I first heard of Shade via their Fedra album (Lovely Recordings, 2004). With our shared love of Swervedriver and heavy-guitar bands from the 90’s, I fell in love with their dense and energetic rock songs. With Arms Raised on Rooftops (Lovely Recordings, 2007), Shade opened up their sound, displaying even more kinetic energy in their arrangements, the beat faster, the vocals more distressed, yet including more romance than previously heard.
Latonka, out this February 19th on the Cougar Label includes all that make Shade a unique band, the layered guitars, the keyboards, the often raspy vocals, but also more rhythmic diversity and some true beauty in songs such as CSKeys, Plans and the epic closer Bless Your Heart Betty making Latonka their most fully-realized album yet. David Halloran, the man behind the drum kit and creator of the album cover art answered some questions about Shade’s past, present and future.
How does Pittsburgh inform your sound?
There are a lot of ways Pittsburgh influences our sound. Just by being a small city with a now thriving music scene people hear about you quickly and everyone knows each other so if you are not good word spreads fast. So you have to work that much harder to make sure you are sounding good all the time.
Have you seen and are you fans of the Romero movies?
I always liked Dawn of the Dead as a kid, I haven’t seen it in a while honestly. It was actually filmed at the mall we all went to growing up.
What is a favorite hangout for food, fun or art/music/entertainment?
The place we are playing our local CD release show is a place we like and know the owners and workers and stuff, it’s called the Brillobox. There are a bunch of places though, so it’s hard to narrow down.
How has the Shade sound evolved, changed and improved over the years?
Well we have definitely gotten much better at playing our respective instruments since 1997 when we started. I think over the years we have gotten much better at song writing. I think the sound of the new record is a little darker than our previous records and maybe even a little more restrained. There is a little more space or something that was not there before. A little bit less of the wall of sound maybe nowadays.
What is it about your influences that has informed your sound, playing, mood, approach to being in the band?
I grew up listening to classic rock and stuff like that and since I was very young I wanted to be in a band. I think having roots in the old stuff definitely is a big reason I play the drums in the style I do. I think my playing has gotten a little better though since I have branched out and started listening to more diverse music like Jazz and Reggae and stuff.
Listening back to Fedra and Arms Raised, you do have a rather distinct sound. How would you characterize that sound based on the above influences?
I guess, Fedra was the start of what the new record may be kind of a finishing of or something. That was the first record where maybe we embraced each other’s influences and tried to really make a record and songs and everything that encompassed all of our individual influences. I think the fact that we have five of us kind of writing together and each of us coming from a different place is what really makes for our distinctive sound.
How do you keep yourselves open to new sounds when it comes to recording so you don’t simply rehash old playing? Some bands are all too happy to sound the same album to album and sometimes that’s fine, but do you listen to esoteric music or bands and genres like classical or radio pop artists? What keeps the creative juices flowing?
I try to be pretty open to any kind of music. In past years I was a little closed minded I think but I have in recent years, like I said above, branched out from just listening to mainly rock and roll stuff and listen to all kinds of music now. I actually lately have had the classical station on a lot. When you really like music I think you need to step back and try to take in as much as possible. There is good stuff and bad stuff and things you have not come up with on your own that are great in every kind of music.
What the heck is being chanted at the end of “Waves”?
“Someone pull the fire alarm, send me on my way home. If you see me on the Fort Pitt Bridge please roll down your window.”
Your songs seem to be quite energetic, even the slower ones. While the first four songs on Latonka are great, “CSKeys” jumps out as a thing of beauty and “Plans” seems like a song about missed opportunities or wishing for a careless youth. But I think your best days are in front of you. What are some plans you want to come to fruition, like performing with a certain band, getting worldwide recognition in Shade or getting married or traveling the world?
Well we are all married now so check on that one. That also puts a litte bit of a damper on our touring schedule at the moment. But hell yeah worldwide recognition and traveling the world would be awesome. I mean that’s a dream for anyone that starts a band, right? I mean if we get to the point where we can quit our day jobs, I would be pretty damn happy. Working sucks and all that, you know. Also I have always wanted to play the Conan show too, that wish is still alive now I guess that he is back on the air.
Tell us about the artwork on Latonka and how it was created. I understand you painted it. Do you have a portfolio we may find online or has he shown his art to the public?
Yes the artwork is one of my paintings. I have been painting a lot for the last few years but I have never really done a show or sold anything. I usually just give my paintings to friends, if they will take them, or hang them up in my apartment. I don’t really know if I could handle doing a show having a bunch of people judging my paintings. I don’t really do it for that I guess. The painting on the cover was one I did kind of as an abstract jungle scene or something like that a few months before we started doing the artwork for the album. When we picked the name Latonka and I started thinking about the artwork, I thought that it should be kind of naturey/earthy or something since the name comes from a lake we used to go camping at. So I thought that that painting might work well.
You’re a DIY band. What exceptional things did you do or have done to put out your albums? Did you raise money, work two jobs, rob a bank, give blood or sacrifice animals? One band from L.A. has a member who is a registered helicopter pilot and for a certain amount of money will take those people in the air for an hour or they’ll take them to dinner, to raise funds for their albums.
I have definitely worked some shitty jobs over the years but I don’t think we have ever done anything that crazy as a band to raise money.
Will we see you in Los Angeles anytime soon or where/when will you be performing?
We did two West Coast tours back in 2002 and 2004. Nothing that far out west planned yet, but we’ll have to see what happens with the ‘Latonka’ launch!
Shade is: David Halloran on drums, Matt Stuart on vocals and guitar, Dave Woods on guitar, Craig Stuart on keyboards and vocals and Brad Kiefer on bass. Thanks to Brad for all the correspondence, music and for making this interview happen.
Listen to Latonka here: http://shade.bandcamp.com/album/latonka
Then buy the songs here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004I2EGKQ?ie=UTF8&child=B004I2HSBU
And keep in contact with them here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/shade/50715549233