By Brian F. Johnson
Their casual banter, subdued laughter, little inside jokes and calm speaking tones almost sounds like something out of a “Saturday Night Live” NPR spoof. It seems that at almost any moment either Katelyn or Laurie Shook might say, “You’re listening to the Delicious Dish on National Public Radio… Good times.”
But with almost the same wry delivery, identical twins Katelyn and Laurie sing seemingly wholesome songs that are oftentimes anything but. The Shook Twins’ song “Window,” in one verse gets trippy when they sing about “how much acid they would eat,” and on their un-released Irish drinking song they drop enough F-bombs to make Chris Rock blush.
Despite that, though, there still is a white-bread virtue to the blonde-haired, blue-eyed twins, originally from Sandpoint, Idaho.
The sisters claim to have been “singing since the womb” and have officially been making music together since their fifth grade choir, but they didn’t start making their own music until after they had graduated high school, when they both picked up instruments. While Katelyn’s main instrument is guitar and Laurie’s is banjo, the two play a wide range of others including mandolin, glockenspiel, ukulele, djembe, a giant golden egg shaker, and even the face drum, known to most as the beat box.
“We reached a plateau on our main instruments. So instead of going on to master one thing we started to dabble in other things and became mediocre in many things. That’s our goal,” laughed Laurie Shook during a recent interview with The Marquee.
Making music with other people requires intense communication and Laurie explained that she and her sister sometimes have an advantage that other musicians don’t have due to their “twindomship.” “One of the downfalls is that we mess up in the same places,” she laughed. “We’ll switch verses around and being twins makes you, or at least helps you, to cover up the mess because we do communicate without communicating.”
Shortly after releasing their debut 2009 album You Can Have The Rest, the Shooks moved to Portland and soon started work on their 2011 release Window. Now they are releasing a new live album and have begun work on another record that they hope to release in 2013.
Laurie explained that the group has been wanting to release a live album for some time and when they had the chance to play the famed Triple Door in Seattle in the fall of 2012, they utilized the opportunity to make the live recording they had been hoping for. “It’s kind of a live introduction into what may be coming later,” Laurie said. “It’s a teaser. There’s some songs on there from Window, plus four or five new songs that will be on the 2013 album. We thought this would be a nice tie-over until 2013.” That said, the group isn’t releasing any hard copies of the live EP; instead, they’re selling five dollar download cards at their shows.
While some of the new songs that will be on the forthcoming album are already embedded in the live repertoire of the group, they are still writing material for the new record. “We write in our down time and we actually have trouble writing,” Laurie said. “We don’t write very often, and definitely not when we’re on tour. But when we’re home in Portland, down in our basement, it usually comes out,” she said. “Katelyn writes the most and brings most of it to the table and then I’ll add a beat or a banjo part to it. Sometimes, though, I’ll just bring part of a song to the table and we’ll build it together.”
While Laurie described the sound of Windows as a slightly more poppy album, she said that for the new project they are working on incorporating some different subject matter and the project shows the group “dabbling” in other things that might make the sound slightly more dark.
Beyond labels of either poppy or dark, though, the twins play what they call “quirky folk.” Quirky folk comes about when a beat box or head-banging is added to a banjo lick, or where a repurposed telelphone handset provides a sort of megaphone fuzz to a lyric. But quirky folk is also evident in the girls’ northern Idaho accents and shy-ish shoulder shrugs.
In a video filmed in 2012 by NoCoast.TV, the sisters share giddy laughs as they describe their lives as “successful gypsies” living out of a van on the road. But again their quirkiness comes out when Katelyn admits that she can “get panicy” behind the wheel and that she’s been in two wrecks — the Idaho accent dripping from each syllable.
In addition to the sisters, the Shook Twins are home to a revolving cast of musicians. While the live EP featured six artists on stage, when the group hits Denver this month they will do so as a quartet, joined by bassist Niko Daoussis and fiddler Anna Tivel.
:: Shook Twins ::
:: Soiled Dove Underground ::
:: January 25 ::
:: Shine :: January 27 ::
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