Photo: Courtesy, facebook.com/theholyshakes
Holy Shakes are taking over. You’ve seen them in cramped bars, clubs with wobbly floors, and on a boat overlooking the Arkansas River (see video below). If not, you’ve probably heard stories. Direct descendants of Fugazi, and Les Savy Fav here to move you through art, enigmatic live shows, and powerful spirit. This Hot Springs-based band just captured that spirit on their newly released record Feast or Famine.
You can pick up the album Sunday, July 22 when Holy Shakes play (Holy Shakes are no longer playing this show) with El Paso Hot Button, and Ed Schrader’s Music Beat at the Lightbulb Club in Fayetteville. I asked Holy Shakes bassist, and former Fayetteville citizen, Brian Lee some questions and he answered them very quickly.
When did you begin shaking, and why was it deemed Holy? (This is a serious question)
I think it all has something to do with disruption in Arkansas’ plate tectonics from a few years ago resulting in all those earthquakes from the New Madrid fault. Some people said it was fracking; some people said it was a sign of the apocalypse – I’m not going to take sides, but there is a lot of holy shaking going on in Arkansas. Now I won’t say our band name is directly related to or causes any natural disasters in Arkansas, but it seems like something to shoot for. (This is a serious answer)
When did you realize this was the type of band that should release albums and tour?
I think all bands are that type of band. It seems to me that bands should release albums and tour plain and simple. Why else would you want to be in a band? It’s definitely not for the prestige or money.
You guys are from all over the place, but live in Hot Springs. Does location affect the band/songwriting/etc? How does Hot Springs influence the music?
Having different geographical backgrounds means having varied musical experiences, which can definitely be heard in the Holy Shakes’ music. There’s clearly a Chicago punk feeling in the singing, whereas the guitars have a hint of Texas roadhouse to them. Differences are good and bad in bands. They allow for exploration of musical ideas you would never seek out on your own, but they also present you with some significant obstacles in understanding people’s perspective. Overall, coming from different locations has helped Holy Shakes break away from some of the ruts we have been in with other bands and make a sound more personal rather than geographical. That said, Hot Springs has really provided a minimum distraction environment where we can work through a lot of differences and have some strong collaborations. There’s also no way this band could have happened without the community support of Hot Springs. The people there really stand by their artists/musicians.
The band just released a record on vinyl, right? Why is that important to you in the age of the immediate stream or download?
Well, the album was also released in streaming and downloadable formats (iTunes, Amazon, etc.), so it’s not really an either/or thing with us. But to answer the question, we all like records, have record collections, and shop at record stores. It only makes sense to release music in the format that you enjoy. Vinyl also seems to stick around more than other mediums in used/bargain bins, garage sales, estate sales, and the like, which is kind of morbidly romantic that something you made will outlive you.
What have you been doing lately? Do day-to-day routines play a role in writing a song?
We’ve been staying busy with shows, actually. We recently played on the Arkansas Queen Riverboat with Nigh Ends and Iron Tongue from Little Rock. Both of those bands have some the most talented musicians in Arkansas. The show was great, and it was a plus that no one got seasick. To answer the second half of your question, we have been successful in making practice a sort of routine, which makes it easier to move into songwriting mode, which we’ll hopefully get to do more of once our schedule clears a bit in the fall. We’re actually talking with Fauxnz about trying to put a split out around that time, which everybody in Holy Shakes is excited about. We’ve played quite a few shows with those guys, and it seems like the chemistry the bands have live would make a killer record.
Describe Bill as a frontman?
It’s really impossible to do any member of the band justice when you take them out of the context of the group, but I’ll try to paint you a picture of Bill as an “out of context frontman.” Imagine walking down the street and seeing a darkly bespectacled man in a suit spastically throwing himself down on the sidewalk and into other pedestrians with a reckless abandon for mutual welfare – occasionally screaming in your ear. Out of context, this is the type of behavior that could get you a costly PI/Disorderly Conduct or beat up by the more irritable pedestrians, but when placed with a group of musicians, this eccentric behavior becomes desirable and even celebrated.
How was the reception on tour? Any good stories?
Tour was great. I think everyone had a better time being sweaty and cooped up in a van than they thought they would. I mean a bunch of sweat and stink stuck in the walls of a van sounds like a great time, right? I think my favorite part of tour was our Baltimore show. We played this residential factory space called the Bell Foundry. It was a great show and the kids had some genuine energy for music. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat and Future Islands put us up and made us a delicious breakfast. It really felt like a home away from home kind of
place. The next night was also pretty magical. We played Death by Audio with Ed Schrader’s Music Beat and Branson, MO. Ed puts on a phenomenal show. He’s like a man possessed on stage. Branson, MO features Fayetteville native Joe Heffernan singing some Dolly Parton and Simon and Garfunkel covers, so again it was kind of like being in Arkansas except it was Brooklyn.
You play Fayetteville a lot, why keep coming back?
Well, Fayetteville is in Arkansas and so are we. It seems like we might as well get better acquainted. We also want to give people and bands from Fayetteville a reason to come visit Hot Springs – hopefully, the more we play there, the more people will come down here. Fayetteville also has an interesting transient population, so every year there are new faces standing next to familiar ones. It’s always exciting for a band to play to a bunch of people they know and a bunch of strangers at the same show. That kind of turnover also produces new bands, which is always exciting in a state like Arkansas. I’ve been listening to a band called Cowards from Fayetteville and they’re making some brutal music. I’m also really digging the recordings from Thunderlizards. New bands keep music interesting; it’s that simple. Also, as I mentioned before, we have some really great friends up there, Fauxnz, who just happen to be making some of the most compelling music I’ve heard in a while. To cut it short, bands from Arkansas should play all over Arkansas if they have the opportunity. It’s good to keep the blood flowing.