Interview: Thick Shakes

Lindsay, bass and vocals from the Thick Shakes took the time to answer some questions from me and I unforgivably lost track of the interview in my email for months! Months! Well, better late than never–my apologies Thick Shakes and Thick Shakes fans. Give them a listen. They are playing the Rosebud Diner in Somerville March 30. Be there!
How’d you get into playing music?

Some wise, older friends wondered why I didn’t play music when I was such an avid show-goer and music listener. I suppose I thought all along I’d missed the boat on learning how, school band instruments aside. One in particular suggested I give bass a go. I took home a bass and practice amp and started playing along, lots with Kim Deal on Pixies records, until I felt ready to leave the bedroom.

What would you recommend for a newbie trying to get into playing music?

Going to shows for many years before being in a band. I assumed playing in one required some kind of magic. It does not. Just get started already. Listen to lots of music that gets you going, read a lot.

How do you go about writing songs?

Either lyrics will hit me instantly at once, or else I walk around for a while slowly composing a few lines at a time, and when there seem to be enough, I sit down and bundle them into what will become the song. I work that out against a bass line I’ve been considering, which may or may not have been conceived to match, and then I present it to the others at a practice, at which point we work out what they’ll fit over that and in a few nights we are usually ready to go.

Can you think of any problems with song writing people usually don’t hear about?

I’m a lot harder on myself about songwriting than I probably need to be, and should be freer to let things out of my head. I torture myself over details and then take ages to write until something feels just right to me, which can create a creative bottleneck.

How’d you get your band together?

I was trying to learn how to play bass; I’d practiced at home and felt ready to get out and play with others, but I couldn’t find a drummer at that stage, so the people who did have the patience were my best friend (drummer Matt) and now-husband Tim (guitar). We were all newish to our respective instruments at the time, so we got around the learning curve together. We are already together all the time and enjoy each other, so it made practice (and later, travel) fun.

If someone were trying to get into starting a band, what advice would you give them?

Get ready to have some of both the greatest and the dumbest experiences in your life you might ever have.

Did you experience anything forming up a band that was a complete surprise to you, or something that people starting a band would find surprising?

I would guess that being bandmates with friends is probably a lot like turning friends into roommates, and whatever may happen when attempting to undertake that transition.

Any practical advice for people who are starting to practice for gigs?

When I’d never played in a band before, the advice people gave me was that repetition and experience would make it easier over time, and I agree with that.

What was your first live show–what was it like?

We played at the old Milky Way in Jamaica Plain which was a great space, with bowling lanes and pizza, along with MMOSS and Headband. Our friends from the band Spoilsport showed up wearing a homemade “Thick Shakes” t-shirt for the occasion and I was so tightly-wound I didn’t realize there was anything unusual about it.

Any horror stories or funny things happen up on stage?

We had a pretty interesting West Coast tour two years ago and the most iconic scene from that I think was playing around 1am in a Mexican border town where there wasn’t enough gear to play all our songs, missing mics and amps, etc., and the band before us kind of destroyed the stage and the board. Tim and I shared a filthy microphone (the details of which I will leave at that). We blasted through a rowdy set thinking it was sort of a disaster, but people had learned the words to our songs and it ended up being a great time. There was a guy there teetering around dressed up like a toilet paper mummy.

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who hasn’t played out yet and is trying to get over stage fright or just the overwhelmingness of playing live?

I’ll echo the advice someone once gave me which was just to remember your job which is to focus on playing the music and performing. Maybe that means focus on a sign or landmark just over the crowd so you’re still looking out while you get used to it. To this day I don’t think anything beats being well-practiced so the muscle memory does the heavy lifting.

Are there any experiences you’ve had playing live that people who don’t play would be completely surprised happens?

We had never really considered this but played our first wedding over the summer, and brought a bunch of records so we were like a one-stop wedding band & dj crew. It was awesome–we played next to a chicken coop on the water, learned a bunch of old rock & roll covers, and someone got engaged while I DJed.

How do you record?

We record with Jerry MacDonald of Odd Fellows Recording in Weymouth (also aurora7 records) who we love and trust implicitly. He can read our minds, but in addition to that works out of a massive, former movie theater and fraternal hall now, with fun homemade gadgets on hand like microphones made out of telephones. We record to 16-track tape in live takes. He recorded everything we have including our new cassette and the upcoming La Parca 7″. After the first session, Jerry spent a year and a half (including the aforementioned tour) playing Farfisa organ with us.

Any bands you’d recommend that are from the Boston area?

Radio Control, Royal Wedding, Spoilsport, Hands & Knees, the Monsieurs, Beware the Dangers of a Ghost Scorpion!, CreaturoS, Fat Creeps.

What are your impressions of the Boston scene as you’ve experienced it?

Big city talent with a tight-knit community.

Could you recommend one album by some other artist?

Pandemonium Shadow Show by Harry Nilsson.

What’s most important to you about playing music?

Fun. Remember to have fun. Only be serious about fun.

Finally, is there anything we can do as writers to help you out?

Why, thank you! You could let your readers know that we are about to be included on La Parca’s split 7” along with Radio Control, White Pages and Lady Pilot…


(Featured Photo source.)

(Links in the interview’s answers are placed there by Lindsay)


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