Shook Ones guitarist Kelly Aiken recently sat down with…Shook Ones vocalist Scott Freeman. The two, as you might guess, discuss with Punknews (sort of) their new record, The Unquotable A.M.H., providing in-depth commentary on a few songs, the joys of touring and recording, and things you never needed to know about Rivers Cuomo.
The Unquotable A.M.H. was recently released via Paper + Plastick.
Scott: My name is Jonas.
Kelly: I'm carrying the…is it wheel or wind?
Scott: Hmm, I like wheel.
Kelly: Must be wheel. 'Cause that rhymes with feel. No way Rivers would pass up such an obvious end rhyme.
Scott: Yeah. That second song has some serious Rivers girl-issues. It should have tipped everyone off way before the bombs on Pinkerton dropped.
Kelly: Seriously. I remember being on a Weezer email list and people trying to figure out if Rivers was a misogynist because of that song. Maybe not a misogynist, but definitely at least a sociopath.
Scott: Yeah, he sounds like a serial killer sometimes. But he's so likeable!
Kelly: Isn't that how it always is, though? Everyone loved Ted Bundy; "he seemed like such a nice young man."
Scott: He needs to be addressed by his full name, though, to complete the creep out. Like Rivers Marshall Cuomo, or whatever his middle name is.
Kelly: I don't think he has one, actually.
Scott: Whoa!! You're right! Even better.
Kelly: More strange knowledge from the email list: Apparently Rivers has a younger brother, and they were both named the same as River Phoenix and his little brother. Their parents were friends or something. I feel like their was a hippie commune involved somehow, too.
Scott: My friend got to choose his middle name and he chose "Superman." That's better than no middle name. I bet Rivers hates hippies as much as Nate Huddle.
Kelly: Shall we do this interview thing? I've got questions, but they're not really in order so it may end up being a little random.
Scott: My answers will be highly disorganized, too.
Kelly: Perfect. I just came up with this one, so I'm gonna start off with a heavy hitter. True or false: Shook Ones was originally intended to be a mosh metal band?
Scott: Not exactly true. It is true that Chris (original drummer) and I had played some mosh at one point in the unrented downstairs apartment, but this was a pretty serious amount of time before Shook Ones was conceived. Actually, Shook Ones was originally concieved as "Lifespan"… you get the rip. Chris did have a double-kick pedal, though, so nothing could be ruled out. Must explore the deep reaches of the double-kick world; you'd be doing yourself a diservice if you did not.
Kelly: I'm not sure if it would be more embarassing to have started as a mosh metal band, or more embarassing that now everyone knows Shook Ones was originally titled 'Lifespan.'
Scott: Both factoids about the concept of Shook Ones are pretty embarassing,
Kelly: The Lifetime / Kid Dynamite comparisons will now never ever end. As if they would anyways.
Scott: The only saving grace is that both were jokes. Well, I guess only in name was "Lifespan" a joke. Can we skip this one?
Kelly: Perfect lead-in to this question: Shook Ones seems like it's always been a band that tries hard to balance not being too serious with not being a joke. The record titles sort of reflect this -- they're certainly odd, but it's not Good Clean Fun-style punchlines. Is this intentional? Is it ever difficult?
Scott: I am odd, so the titles are odd. But they are sincere nonetheless; I will stand by that. I have always found that going with your first impulse in the creative world can steer you pretty straight. The record titles are a good instance of that.
Kelly: Beyond just the record titles, though. I mean, I feel like our stage presence sort of has the same vibe. We're not a band that gets up there and is like "THESE ARE OUR FEELINGS!", but we're also not up there doing a stand-up routine. Well, except for Funds maybe.
Scott: Oh definitely. I have never been a person who tries to present a different image than exactly what you see. It's not always flattering, but I am pretty awkward, so if I try to act cool and shit, I just trip over my shoelaces or something.
Kelly: I think that's safe to say for all of us. I played a whole show with my fly down once. Classic.
Scott: It's our life vibe. Nothing breaks the ice like a penis sighting. I think we are all pretty up front with who we are when we play, and I think that makes people feel more comfortable. Unless someone really wants some mosh. We kinda blow that.
Kelly: Getting back to record titles -- originally the title to the new LP was going to be kind of an inside thing, but the secret's out. Anthony Michael Hall has made numerous appearances throughout the Shook Ones discography. Why him? And what is your favorite AMH movie?
Scott: "Sixteen Candles"; he's an ace! You know, I think it was just chance that he made so many appearances…or was it? Here we are back at the first impulse way of thinking. The movies he was in back in the `80s were just the first thing I was thinking of when we first sampled movie quotes for "Attitude Is the Agent." Was it chance, or was it something about his character and thus the dialogue he had that made it perfect? I am no psychologist, but there may be something going on there. It felt right. We did it.
Kelly: He can't be up to all that much these days. We should try to get him on a record at some point. He can be our hype man.
Scott: That's whats so crazy about AMH; he's all filled out and adult-like. He could totally get people amped! I bet he's kinda intimidating. I guess it's not crazy, he's 20 years older now.
Kelly: Yeah, I think that's what killed his career. He did that one movie where he was a huge-ass football player and people were frightened.
Scott: I think he still has a TV show called "The Dead Zone. Buzz kill. He needs to be loveable again. Did his cat run away or something? What was the cathartic event that turned him to the darkside? Let's interview him!
Kelly: Or let's keep talking 'bout that new record we got. I think it's safe to say that this upcoming LP is what we're all proud of most. Tell the people why that is.
Scott: Focus. Uh…….hmmm. It feels the most thought out, and cohesive while being the most dynamic at the same time. I think for me a huge part was the recording process -- no major time constraints. On a personal tip, I didn't have to crank out 12 vocal tracks in 2 days and I really think for the first time, a lot of melodies I had written actually translated well to record. My voice wasn't totally harshed. All aspects of the recording I really think are playing a huge part in why I like it so much. We tried a lot of different things, we didn't keep everything and we stumbled into a lot of cool things. Both Jackson Long and Matt Bayles have much credit coming to them.
Kelly: I think the recording is a big part of it for me, too. Doing it with Jackson made it feel super DIY. I remember just listening to it one day a few months after it was done being like "We did this. Us and our friends made this record, all by ourselves, and it's pretty fucking rad." And having Juan from Comadre do the artwork -- everything came out super rad, and it was just us and the dudes we know.
Scott: That is truth. Everything really just "clicked." This was one of those things that you hear about, but we finally got to be a part of it. It's a package deal of songs that I love and an experience that I will remember forever.
Kelly: Which is not to say that other people weren't instrumental. Definitely wouldn't have been able to do it that way without Vinnie's help, for example.
Scott: Vinnie is tops. Seriously, was he who made is possible for us to record a record for as long as it took, and to choose who we did it with. Perfection.
Kelly: Speaking of, there have a been a handful of people who have been fairly instrumental in helping Shook Ones along the way to wherever it is we are now (Kimpossible, Bob Shedd, Jackson Long, etc). Pick one of those fine folks and tell the people why they're so rad.
Scott: I shant pick one, but I shall speak of each in glimmering brevity! Kim -- loves pizza, so do we; never ever lets us not have a great place to sleep; is a great friend, always; self-less. Jackson -- the most laid-back, kind-hearted, hard-working and creative guy I know; Boat is my favorite seattle band. Bob Shedd -- took a chance on a nobody band, and we still may be a nobody band, but goddamn, he made us feel very good about ourselves with his endless support and vast wisdom.
Kelly: Pick the lyrics to one of the songs off the new record, and name names. Tell everyone who/what/where the song is about. "VH1 Storytellers" style.
Scott: Whoa! Is that what they do? I need cable. How about…"Double-Knot That"? Will that suffice?
Kelly: Juicier. I already know what that one's about. This is for me, too!
Scott: Sounds like you have something in mind?
Kelly: Well, I actually wanna know who "Beads N' Stuff" is about but we're trying to "promote" the new LP, so I figured I should pick something from that. How about "Equal Opportunity Insults"?
Scott: "Beads N' Stuff" [is] about me and my good friend from high school, Travis, drifting apart and growing into a relationship that reminds me of the kind of relationship that my mom or someone would have. "Equal Opportunity Insults", eh?
Kelly: Too inflammatory?
Scott: Nah, maybe a letdown really.
Kelly: What about "Who Told Omar"? Give the people something interesting to read!
Scott: "Who Told Omar?" -- not about anyone named Omar. It is essentially a look at how a simple fight could so easily escalate into a relationship ender…if you let it. It is about an actual fight that me and my girlfriend had about something so obscure that I can't even remember the topic, but it escalated to the point where she almost walked out the door. It luckily didn't get that far, but we had gotten so pissed over nothing that she was going to leave late at night (we live together) with no car and just go. I presume she would have went to her mother's on the number 15 bus. I was writing it as if we had made that mistake of letting it get to such a degree that she left…this s a place that I think a lot of relationships end up at and I was reminded of a friend who was breaking up with a long-time girlfriend and he didn't even know why. Utimately I think he, and I, are easily lured in [by] some tiny, unimportant thing that we construe as a flaw in our significant others and we let it become a huge deal. And it was a non-issue to begin with. No one's perfect, especially not yourself; that's the moral of the story. Don't let the little things turn into a huge catastrophe.
Kelly: Are there any diss tracks? What about the second track on the End of a Year split? Is that about Funds? There's been some speculation…
Scott: Not really. I do get a bit short with some people though, i.e. "Double-Knot That." Neither song is about Funds. Sorry for the confusion.
Kelly: Damn. Alright, I'll stop trying to dig up dirt. In an ideal world, what happens to Shook Ones after this LP comes out? Big tours? MTV? More recording? Vitamin Water sponsorships?
Scott: Vitamin Water -- yes please! Big tours -- who the hell knows? I've given up trying to plan anything. I really want another chance to do that SOIA tour we got snaked on. Ha! More recording is a must and the most easy to plan of all these things. And quite honestly, I get the biggest satisfaction out of it.
Kelly: If Good Charlotte asked Shook Ones to go on tour with them, would you do it?
Kelly: How come?
Scott: They sound obnoxious. We tour with bands we like. That's our thing, remember. I like SOIA, and high school Scott would be even more excited! Double whammy!
Kelly: Hahaha, very true. I like awful music and even I don't like that band. But obviously that would be a big 'opportunity,' right? We'd get paid more; we'd play in front of more people. These are typically things bands strive for.
Scott: I think it would be really bad for any band because when you go to see Good Charlotte, the opener just makes you wait, and waiting makes people angry. Haven't you seen traffic on the I-5 these days? People are nuts. Seriously, I have no idea who opened for Rancid and Less Than Jake when I saw them in Seattle (ha!). I bet they got full cans of beer thrown at them, though.
Kelly: Hahaha. A solid point. I think I'd probably want to do it just 'cause I think it'd be hilarious, but I definitely can't argue with any of your points.
Scott: Hilarious is a viable reasoning. One that we haven't consistently turned down.
Kelly: We're both 27-years-old, which is pretty up there in 'punk rock years.' Things tend to get a lot different with age, as far as values/ideals/goals/etc. go, and we both know that you can only ignore real-life shit like girlfriends / mortgages / health insurance for so long. Shook Ones is coming up on five years -- how has all that 'grown-up shit' changed for you sinced the band started, and how has it affected the band?
Scott: I think it has definitely taken its toll on how much time we spend away from home. Obviously, I have never been delivered an ultimatum from my girlfriend, but I have come home and needed to borrow money to pay my half of the rent. I think that is pretty shitty, and it's totally unfair, so it has forced me to plan better. I need to be able to have rent set aside before we leave for a longer tour. Beyond money, I personally am a person who, as I have gotten older, have found that while on tour I kinda go braindead in way. I am very used to doing productive things each day. I am task-oriented. I like to build (cabinet maker) and on tour I feel a bit restless, ya know? I just sit there, and then for a half-hour a night I explode, and then I'm looking for a bed. It's kind of wierd. I really like being home but at the same time, I really love playing shows in a strange place. A sucky dilemma, until they invent the transporter.
Kelly: Let's say Shook Ones breaks up for whatever reason (I sleep with Funds' mom?). Do you see yourself doing the band thing again or do you think this will be your last band?
Scott: Do you think sleeping with Funds' mom would break up the band? Really? That might get you a high five…from Funds. It wouldn't be the end. Ever since 8th grade, I have had some itch that I have been trying to scratch. I have yet to make it stop. I would love to explore more music. 'Explore more music'…..ha!!! Wow. Um…I will always make some sort of music, that is all.
Kelly: What kind of music do you think you'd make after/besides Shook Ones?
Scott: I have always wanted to try my hand at a good grunge revival but most likely it will end up somewhere between Billy Bragg and Elliott Smith. That's my best guess. But with a crappier voice than both of them, for sure.
Kelly: Okay, last question, courtesy of Sarah Ellis. If you had to spend the rest of your life on a desert island with one member of Shook Ones, who would it be?
Scott: Can I pick our original bass player, Jimmy Hat? No one gets their feelings hurt, and Jimmy has some pretty serious bank so I figure he could do things on a deserted island that poor people could not.
Kelly: Ha. Total cop-out, but I'll allow it for diplomatic purposes. Anything else you'd like to say?
Scott: Jackson Justice Long!
Scott: Yes! I am usually bad at tests.