Steve Whitfield (production) and Fabrice Nau (vocals) from Scenius
SCENIUS are a rather special new dark synth-pop electro band that have released five singles and an album 2020. The band consists of Steve Whitfield from Leeds, UK and Fab Nau from Angers, France. Although heavily influenced from the great classic names of early electro such as BRIAN ENO, JOHN FOXX and KRAFTWERK they somehow have managed a refreshing and exciting new approach that brings the genre bang up to date. They have released five new singles and a new album in 2020 - the album ‘Enough Fears’ is released 4th December.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Musically what brought you to this point of forming SCENIUS?
Steve: I’ve been in loads of different bands since I was 17, playing synths, guitar and bass. Currently I’m also in the guitar driven band KLAMMER. I’m also a producer / engineer, so I get to work with lots of different bands and musicians. I’ve learnt a lot from that, how to do things and sometimes how not to do things. I was lucky to be the engineer on THE CURE’s ‘Wish’ album and I definitely learnt a lot of great things from Robert on how to organise / run a band.
Fabrice: I started around 16 playing guitar in a band I formed with friends from the small town where we grew up. Then I took up singing in the band too and went on to playing synths, using samplers and programming sequences. As well as recording and mixing. I really enjoy all of that but the thing that’s a touch above all the rest for me is trying to come up with a good melody and lyrics on music. Providing the music is inspiring of course. So, I’ve always had in my mind the idea that it would be cool to be in a band where I would do just that. But I’m quite picky about what I find inspiring. So, it never happened - until Steve sent me his tracks.
RoD: Please explain to me about the sound of SCENIUS.
Steve: We decided very early on to set ourselves limits. Keep it as analogue as possible, so using old synths and drum machines, but to use modern recording techniques (it was all recorded and mixed in Pro Tools software). We also tried to keep to a small palette of sounds as a starting point for each song, which I think help glue the album and give the album a certain sound. A lot of the parts were played in by hand rather than MIDI, which has helped give it a bit of warmth and human feel.
RoD: Where did you guys meet?
Fabrice: Steve recorded my band years ago and we got on really well and stayed in touch. I came over to England last year and popped into visit. When I saw Steve’s studio, I was reminded that he had all these old analogue synths and drum machines. When I got back to France, I sent him a message asking if he’d fancy sending me tracks upon which I’d try to lay vocals. A couple of months later he sent me a bunch of tracks. I did vocals on one, he enjoyed it, so I did a second one and he sent me more tracks and so on.
RoD: So, the debut album?
Steve: We originally just wanted to work on a track or two to see if we had anything, and then, bang, we had almost a whole album’s worth of songs written very quickly. We wanted to make something that had our influences from the past but at the same time would sit comfortably in 2020 and push the analogue synths forward to a new era. We also wanted to make an album where all the songs sounded like they fit onto this record, that there’s a common sound across all of it.
Fabrice: We’ve also been encouraged by the warm welcome that our singles have received worldwide and people saying how much they’re looking forward to hearing a whole album.
RoD: Since the pandemic and lockdown, it does seem to have inspired many artists and bands to work differently…
Steve: We both have studios at home and we’ve been sending files, emails and Face Timing to write, record and mix the songs. Fabrice and I haven’t been in the same country, never mind the same room through the writing and recording of the singles and album! So, I don’t think the lockdowns have changed anything for us, we would have worked like this anyway.Fabrice: Yes, we’ve been lucky that the way we’ve been working on SCENIUS so far is very lockdown-compatible.
RoD: Is there any details you can give me about the new album? The name? The label it will be released on?
Steve: It’s going out on the label MMXX Records and will be out on all the usual online (download and streaming) platforms as well as on CD which will be available from our website and from Bandcamp.
Fabrice: ‘Enough Fears’ is one of the last songs we finished. It wasn’t meant to refer to anything related to what the world is going through. It seems to me that the song’s more about dealing with the individual fears that often comes along with lack or loss of certainty. But when we had to choose a title for the album, this one seemed to also connect well with the special period the world was going through as we were writing the album. A time when fear was even more on the daily news than it usually is… It also worked really well with this great street artwork painted by Banksy in Naples, featuring a Madonna and a gun. For better or for worse, religion and weapons have been two of the most universal human ways of fighting against fears. The third way being creation / art. I don’t know if that’s what Banksy already had in mind but obviously the painting itself embodies this “third way”. So, using it as a record’s artwork kind of reinforces this interpretation by the presence of the music it’s illustrating.
RoD: So where do you see yourselves going then?
Steve: We already have the bare bones of 8 tracks for the next album, which I don’t think will be dramatically different to this one, but more of a sister album. After that I’d like us to change and progress but it’s too early to decide where to at the moment!
RoD: Do you have any plans for playing live once the pandemic is over.
Steve: We definitely want to go out and play live. We have already started work on the live set and I’ve bought some new synths to take out live, as I don’t want to take my old analogues out on the road (too precious and unreliable)! I’ve taken it all out to KLAMMER’s rehearsal room and blasted through the PA to check it’s going to work.
Fabrice: We’ve already got one serious gig offer, in France, which has made us have to think about that probably earlier than we’d have otherwise. Hopefully more opportunities will come in so it’ll make it worth (while) I’d fly to Leeds or Steve flies to Angers.