THE INTERVIEW: The Shaky Hands
They’ve toured with The Thermals, the Meat Puppets, The Shins and more, yet they remain one of today’s most modest music machines. The Shaky Hands have indeed made an impact, and it appears it’s just the beginning for these Portland boys. Here, I speak with bassist Mayhaw Hoons about Lunglight, confetti, Shakira and the new album.
You guys recently finished touring. How was the experience overall?
The tour was great. Not only did we get to see and hang with The Thermals every day, but we got to know and love Point Juncture, WA, which was amazing.
Awesome! Were there any favorites of the 13 tracks on Lunglight to perform live?
For me, it’s the song “Air Better Come.” It’s the hardest for me to play out of all of our songs, because it gives me major hand cramps. The best part of playing that song is watching Jake play the beat. He looks like a maniac.
You guys seem to stay out of the spotlight, yet continue to press for bigger and better things musically. Were you expecting Lunglight to receive the great press that it did? Do you ever take these reviews into consideration when recording future albums? … Or does the press have no real influence over what the band creates?
We knew that the album was great but were not sure how people would take it. Some people were excited by the change in sounds, and some were expecting “Summer’s Life Pt 2.” The reviews really have no effect on the songwriting process. The only thing that affects Nick’s songs is Nick himself and what the rest of us put into them.
Your debut album was slightly more upbeat than Lunglight. What influenced this change in tone?
We had recorded the first album a few years before Lunglight, and a lot had gone on in that time. We had added Nick’s brother Nathan to the group and did a lot of touring. I don’t really think of Lunglight as being darker, other than a few songs. It sounds like a natural progression to me. You could switch out songs from both albums and they would fit.
I heard you guys play a killer live show. How do you keep things interesting on stage? (Is the set pre-planned every gig? … Do you perform any acoustic songs/covers? … How does the audience influence you?)
The set is always planned; we rarely ever stray from it. We haven’t played any acoustic songs live since the time Nick stepped into his guitar on stage and crushed it to death. That was a magic guitar, and it felt right to retire some songs with it. The main thing that helps us play is the audience. If we get good vibes we can feed them back. Also, (I found this out last weekend,) confetti is a big plus. You can’t have a bad show when you’re being showered with confetti.
Confetti and music always go well together. So I’m interested to know, what was it like having your music evolve in the Portland scene?
All of us have played in bands from the time we were in middle school. If you play music in small towns, you learn how to do it in a different way than others who have real venues at their disposal. Once we met and began playing in Portland, we had a good work ethic and were willing to play wherever, whenever… Lots and lots of basements. You have to really get people going at those shows, cause if they don’t like it they will go out on the porch and smoke. You got to keep the energy high.
How was it playing alongside bands like The Meat Puppets and The Thermals? What artists or bands, if any, would you like to play/collaborate with in the future?
To me, The Meat Puppets tour was the best of all time. We had done five shows with The Shins a few years back, and that was amazing, but I feel like we never had a good connection with the fans. They were playing places like the Greek Theatre; an awesome experience, but kind of strange for us. With The Meat Puppets, we were having great shows every night to the best music fans ever. Plus, getting to know the band was a dream come true. Thermals fans were a bit harder to crack. They are rabid kids. Some nights were amazing; some nights it was crickets. They wanted to get to their beloved Thermals and crowd surf. Every audience is different, but The Thermals themselves were always great to be around, and as I said earlier, we had an awesome time on the road with them. We would love to tour with the Puppets again. Other great bands would be Big Business, Tom Petty or, I don’t know, Shakira?
Petty would be awesome. And whatever happened to Shakira? Anyway, I heard you guys were working on a new record, as well as releasing an EP. Any word on when these will be made available to the public?
The new record will be out late September on KRS. The EP will be released a little before that as a split between the labels.
How would you describe this new album in comparison to previous albums? Are there any differences you hope fans will notice?
The new one is nothing like the other two. The differences will be noticed in the first ten seconds of the first song. We have a different drummer on this one; Jake Morris of The Joggers. He changed our sound completely. We also recorded it with Jay Pellicci who has worked with Dearhoof, so it sounds HUGE. I know that every band says this about their new album, but I think it’s the best thing we have ever done.