Laurie Shook knows full well the rewards and challenges inherent in the life of a traveling musician, thanks to the success of her band Shook Twins. For every audience roar and smiling face, there is a moment of staring out a window, as endless miles of landscape slowly scroll by. Sure, she has a sister and band and crew to talk with, but the road between shows is often long.
Laurie, her twin sister Katelyn, and the rest of the band and crew, are heading out on one of their busiest schedules ever, with a recent Red Rocks opening slot for her idol Ani DiFranco providing a strong tail wind for the tour. In the midst of the craziness, Laurie took time to answer some questions from our own Rex Thomson about the ongoing tour.
L4LM: First off, we hope you and the band are doing well at the start of a long run of shows! How is the mood holding up among the Shook Twins crew?
Laurie Shook: The mood is holding up indeed. Somehow it always does. We find a lot of comedic relief while living in a van with 6 people. We have such an amazing team, and we are truly good friends. We all have really great senses of humor, which is key. We do get down though, not going to lie.
Sometimes it gets hard out here… when we spend 12 hours a day driving through Nebraska, or when we have a low turn out for a show, and the opener talks loudly through your whole set. But we always find a way to shake it off and come back to remember that this is actually an amazing job and we are lucky to get to do it.
L4LM: Have you learned any life hacks to help keep yourself healthy and sane on the road you could share with us?
LS: Humor is huge. Like I said, these boys are hilarious! Laughing a lot is always good. We also are huge fans of wild organic medicinal mushrooms called Stemets 7. Immune support, that help us stay healthy.
L4LM: There’s a certain responsibility to what you do, creating a much needed break from the day-to-day for people. Besides wanting to give folks the best show possible, do you ever think about the societal need for art and music that inspires and your part in that chain?
LS: Thankfully there really is a need for music. There is job security in that… HA! I guess we don’t really feel the “responsibility” so much. For us, it is better not to feel any pressure while making our art. It comes easiest without much thought rather just the feeling that it gives us.
If it makes us feel things, then hopefully it makes others feel things too. You know, that feeling of wonder or inspiration that happens while listening to music is what we are after and what is important to the world.
L4LM: Fans of Shook Twins know that whenever they are having a bad day. they can turn to your music to give them solace and smiles. What do you turn to when you need to shake your blues away?
LS: Awww. We sure hope that we can provide that for fans! When I need solace, I listen to Gregory Alan Isakov. He is healing and calming. Or in the van during traffic, Katleyn and I like to listen to Enya! But while Niko is driving he likes to listen to Tuvan chanting… “Everyone deserves their own Enya” as we say!
Here’s one of Shook Twins’ crowd favorites, “Rose,” from this year’s Summer Camp Music Festival:
L4LM: You’ve got some new music on the way next year. Is the material for that album completed, or is there still time to slip in a last minute song or three?
LS: We still need to write a couple more songs! They come slowly, but we have been making time on tours to write lately. We often have 3 days off, so we have been renting Airbnbs and writing, which is awesome! After I finish this interview we are going to work on some tunes in fact…
L4LM: You have a new single out. Is this part of the upcoming album, or are you just giving the fans a wee gift?
LS: We do! “Call Me Out” is now available for your download and streaming pleasures. We aren’t entirely sure if this will go on the album because it’s a bit of a new direction from the rest of the album as far as production goes. We recorded “Call Me Out” in Santa Cruz at Indigital Studios and it’s a collaboration between producer Brody Bergholz and Niko Slice.
The song has mostly electronic sounds, electric guitar, bass with a hint of acoustic guitar and banjo and our vocals. We were aiming to portray our “electronic” side of our live show. It has a real pop vibe-y tone with the message of calling your friends out on their shit. Holding each other accountable in this world and aiming to be awake and humble.
The rest of our album is being recorded at Hallowed Halls in Portland, OR with Justin Phelps engineering. We got to do a lot of the songs live all together but isolated in the studio, so it really has that cohesive together sound.
Check out the new tune, “Call Me Out,” below.
L4LM: You recently played a special show at the Hallowed Red Rocks venue opening for your friend Gregory Alan Isakov along with one of your idols, Ani DiFranco. That had to be pretty special for you, didn’t it?
LS: These are probably two of our favorite and most influential artists. It was beyond special to share a stage like Red Rocks with our idols. We have been listening to Ani since we were in 7th grade when our big sister introduced us to her, and our little musical minds were forever opened to poetic lyrics, powerful women and folk music.
We have been Gregory fans for about 8 years and have become close friends. It’s such an amazing thing watching your friend play your favorite songs at such an epic venue, and the entire audience is hanging on every word.
That was the best night of our musical lives. I took a moment at the end of the night and stood on stage looking out at the empty amphitheater, remembering what it felt like to have 8.5 thousand music respecters listening to us sing. It’s hard to take it all in while in the moment, you have to filter so much out so that you can focus on what you’re playing. There were many moments during our 35 minute set where I held back tears of joy.
Watch the Shook Twins play a relaxed cover of Ani DiFranco’s “Overlap.”
L4LM: In the studio, the temptation to perfect every single note is there, though time is always a factor. How do you decide a song or an album is done and move on to the next thing?
LS: This is always a challenge because our standards change so quickly. When I listen to our old albums, there are many things that I would change. It’s really stressful to make permanent decisions on our art, but we always keep this Ani Difranco quote in mind while doing so, “People used to make records, as in the record of an event, the event of people playing music in a room”
We just have to do what feels right in the moment even though it may not satisfy us in the future.
L4LM: With all the instruments you play do you find yourself gravitating to one more than another?
LS: The banjo is my heart instrument and I gravitate to it mostly, and for Katelyn it’s the guitar.
L4LM: When you are kicking back and composing a song, do you reach for a particular instrument, or are your accompaniment choices driven by song inspiration?
LS: I usually reach for the banjo because i know its language the best. but sometimes it’s easier to write on a guitar.
L4LM: No one wants to pick favorites among their children, but are there any songs in the upcoming batch that you are particularly proud of?
LS: We are really branching out on this new record. We have a folk disco song, a folk blues/funk song, and some folk soul. I am really enjoying all the new sounds we are making, and how we are incorporating more textures and ambience. I think I like the folk disco one the best so far.
L4LM: Obviously you and your sister are going to sound a certain way when you harmonize, but you seem to do what you can to stretch the boundaries of Shook Twins sound. From light hearted rap to experimental sampling to the beautiful vocal melodies that caught listener attention you hop around the music spectrum almost at will. Any tips on what new directions you’ll be trying next?
LS: As I mentioned earlier, we are reaching even farther with the genres on this new album. We like to be genre-less, and diverse. But always keep the eerie folk-twin harmonies to tie it all together.
L4LM: Have you ever tried to embrace a sound and found it not a good match for what you do?
LS: We never could pull off the folk Metal vibe as much as we tried….hahaha!
L4LM: The band carries a giant egg that is constantly being fed love and good vibrations during your shows. Ever given any thought to what could hatch from it?
LS: Hopes and dreams…hopes and dreams.
L4LM: You’re one of the founding members of the Northwest String Summit based super group Sideboob, along with your sister, Mimi Naja of Fruition and Allie Kral of Yonder Mountain String Band among others? How much fun is it, getting silly with the girls?
LS: SIDEBOOB! SIDEBOOB FOREVER!
This was such a fun project. We really challenged ourselves too! Those 90’s pop tunes are not easy, and were obviously not meant to sung and played at the same time (which none of them did) so we felt proud of ourselves to be able to pull it off. Every practice was spent encouraging each other and laughing! We have all felt a shift in the mindset of women in music and at festivals and it felt good to be a part of fueling women power in music.
L4LM: Any hopes of an album, or at least some original tunes from that band?
LS: We would love to keep playing together and gathering bad ass women especially at festivals! It’s just so hard to get us all together with three full time touring bands’ schedules to work around! A cover album would be so rad, and yes we have some original song dream titles like “He’s Always Never Gonna Bone Me” (Kat Fountain) That would be so amazing! Perhaps someday!
L4LM: Well, it looks like you have a busy schedule ahead of you! Thanks for taking the time to catch us up on your comings and goings!
LS: Thanks for having me!