Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stage keeps getting bigger for Chicago band The Shams Band




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

The stage keeps getting bigger for Chicago band The Shams Band, which opened last year for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes at the Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival.

The band's fresh mix of rock and folk is creating a buzz on the Chicago music scene. Luckily for fans, they won't have to wait long to hear the band again.

The Shams Band, www.theshamsband.com, will perform Jan. 20 at Otto's, 118 E. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, www.ottosdekalb.com, and Jan. 27 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, www.lincolnhallchicago.com.

I had the chance to talk to Shams frontman Donnie Biggins about the band's latest activities and how he sees the band fitting into the Chicago music scene.


Q - Your music has been described in various ways. How would you describe your music?

Our music is very organic. Everyone in the band helps mold the sounds that we create. With three songwriters and 4 singers, we are able to create an eclectic mix of songs together. We aren't just following one leader’s vision, instead we create a vision and sound together.

Q - Explain the meaning behind the band's name.

A man from Galway once told me that in his town people scream "Hey, sham!" instead of "Hey, dude" or "Hey, man" when calling out to a friend. From that comes "The Shams Band" because we are a bunch of guys that have been lifelong friends.

Q - How did you guys come together? Did you guys gel together right away?

We came together to play at a street festival in Forest Park. Paul Gulyas and I had been playing together, learning one another’s songs.  When we first began, we were just joking around and enjoying each others company. Playing became addictive, and there has only been one direction since: forward.

Q - What were the band's goals in making "Champagne"?

Record, mix and master.

Q - How do you guys see yourself fitting in the Chicago music scene?

We aren't reinventing the wheel. Amongst a city of hundreds of indie rock bands, we find ourselves naturally sticking to a simple formula with catchy hooks and sing-a-longs. When we are performing, we don't stick our noses in the air, we engage the audience and encourage participation. 


Our music is something to be shared, not kept to ourselves.

Q - Growing up, who did you listen to? What bands have influenced you?

I personally was a John Lennon addict. Then growing up with the same addictions to Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Jeff Tweedy. I also went through a long stint of listening to The Temptations.

Q- Do you have any favorite places to play? Does the band prefer being on stage or in the studio?

We love performing. We live in a house with a studio in our basement. That is where we practice and record. It is difficult to say “no” to gigs because being on stage is so fulfilling. We have started to head back into the studio, thought, for our next project.

Q - Is it easier or harder these days getting people to hear your music?

It is difficult to get people to buy music that they aren't told to buy from some celebrity or a paid DJ. I have found myself giving away more free music than I imagined. It is a very strange world we live in today with regard to technology. Just getting someone to click a button on Facebook can be a challenge, unless you're Cee-Lo.

Q - What are the band's short and long term goals?

Short term goals are to be on the road more around the Midwest. Our long term goals are to keep recording and putting out records. It would be nice to live on the road and be able to support ourselves from music.

It is upsetting that our society doesn't allow artists to just be artists. If we didn't have to go to our day jobs, we would be putting out new music every week.

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