By Avery Wood
Among the many talented musicians performing at the 16th Annual Spring Joshua Tree Music Festival this weekend, is The Shook Twins, a folk music group centered around twins Katelyn and Laurie Shook. The group is currently located in Portland, Oregon and is known for their ethereal and eclectic sound. Check them out on Sunday at the festival!
CV Weekly: How did your interest in music develop?
Shook Twins: “We always loved singing. We used to make up our own songs and sing and dance along to music in the car since we were about 2. I guess we just never stopped exploring music as we grew. We started choir in 5th grade and learned the power of harmony and eventually we picked up guitars at age 17 and just kept plucking away.”
CVW: Who are your musical influences?
ST: “We have tons. At first it was the classics; The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Ani Difranco. Then when we moved to Portland we were exposed to so much more music in so many genres. Every year it seems we draw from another pool. We started integrated more eerie, ambient vibes after listening to Bonobo and Bjork. Right now we’re influenced by more of a groove. We love Nathaniel Ratliff, Tame Impala, Fruition and Rayland Baxter.”
CVW: What inspires your music?
ST: “Everything! Love, loss, nature, social/political outlooks, mental stability, science, culture, friendship, rain, super powers, chickens you name it.”
CVW: Is there a particular message you’re trying to send or themes that keep cropping up?
ST: “We like to send the message of joy. That after listening to us we hope to inspire people to just be themselves and just be good humans to each other.”
CVW: I saw you caught the attention of Neil Gaiman. How did that come about?
ST:” We have a wonderful mutual friend, Jason Webley. We were hanging out on his gigantic tiny house boat and Neil and Amanda Palmer were there and we wrote a song about “layers on a shit cake” haha. They were so kind and Amanda offered her advice on Kickstarter campaigns because we were currently doing one. They both ended up donating and Neil tweeted about it to his million followers. We were so thankful. Great people for sure.”
CVW: Your new album 2 has some songs you’ve redone in the more raw style. Why is that? And why those songs?
ST: “We have been playing those song a lot since the release of the album What We Do. Sometimes songs evolve in groove and feeling. We felt like Shake, Toll Free, and Shine On had all evolved in some way and could also stand as a stripped down duo version. We wanted to capture that.”
CVW: Why did you decide to make an album with the more stripped down style?
ST: “We had never recorded anything just the two of us. We were in the middle of recording our full length full band album, and listening to the mixes and trying to harness all its intricate parts. We wanted to make music in a much simpler way, to record it live, just the 2 of us singing and playing guitar and banjo in Mike Coykendall’s living room (blue rooms studio in Portland) to tape. We didn’t have to think too much about it. It just was, was it was, a recording of a time that we played those songs. It was refreshing to be so simple about it.”
CVW: “Mad Scientist” was mentioned in your bio and was the first single on 2. Is there something special about that song?
ST: “Mad Scientist” was written by our friend Vance Bergeson from our home town in North Idaho. We first heard him play this song at the open mic that was a huge part of the reason why we fell in love with writing songs and performing them. It was a beautiful time in our lives. We were 20 years old and just starting to write songs. There was a big group of our friends that were doing the same. It was a time that shaped us. Vance was a part of all that. He is an amazing luthier and makes beautiful guitars and writes heart wrenching songs on them. We fell in love with this song at once and have been playing it for years. We asked him if we could record it, and he was down.”
CVW: It seems like you never take a break from touring. Why is that and how do you balance life and songwriting along with it?
ST: “We actually got to take a break this winter. It was so nice to all get to do our separate things and have a consistent life for a second. It is hard to balance when we’re on the road so much. We have to set aside time to isolate ourselves in a cabin or a friend’s house to lock ourselves in for a few days to write songs. We need to avoid all distractions!”
CVW: What are you working on now?
ST: “We’ve just finished a full length record with the band and we can’t wait to get it out to the world. The release process is time consuming and we want to make sure we do it right!”
CVW: Is there a reason that you perform at so many festivals? Do they differ from smaller venues?
ST: “We have grown to become and festival type band which is great! Festivals get us in front of more people and allow bands to share fans with each other, and we love the camaraderie that comes with them. To get to see all of our buddy bands backstage and sometimes get to jam or sit in with each other makes it so fun and reminds us of why we do this thing!”
CVW: Is there anything else you think readers will want to know about your music?
ST: “We’re full of surprises and we can’t wait to show them to all of you!”