Saturday, September 6, 2014

Getting to Know Amherst Massachusetts' Shakusky

My first time experiencing the band Shakusky was during an appearance at William Paterson University Radio show. At the time,  a collection of bands, most of which I had no prior knowledge of,  gathered for what seemed to be a last minute show at the radio station. Though impressed with most of the bands that played that night. It was Amherst Massachusetts Shakusky that stood out for me musically. At the time, I wanted to talk to the band about their unique style and the myriad of influences I, myself was hearing.  
Being surrounded by a room of college age people and not wanting to make a fool out of myself. I bought a CD and headed home. When I heard the band was not only returning, but playing in nearby Montclair. I made sure I wouldn't miss out on the opportunity to see them again. That night I got a special treat when the bands newest addition, Kira, took my appreciation for the band to a new level. After returning home from tour, I reached out to Shakusky's artful guitarist Mark Hilliar to learn more about the band. Here's what he had to share. 

Shakusky is; Eli Albanese - Guitar, Vocals / Liam Cregan - Drums, Vocals /
Mark Hillier - Guitar, Vocals / Leonard Schwartz - Bass, Vocals / Kira Mattheson - Vocals

James: When I first heard the name Shakusky, I got an image of some historical Massachusetts land giver or poet. Perhaps an infamous serial killer. What's behind the name and what drew you to it?

Mark: Haha! No serial killers!!
The name “shakusky.” actually comes from Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Sam Shakusky is a young kid who runs away from the
Wes Anderson mid 60’s equivalent of boy scout camp with a girl who he has fallen in love with. The band was named by a former member so I can’t attest to his feelings towards the movie when it was chosen but I’ve always really liked what the character represents in the movie and felt it a good fit over the course of all of our lineup changes in our time as a band.

James: Let's talk about influences. Your Facebook page mention Sugar Ray.
Honestly, I don't believe it for a minute. Tell me about the roots of the bands sound and style. What are your influences?

Mark: To be honest I didn’t even realize that was there. I mean it was probably me but I don’t remember doing it. As a band, our overlapping influences are mostly math rock bands and emo/punk bands (See: Tera Melos, Title Fight, La Dispute, blah blah blah) but we all have a wide range of varying influences. I’m huge into jazz and Lenny’s really into metal. And both of those influences definitely come through in our writing.

James: Okay, I kind of figured the Sugar Ray mention was a joke. Being that some younger friends were recently wetting themselves about a Sugar Ray, Smashmouth reunion.
I dare not assume. That said, I'm not going to let you off Scott Stapp free without challenging your love for Coldplay. Justigy yourself in 1,000 words or less.

Mark: Hey, I mean I’m pretty into Sugar Ray. And Coldplay!! Coldplay has some really great stuff. Parachutes is a great album. Yellow, Trouble, and Parachutes are such a good trio of songs. Clocks is what got me into math rock.

James: You guys are from Amhurst. We're always hearing about the bigger bands from
Massachusettes. What does the area offer for the smaller and mid tier bands as far as venues and independent record labels? What are some of the newer bands worth seeking out?

Mark: I remember the first time I came to Amherst was to see my friends in The Sharpest play with La Dispute in a basement. The year after that I ended up moving out here for school and saw Algernon. Since then it seemed to me a lot less bands were coming through town and most basements were getting shut down. So we all got involved with starting an organization called SALT that runs shows on and off campus which is really cool. It took a while to get it off the ground but things have been going really well with it. Aviator and
Vetter Kids are playing in town on Friday. We also have Odd Dates, People Like You, Diarrhea Planet and some other really cool touring bands coming through in the next few months.

There are a lot of really cool local music like Californiax, Mal Devisa, Carnivora, and Dérive that are very active right now. Pachangacha, Black Churches, and Chalk Talk were all out of Amherst too but I think they’ve since moved elsewhere in the past year or so?

James: Mark, you mention your appreciation for Jazz. One of the first things that stuck out for me was how closely you hold your guitar to your chest and even chin.. It seemed strange at first, being I've never seen it in all my years of going to Punk shows. Now that you mention Jazz, it all seems to make sense. How would you describe your style of play?

Mark: Haha, I don’t really know how to respond to that to be honest! I think I kind of just naturally hold my guitar like that. I think just because having it higher up makes it easier to reach up the neck with my strumming hand to do tappy/finger picky things.

James: You just got back from a short tour.
Where did it take you? Did you meet any bands along the way that particularly stood out?

Mark: We went west through New York, Ohio, to Michigan, south to Kentucky,  back to the east coast, and north to home totaling in 14 days and it was such a great time.
I had never been to most of the places we went and it was great. Almost every night we met stand out bands. The first night I remember thinking “Man the bands tonight are so good- stoked to play with them! How is the rest of tour going to live up to this!” And then I thought the same thing the next night. And then I thought it almost every night after. And we’re really grateful for that! If I had to do specifics our Philly show was one of my favorites.
One Hundred Acre Woods fucking kills it.

James: The last time I saw you there was a new edition on vocals. How did Kira come into play and how has she changed the dynamics of the band?

Mark: Yes! Kira is our new addition and we are loving it. Kira and Liam have been dating for a few years so we were all close friends well before she joined the band. When Liam and I began first doing vocals Kira taught us some techniques as she has formal training.
This turned into her recording some harmonies on Transient which led to her doing a few local shows with us and when she showed interest in coming on tour with us we jumped on it and made it an official “This is Kira and we are a 5 piece now” thing.

James: Had she been in any other bands prior to joining Shakusky?

Mark: She’d never been in a band before so when she decided to come on tour with us I think we were a little surprised like “really? You want to spend two weeks in a little car with your boyfriend and his three smelly friends?” Granted, we were all good friends beforehand but I 100% saw her getting very fed up with us (me) very quickly. But it all felt very natural and great and I think we’re all super happy about the dynamic as a 5 piece.

James: How would you compare your recent release "Transient" to your last
"Lancaster Market"?

Mark: Transient is such a change from Lancaster Market. A portion of Lancaster Market was written with a  different vocalist before Kira or I were even in the band- I was only involved with writing a few songs as a guitarist. I think Transient was a big push out of all our comfort zones as musicians and for Liam, Kira, and I as vocalists/lyricists which was great.

James: What went into the decision to release "Transient" on cassette? Do you think the format might limit it's reach?

Mark: The Cassettes were done by Too Far Gone Records and they came out really cool! We live in such a digital age that it’s almost not worth doing physical releases that aren’t vinyl but we really wanted to do something besides the digital release along with vinyl. We were originally planning on putting Transient out on vinyl as well as tapes but we had an opportunity to hop on a split so we’ve been focusing on that along with our future release instead.

Outro; In closing, I'd like to note that Shakusky reminded me of how important it is to go out, seek new music  and support touring bands. I've been taught time and time again that that random band on the bill, the one you've never heard of, just might be the next band you love and want to support. I highly recommend giving Shakusky a good listen and a further look. Sign them, book them, support them. JD


Big Cartel

No comments:

Post a Comment