I’m not sure if I’ll be supporting someone or going out on my own so that to be determined. But a tour is being planned, which is something I haven’t done in a while.

Orenda Fink’s album Blue Dream is out on August 19th. Check out her first single off the album, entitled “Ace of Cups,” below.