We'll forgive them. It was early. 10am early, which may not sound too extreme...save the fact that The Shaky Hands
spent the previous few days navigating all three rings of the CMJ circus. It can wear a band down, and these Portland pack rats casually wore the week's fatigue on their sleeves. So the percolator was pressed in to action, some mighty strong joe was brewed, and spirits were slowly coaxed back to acceptable, mid morning levels.
In this edition of the Guest Apartment, we invite you to listen close...one can almost hear the caffeine slowly start to boil the band's blood over the course of this three song performance of cuts from the band's recently released album Let it Die
. Leading with "Don't Fail Me Now", the band hit a light and lackadaisical note, sorting through clumpy toy piano, scratched-out acoustic upbeats, and the earthy rhythms of some well worn, hand percussion. "Already Gone" picks up the pace just a bit...we assure you singer Nicholas Delffs
is absorbed by the music, not falling asleep to it. By "Caught in the Storm", it seems the good brew has done it's job. Note guitarist Jeff Lehman
's dazzling solo...through a 6 inch, pocket amplifier. Call it a caffeinated kick of the Shaky Hands that inundates the Guest Apartment. - David Pitz
This year begins a new chapter for Portland group The Shaky Hands. Former drummer Colin Anderson left in mid-2008, a few months before the band's second album, Lunglight, was released to critical acclaim. Nick Delffs' brother Nathan covered percussion for a short stint at the end of last year but ultimately the band wanted a stable drummer with whom they could connect. Jake Morris, of fellow Portland band The Joggers, joined in January 2009, shortly before The Shaky Hands left for a two-week tour with The Meat Puppets. On the road, the band found that Morris was exactly what they wanted in a drummer and bandmate; they clicked almost immediately. The addition of the new drummer set the wheels in the motion for The Shaky Hands to begin writing their third album, evolving their style to match the changes they'd undergone as a band.
Following the tour with The Meat Puppets, Delffs packed his bags and went to live in India for a month and a half, leaving behind his guitar and embarking on a fast from Western music. He sang in the temples and wrote lyrics for the new album, which the band had already started writing, but took the longest break he'd ever taken from playing in a band. This journey, which culminated with a 23-hour plane ride leading directly into a 37-hour drive to Austin for SXSW, altered the direction of the new recordalthough perhaps not in the most obvious way.
I feel like my trip to India had a profound effect on the album, Delffs explains. Because I wasn't playing music with anybody and I was having this break, I ended up thinking about it a lot, on the verge of obsessing over things. A lot of the planning and lyrics were done out there, finishing some of the songs. I was really inspired by Indian music and I feel like it changed me, but I wasn't inspired to make it. It almost inspired me to make straight forward rock for some reason.
Delffs launched back into the rock scene immediately, playing SXSW and touring back up to Portland. The band spent nearly two months on the road with The Thermals in spring of 2009, where they wrote and developed songs, allowing the new tracks to attain lives of their own each night. After the tour, at Morris' recommendation, the band went into Jackpot! Studios with producer Jay Pellicci (Deerhoof, Erase Errata). There they spent ten days recording the songs they'd written and practiced, mostly in one or two takes.
It turned out to be the perfect experience for recording the album, Delffs says. This was the first time I really trusted someone else to produce and mix everything. We were there for ten days and somehow we made that small amount of time work out perfectly. We never labored over any performances. We really wanted to get the essence of the live band. And generally the first or second take had the most feeling and captured the song the best.
The finished album, Let It Die, is a collection of eleven organic, impassioned rock songs that are happily unpolished and grounded. This disc is split into Side A and Side B to compliment the varying styles the songs on the record embrace, with Side A collecting more raucous, upbeat track and Side B offering hushed, mellower numbers. The standout, for Delffs, is the compelling Allison and the Ancient Eyes, a song he feels embodies both sides and their corresponding feelings.
We had specific little things that we agreed on and talked about a lot, Delffs says. We wanted it to be really bare bones and have it extremely simple. I think we all just knew the songs pretty well and how they should go. We didn't want to overtalk it. - Kill Rock Stars