Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chicago group The Shams Band brings relentless energy to new album; will play residency this month at Schubas


By ERIC SCHELKOPF
 
On its second full-length album, "Cold City," Chicago band The Shams unleash the energy and honesty that has made the group one of the scene's most interesting bands.

To celebrate the release of the new album, The Shams, www.theshamsband.com, will perform four shows this month at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. The dates are as follows:

July 9: w/ Shovels & Rope and Jeremy David Miller (Rambos)
July 16: w/ Derek Nelson & the Musicians and Elephant Gun
July 23: Daniel Ellsworth & the Great Lakes and Young Jesus
July 30: Archie Powell & the Exports and Young Hines

Tickets and more information is at: www.schubas.com/Page/Shows?Month=July&Year=2012.

I had the pleasure of talking to The Shams frontman Donnie Biggins about the new album.


Q - Good talking to you again. You guys certainly have a lot going on these days. Any bands you are especially looking forward to playing with as part of your residency at Schuba’s? I am really impressed with Shovels and Rope after hearing their music at NoiseTrade.com.

We are honestly thrilled to played with every band on the residency. I saw Shovels & Rope at The Basement in Nashville in 2011. Ever since, I have done whatever I can to get them playing in Chicago. 

It just so happened that they were available for one of the residency dates. Jeremy David Miller just released a brilliant solo record. His songwriting is a gift. We're excited to join our good friends Derek Nelson & The Musicians and Elephant Gun again. 

We will be on a five-day tour with Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes. Schubas will finish the tour which begins at The Basement in Nashville on July 19th. 

Closing out the residency is Archie Powell & The Exports and Young Hines. Two of the best bands in the country right now. We couldn't be more thrilled to play with them!

Q - "Cold City" is the band's second full-length album. What did you want to do with this album that wasn't captured on your first album?

We wanted to capture the "moment" on this record. Cold City has 12 tracks that were thoughtfully placed together. 

I think we really captured our live show in these recordings, and that is what was most important to me. We did our best to create the best vocal harmonies possible and really bring our live show to life.. 



Q - How long did it take to make the album? Any meaning behind the name of the album?

We went up to a cottage home provided to us by Ben White's (Banjo) parents in Lame Dune, Hobart, MI. We spent four days there tracking live recordings together. Wes Lambert was our engineer for the weekend. Wes was an amazing engineer to work with and is a great friend to the band.

"Cold City" does not have a true definition. The name can be portrayed differently by everyone. Sometimes it may be literal, but mostly it is figurative. 

If you're in the working class in the city of Chicago, there are many ways you can define "cold." If you listen to the lyrics in our songs, you can find your own meaning behind the name.



Q - The last time I interviewed you, you guys were juggling making music with having to go to day jobs. Is that still the case and is that holding the band back at all?

Everyone is still working when they can, but we are also playing out as much as possible. We are making it work, and when the time comes to leave for four to six weeks on a tour, we will be ready to. 

Just waiting for the right moment to act.

Q - What do you like best, performing on stage or being in the studio?

Nothing is better than a live performance. What would be great to do would be to get in the studio for a month straight. It took us four days to finish a 12-song record. 

I think if we dedicated more time to the studio, we'd be releasing records at a faster and consistent pace.

Q - Describe the song process. Is it a collaborative effort in the band?

The songwriting is mostly individual between Paul and I. The creation of the music is all collaborative. 

We bring an acoustic song to the band and start playing it. Everyone adds their part from there. Uniquely created by the individual, but ending up with a collaborative sound. 

Four-part harmonies are the last addition and something we have really developed and concentrated on the past two years. 

Q - The band's music has been described in various ways. How would you describe the band's music?

Music that you sing along to. It's rock 'n roll with a banjo.

Q - How do you see the band fitting into the Chicago music scene? What makes the Chicago music scene unique?

I think our sound is unique in the Chicago music scene. We can fit with many different genres, and mostly concentrate on making the live show an upbeat party. 

We can play with any Americana/Country/Blues/Pop Rock bands.

We have worked hard to support the Chicago music scene. We think it is imperative for artists to support one another. 

There are different niches in the Chicago music scene that do this for one another, and it is important that you cross into different genres and support everyone. We have been out supporting the scene since we first entered it. 

We will continue to do so for the rest of our lives.