Punk is a multifaceted counterculture. Some people swear by its political roots with their right hand on the grunge doctrine, while others solely support its aesthetic and sew on their patches at Starbucks.
At whatever angle you hold the culture, though, it is a community built on purpose. Lacey Sturm, contemporary punk solo artist, has a voice like a spring meadow and the scream of a witch you’ve done wrong. With her music, Sturm nods to the power that punk grants — to the beacon of light for those wandering in the dark.
“My mom is an artist,” Sturm says. “The impact it had on our family had a lot to do with what we sacrifice in the name of art, in the name of our dreams.”
Her childhood revolved around her mother, a steadfast woman who strove to raise six children and also follow her artistic dream in a home that was strewn with the tumult of poverty.
Suicide attempts, abuse and depression rippled across Sturm’s youth, yet music became her sanctuary after she had a spiritual epiphany in her teens. She explains that her logical goal of working a 9-to-5 job went against a voice that told her to share her gifts, not stifle them.
“It’s so funny, the things you think you’d never do,” Sturm says. “If you give them attention, they can turn into these crazy, miraculous things.”
By age 16, she had holed up in her bedroom and begun writing music that led her to a nearly two-decade-long career (and counting).
Sturm, in her early career, wrote songs modeled after Nirvana’s grungy simplicity. She explains how she always pushed to sound darker, so she screamed more and bluntly confronted topics of suicide, abuse, poverty and homelessness.
“In the beginning, I was all heart. I was awkward and said stupid things — it’s what I would call emotional vomit,” she laughs.
By the early 2000s, Sturm honed her craft and joined Flyleaf, a pop-punk band whose success still stands strong in the scene today. She left Flyleaf in 2012, after the band released seven albums and reached heights she’d never dreamed of.
Since departing from the group, Sturm has taken her musical prowess in a new direction and founded the Lacey Sturm Project, a label-free solo band. “I think we’re more productive when we put our emotional and spiritual health first,” Sturm says about the departure.
No matter how dark her melodies or how banshee-like her howls, Sturm has always sung a message of hope. “I’m screaming truth over lies — these lies about who I am or what I thought I was when I was younger. I’m going to choose to believe that I can overcome this.”
The biggest lie to scream against, she explains, is the idea that we are worthless and the truth is everything we have the potential to be. Sturm creates music to share this message with those who don’t yet see their worth. “We are created to shine in the darkest places,” she says.
Lacey Sturm plays with RED and Righteous Vendetta 8 pm Friday, March 16, at McDonald Theatre; tickets $22.