Jennie Skulander’s scene is one of flexibility and movement. Though at the moment she is “sitting on the couch under the blanket on a freezing day” during New Zealand’s stage 4 lockdowns in response to covoid-19, the singer of metal rock outfit DEVILSKIN would rather be “pole dancing”.
With the worldwide coronavirus situation, Skulander laments, “I was pretty excited about being out on the road. We were actually flying out next week to the UK and Europe for our tour because we were going to do the album tour in UK and Europe first. But that was the first thing to go for us. So we’ve pretty much lost every gig; even our signing sessions at JB Hi-Fi, we can’t do those at the moment. Once we do eventually get back on the road, I’m going to love it because I’m really missing it.”
“We had also planned to record another show in VR because the one that was on YouTube last week, that was from two years ago, Skulander continues. “And we had planned to do it this weekend, but obviously with our lockdown and yeah, level four, so we’re not even allowed to get together at all. But we are still releasing the album on all digital platforms. Just no physical copies for now. As for the gigs and stuff, yeah, they’re just going to have to wait. I mean, yeah, we’ve kind of come up with other ideas, but it’s just very, very hard at the moment when we can’t leave our houses.”
Fortunately, the promoting of the release of their third studio album, RED, was well underway before the shutdowns and has had widespread anticipation. Recorded at Roundhead Studios Auckland mid-2019 with the award-winning team of producer Greg Haver, and engineer/mixer Simon Gooding; this is a collection of well written and crafted tracks. The album title, RED, is the universal colour of passion, vitality, blood, danger, romance, anger, horror and love; everything evocative. Of all the colours, RED is a warning and a statement. Skulander states: “Red represents a lot of things. Red’s the colour of passion and it can represent anger. And I think with this album, it’s very emotional and just kind of fit, yeah, the songs and the album.”
Demoing about thirty tracks, the final cut for RED embodies the many facets of the colour, starting with the “brutal welcome” of Do You See Birds. Writing lyrics and songs that are extremely personal add power to their storyline and their delivery. This was especially true of the song ENDO. Skulander states: “Endo, for me, was more of a shock that it happened. I didn’t know I had Endo. I didn’t have the normal symptoms. And all of a sudden I’m in pain. On my wedding night. During the day, my stomach just felt kind of weird but I’ve always kind of had stomach issues anyway. And so all day I was just like, ‘Okay, well maybe it’s just been nerves and stuff’, I just was vomiting pretty much all night and I couldn’t stop- and then I couldn’t eat properly. So I was just like, ‘Okay, something’s not right’. Went to the doctor because I still wasn’t feeling right and within like three weeks, I was in getting surgery for a eleven centimetre mass that was on my pelvis.”
In addition, Skulander states: “Corrode is based on sort of mental health and I actually wrote it based on when I had my daughter, and then I had this new life and I was kind of struggling with being at home all day with her… I had my husband as well, but he’d be at work. And just some days, I guess, I just really struggled and I wouldn’t sort of talk about it. And yeah, feeling like certain things just took a toll on me.”
With Sweet Release, it was co-written with Paul Martin, Skulander states: “Yeah, I started writing lyrics to it. It was the same song and the main line, ‘Life’s emotions, sweet release’, and then Paul came out and said, ‘Oh, I’ve added some bits to it’. Because I think I had the first two verses and he wrote the last few and added some lines. But we based it on something that happened here in Hamilton. It was a guy a few years ago [Nicky Stevens] was in a mental health facility and he was let out for a unsupervised smoke break, which he shouldn’t have been, and he took off and then they found his body a few days later, floating down in a river. So, he’d taken off from this facility where you expect to be safe and killed himself. His parents have been trying to fight for an apology and for the DHB and stuff to sort of say, ‘Okay, no, we were in the wrong’. They have since apologised, about five years on. So we wrote that about him.”
“Same Life was written by Paul. Paul usually goes into the corner store by his house and he asks the guy, ‘How you going today mate?’ And he’s just like, ‘Same life. Same life’. And so, he wrote it based on just having a life where you do the same things every single day. And it’s a bit crap. It can be. Kind of like at the moment it’s going to be like that, same life. Paul also wrote All Fall Down – he did quite a bit on this album. But, yeah I think it’s just sort of based on sacrifice – just doing stupid shit, I guess. Like for example, right now going out of your way and not obeying the rules of lockdown and getting caught. You’re putting people’s lives in your hands – same sort of thing goes for All Fall Down.”
Skulander misses live music, life on the road, and playing live. Music is part of her life. Skulander reminisces: “I sort of started to get into my own music as a teenager. So the likes of Deftones, which I’m still a massive fan of. Listened to a band called Snot. Yeah, and then also bands like Coheed and Cambria, The Mars Volta, Jeff Buckley. Lately, just been listening to Crosses, †††, which is Chino Moreno, probably from a few years back. A bit of everything, actually.”
On the road, Skulander continues, “One of the members of our band, actually Paul, he’s the one that will stay up all night drinking, pretty much. I’m the boring one on the road. I’m always, yeah, in bed shortly after my shows. I’m pretty tired. I eat well and do a lot of fitness, do the workouts before the shows and stuff like that as well. Sleep is a big thing for me. So I’m really, really boring. We always have fun on the road where we do stupid shit together and have like meme wars Nic [Martin] will show me a meme that he’s found and then I’ll come back with something even funnier and he’ll come up with something even funnier than that. It’s just it’s always a fun time.”
Skulander describes DEVILSKIN as “a rock band with heavy elements and emotion” and that they’re “not just a band up there playing”. She states: “It’s a performance. It’s a show. Like I’m running around the stage. I’m doing cartwheels and jumping off things and the boys are running around and doing bass/knee slides and all that sort of shit. But yeah, we’ve got our props as well, like CO2 gun and chainsaw. In New Zealand we try to put on like a big show. So we had like flame throwers and stuff as well, which is quite cool. Yeah, it’s just a lot of energy, really. There’s a lot of energy in our shows.”
Until Skulander and DEVILSKIN perform again live, grab the new album RED.
RED will be released worldwide Friday April 3rd on all formats across all platforms, including a red vinyl, black vinyl, CD and a limited-edition box set.