[Interview] The Shacks Share Their Love for Hank Williams and Polaroids

[Interview] The Shacks Share Their Love for Hank Williams and Polaroids

Shannon Wise and Max Shrager who make up The Shacks, played at Aisle 5 last week and before their show took the time to chat with us about life on the road, their influences, and an upcoming album.

Do you see your music as a rebellion of sorts against the hyper-produced pop of today? Is there anyone in pop who you think is really doing it right?

Shannon: We don't really listen to any of today's music, so I definitely wouldn't call our music a rebellion. We love music from the '50s and '60s and are influenced by artists like Hank Williams, Os Mutantes, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, George Jones, and many others. We interpret the work of those great artists in our own way and incorporate some of their styles into our music.

There’s a lot of vintage influence in your music, as there is in the sounds of Feist, Jenny Lewis, and lots of other modern artists. What’s an artist from the past who you wish more young people knew about today?

Max: I would say, Hank Williams because he is such an incredible songwriter and singer. I just heard his record "Luke the Drifter" for the first time on a drive from Atlanta to New York. Every song is just him preaching over a musical backing. His sermons are poetic and very engaging, and his speaking voice is as musical as his singing voice.

Your album covers and press images are very vintage-filter, sort of Lo-Fi almost, but the music isn’t. It’s obviously carefully produced and mastered, even if it isn’t using modern electronic production as the sound source. How do you see the cross-over or combination of modern technology and traditional instruments in your music?

Max: A lot of our photos, such as the Shacks EP cover, are Polaroids. So that's what gives them that look.

Most of our recordings start out on tape, either cassette or 8-track or 16-track. We basically cut some sort of live rhythm track, maybe drums and guitar and bass, maybe acoustic guitar and vocals (Left It With The Moon), and then fill up the remaining tracks with overdubs. At that point, when the track sounds pretty complete, we bounce the tape tracks to Protools, where we add a couple additional overdubs and maybe mute some stuff in certain sections to massage the arrangement. Mixing is 90% analog, and always to tape. 

So we're recording on formats that are inherently "low-fi" or old sounding, but ultimately going for a well defined, high fidelity sound with the finished product. I think this approach to recording lets the music exist in 2017 without sounding anachronistic, while still sounding like something we would listen to.

What’s the thing you want people to take away from listening to your music?

Shannon: We don't really have a specific message in mind. We want people who dig our music to check out the people who inspire us. We are humbled by the music of the past, and we hope that we can share that feeling with others.

What upcoming projects should people be on the lookout for? 

Shannon: We have an album ready for release that we've been working on for quite a while. The album consists of songs that we made over the span of three years. We all changed a bunch over the three years that this album has been in the works, and we think it's a really interesting representation of us as individuals.

Any good stories from the road yet?

Max: Nothing too crazy yet. But it's cool to explore different parts of America and to see that the vast majority of people are interesting and friendly. The world depicted on CNN or Fox is very different from everyday reality in this country.

Photos by Sarah Htun for Bullet Music

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