Photo by: Shelby Jacobson
By now, everyone has heard of the hardcore/punk band Shook Ones from Seattle, Washington. With their unique lyrics and addicting melodies, most of us dream of seeing them play live, and lie in anticipation of new songs. So with that in mind, check out this interview with guitarist Kelly as he discusses the current state of the band, the reason for their lack of touring, and what the future holds for the Shook Ones!
For the record, how did you come up with the band name Shook Ones?
Kelly: It’s a reference to the Mobb Deep song of the same name. A shook one is, essentially, a coward. Although I don’t know if we’re cowardly, per se, we’re definitely not the hostile or fighting types. Kind of ironic given the subculture we’re associated with.
How would you describe the music scene in Washington? Has the band ever considered moving to get involved with a different scene?
Kelly: Appropriately enough, I no longer live in Washington. Scott and Funds are still in Seattle, Bo is in Bellingham, Jimmy currently lives in Santa Ana, and I recently moved to Santa Cruz, CA for graduate school. I did spend my last few years in Washington doing shows at a teen center for a living though, so I think I can still answer the question. I would describe the music scene in Washington as expansive but segregated. There’s not a whole lot of cross-pollination between the “scenes,” and at this point it has more to do with who you know than how good your band is. There was a time where that was less of an issue – I grew up seeing Botch and the Murder City Devils at the same teen centers I ended up working with – but with so many bands going “pro,” there’s not much left in the middle ground. Quality bands are either full time and trying to pay rent, or they’re small time side-projects. We’re more in the vein of small time side-projects – not that the band isn’t important to us, but we’ve all got other stuff going on in our lives so Shook Ones isn’t necessarily the top priority, and I can’t imagine any of us ever moving somewhere for the band. I have a hard time even imagining us all living in the same city at this point.
Shook Ones’ latest record was The Unquoteable A.M.H., which everyone is still gushing over. What do you think made the record so relatable to people?
Kelly: We had fun making it, and I think that makes it fun to listen to. It was the first time where everything just fell into place as far as writing and recording goes. We knew what we wanted, we were working with the people we wanted to work with, and we had the time to do the things we wanted to. Most of our other recordings involved compromises of some sort, but this time we kind of had it all, and that translated well. We’re real proud of it, so we’re stoked other people are too.
Shook Ones songs have really creative song titles. How do you come up with them?
Kelly: As Scott writes the song titles I can only give a cursory explanation, but most of the song titles are inside references of some sort. Not jokes, per se, but references to things that he finds interesting or appropriate, i.e. “For Collards” refers to the food Scott fed to his pet lizard, the late, great Doobler.
After the song “Order Form” came out the label as a political band was thrown out there. Would you guys say you’re a political band at all?
Kelly: I don’t think so. We have ideologies that come out in our songs and actions, but I think being a “political” band entails some sort of agenda, which we definitely don’t have. It’s more just an expression of who we are and what’s important to us. Sometimes that’s gay marriage (which shouldn’t even be political, it should be common sense), and sometimes it’s hash browns.
The band draws influence from Lifetime and Kid Dynamite. What’s one song you would cover from each band?
Kelly: Well, we’ve been known to do a cover of “Turnpike Gates” with friends from time to time, so I guess that’s the Lifetime song we’d pick. For Kid Dynamite, I think I’d go with “Heart A Tact” – it’s slightly more obscure so it’d be less boring and it’s probably the most appropriate song for us to play. I don’t think we’d ever do a Kid Dynamite cover, though. If we’re not bringing something interesting to a song, musically, then there’s not a whole lot of point for us. We did Lifetime with friends (from Easel, Stay Gold, Sinking Ships) because it was a fun thing to do.
Shook Ones have bounced around from a few different record labels. What are your thoughts on the record industry?
Kelly: At this point, unless you’re on a big label with lots of connections and money to spend on marketing, labels are mostly just lenders. They pay for bands to record and press records, and that’s about it. These days, most of the attention a band gets comes by virtue of the band’s hard work. People buy records because the band writes good songs. People go to shows because the band is sweet live. Labels have very little to do with this transaction. That doesn’t mean that labels aren’t important – Funds and I both dabble in that game, but as an “industry” it’s kind of silly. We get along fine with all the labels we’ve worked with, we’ve just learned that if you want something done, do it yourself.
Shook Ones have toured a lot in the past, but lately I hear people say they wish you toured more. Would you agree that you tour less now and how important is touring to the band?
Kelly: Definitely tour less now. As I mentioned before, we’re pretty spread out and busy. I go to school full time and teach 6th grade. Scott is as carpenter and working on his own business. Funds plays in Black Breath, which is a relentless machine of a band. Jimmy plays in Dear & Departed and hangs out in the sunshine. Bo lives in domestic bliss. The time where we would drop everything and get in a van has long since passed; we’ve got other priorities now. Touring was great and still is when we get a chance to do it, but it’s definitely a sacrifice. It’s damn near impossible to have a successful band if you aren’t touring on a regular basis, and it’s damn near impossible to have a successful life if you are touring on a regular basis. We still like to get out there when we can – playing shows is my favorite part of being in a band – but we’re past the point in our lives where we’re willing to sacrifice other parts of being a functional human being – like health insurance, relationships, and jobs that actually pay rent.
Are there plans for a new record/songs? What’s 2011 look like for the Shooks?
Kelly: We’re in the process of trying to figure out what our next step is. It’s not easy to get everyone in the same room to talk about what we want to do, much less actually practice and write, so it’s a slow process but we’re working on it. New songs are the top priority and we’re gonna have a writing session before the winter ends, with the goal of getting something out by summer. I finish school in July and Black Breath will be lying in wait for their next record to drop, so hopefully we’ll get out for a little summer touring. And I imagine we’ll be playing Fest again. Beyond that, only time will tell.