Tell Us About:
Your latest single you have released:
Shannon: We just put out “Time Is A Killer,” which is a song about the ruthlessness of mother nature and sounds like an action film soundtrack. I really tried to hone in on the idea that mother nature doesn’t care how much money you have, she’s totally blind justice. Spence (my brother and our lead guitarist) really drives the bus on this tune, but I think the horns and backup vocals on the chorus really make it. Our guest vocalists Elliott Peck, Kelly McFarling, and Zola are amazing. I wrote it on the piano first, which was totally new for me, and Spence wrote the horn part by humming it for our sax player Marcus to transcribe, which was also a first. We took some new approaches, but we kept it pretty rock n’ roll.
Your first single and how you felt when it was released:
Spence: Our cover of “I’m A King Bee,” written by Slim Harpo, was our first single. Recording that track was a wild ride, we were contacted by an ad agency that was creating a new commercial for Jack Daniel’s “Tenessee Honey” and wanted a band to cover the song to play in the background. We were on our way to Austin for SXSW at the time, at a Motel 6 in west Texas somewhere when our managers woke us up knocking on our door with this big news. We called ahead to Austin and booked studio time at a few random spaces in between our live SXSW sets, a few of those sessions were overnight after late-night sets. We tried everything we could think of – slow grooves, slide guitar, fast heavy blues.
There was some competition with a few other bands to get the spot so we ended up tracking 4-5 different versions of the cover before they chose one of ours for the commercial. I remember the final pass where the ad agency specifically requested a long intro, a quiet breakdown, a slow build-up, a big lead guitar solo, all to match up to the commercial. Getting that sync license and releasing that single was huge, it kept the band funded and afloat for the next few years, brought us some new fans, and is one of my favorite songs to play live!
Your favourite song that you have created that is an album track:
Spence: “Cotto” is at the core of most of our live sets and is one of my favorites to play live. Shannon and I get to lock in together on the opening beat and then it’s riffs and rock and roll from there on out. There are a few guitar lines in there that feel very Angus Young to me, which I love. It feels like the Gibson SG gets to sing with its most pure natural tone. There’s a big break from the song’s main beat about 3/4 of the way through for a big falling guitar riff that we usually double up on live, and every time that riff concludes and the band all churns and lands together back on the main beat is a thrill ride for me.
Your favourite song to play live:
Shannon: There is a new song on this new record called “Help Me Now” that hasn’t been released, but we’ve been playing it live for a few months. It hits hard sonically, but it’s also very emotional for me singing about my wife and my mom helping me through my latest heart surgery. We also stretch it out and put in a guitar solo that feels really good. I love the vocals that our keyboardist Emilie Raines has been singing on it too, she’s incredible.
The song that was the longest to write and why?
Shannon: I had a lyric for one of our new singles “Man’s Red Fire” almost six years ago. It took a long time for the music around it to take shape. For years it was too dark and broody, not much movement. It almost sounded like a weird hard rock band version of ourselves that didn’t sit with us well. Once we had the right chords and structure we took it into the studio, but it was our producer Ian McDonald who came up with the keys part that glued it together. He found this four-chord combination on Farfisa to start the song and all of a sudden it felt authentic. The song started spilling out very quickly from there. Sometimes it’s just a mood change that finally makes the vibe click.
Your most emotional track:
Spence: On the Other Side became a real soother for me to listen to last winter when I was really struggling with anxiety. When times are tough it can sometimes feel like they’ll never get better and the lyrics of this song, especially hearing my brother sing them, was reassuring in a dark time. -Spence
The best lyric you have ever written:
Shannon:Oh jeez, well I don’t know if it’s the best, I like a lyric in “Time Is A Killer” that says, “What’s the matter rich boy? Think you’ve got it bad? You’re like Goldilocks in a nightclub, with an emo rock band.” I just like the visual of this out-of-place person. We also have a song called “Mr. Hangman” and the repeating line is, “You know I love you but you ain’t worth the trouble.” That one has stuck for a good long while.
Describe the feeling you get when you walk on stage to do a show:
Shannon:I feel like I’m home and I’m free. I’m not thinking, I’m just going. I feel like that in other parts of my life too, but not a lot of people have a job where they are supposed to go on stage and just be absolutely free for an hour or so. That’s the job. I love it.
The hardest track to play live:
Spence: When we’re multi-tracking, layering on each instrument and vocal track, we can get away with writing parts that we wouldn’t naturally be able to play simultaneously live. It often means picking the most important parts from different tracks and stitching together a single guitar part. On the Other Side is a song that as we’re gearing up for our record release shows, I’ve been spending lots of time practicing whistling while playing the melodies and leads that are stacked up on that recording so I can do it all at once onstage
Essential items you always take on tour with you?
Shannon:Harmonicas, socks, cough drops, a San Francisco Giants hat, converse, comfortable running shoes for days off, jacket for if it rains, drum set, sticks, and backup drum heads.
Describe your fans in three words:
Spence: loyal, energetic, supportive
A song by another artist or band you wish you had written:
Spence: “Rolling Sea” by Vetiver is one of the most beautiful and catchy guitar melodies I can think of. I’ve tried to learn it and play it at times and it’s always a fun challenge to try to catch all the notes and harmonies that Andy plays on that song.
What we can look forward to from your band this year:
Shannon: Look out for the new record coming in November, a new music video just around the corner, and our record release show in San Francisco on November 18th at the Great American Music Hall!