Following the release of their new album Drinking About You, Bit Thorn caught up with Everything Shook to find out where they’re heading and what makes them tick. Plenty of talk of synths, recording in gaffs and the whatchamacallit genre game.
Hi, Everything Shook… For the uninitiated can you tell us a bit about your sound?
Jessica: We’ve been called ‘experimental electro’, ‘dance-punk,’ and the Irish Times recently called us ‘wonkypop’, which is a new one. Our sound is mainly various synths and keyboards, electronic drums and bass guitar, (and some other smaller instruments). The vocals are layered with all of our voices, (harmonies, growls, oohs and shouts). Someone recently said to me at a gig that we should be playing in New York to people on coke. I don’t think you need to be on coke though, maybe just beer
Robyn: I always call it Electronic Goth Pop, but there’s Punk and Folk elements to it too. I think we get our sound by not having one, if that makes sense. We never set out to sound like anything or anyone in particular, instead we each kind of throw our individual influences and interests into this big pot and mix it up.
Aine: Yeah, electronic goth pop seems to be it! We didn’t steer the music in a particular direction and this is the result. I’m interested to see where we take it next.
Drinking About You is quite a provocative name, how did youse settle on that?
Aine: The title came from a jumper I bought in New York when we were over there playing gigs last year. It pretty much sums up the vibe of the whole album as most of the songs reference drinking, loss and recklessness. We also briefly debated calling it Fuck Off.
Robyn: Haha yeah we were going to call it Fuck Off, but reckoned that would be too provocative and we’d be limiting ourselves with such a title. I still find it hilarious though.
Jessica: There was a red jumper bought by Aine in New York with the words ‘Drinking About You’ written in simple cursive writing. The jumper actually evokes an emotional reaction in me. I love that jumper. It sums up all those times when you might be missing someone, lamenting something, or simply getting drunk to forget. It’s regret, loss, memory and alcohol. What a perfect combination. We’ve all done it and done it well.
How and where did ye record the album?
Robyn: We’re very much a DIY band. Apart from a track that we did in a studio in New York, we recorded the album in my house in Dublin. It’s a pretty minimal set up, but doing it in our own space and time was invaluable.
Aine: In Robyn’s! Even though we didn’t know it before recording we needed time to really focus on song structures and work more on our vocals, so this was definitely the best option for us. The changes made in the recording process have also influenced our live shows for the better. I recorded most of the bass in Bray at Big Garden Recording Studio with the wonderful Eoin Murphy. A friend asked if I wanted that ‘Bray feel’ to it, which I hope it has, ha.
Jessica: It took us roughly six months to record almost everything in Robyn’s. Without the pressure of time and money, this allowed us to properly investigate how we wanted each song to sound, and to keep fixing and adding to the album. The recordings have now informed the songs for our live performance, and we altered some of the songs accordingly.
Your live show is something to behold… Can you describe what someone is likely to see at an Everything Shook show?
Aine: We literally ‘blend’ potent cocktails (made by Jess), dark electronic music and choreographed dance sequences. We share the vocals for each song and harmonize throughout. With so much going on we have a lot to negotiate, which keeps us busy and the energy up.
Our first few gigs were pretty over the top, we had loads of props – three pumpkins, one was a helmet for an audience member to wear and we smashed another with a hammer, a book to shake, candy canes to play the cymbal, (it was Christmas). I also tried kicking the cymbal whilst playing the bass, and we fired packets of jellies into the audience with a tennis racket, (I hit someone in the head at Body & Soul – sorry about that!). We got rid of everything but the blender and our live shows are much more structured now. We put our focus into additional vocals and instrumentation to create a bigger sound.
Jessica: We tend to wear specific costumes for our live show. There are choreographed and improvised dance routines (two of us are dancers) and we also have a food blender which we use to make cocktails during a song. The blender is mic-ed, so we hear the grinding, whirring sound as part of the sound. It’s a colourful performance.
Do you use a Nintendo DS? How does that work?
Robyn: Yeah, I’ve been using a Korg synth in DS form in Catscars for years. I use it in Everything Shook mainly for beats, but it’s hard not to add in extra stuff like drones, glitchy noises etc. You basically create the sounds you want and play it live or use it like a backing track, which is handy depending on the song.
Tell us a bit more about the synths and instrumentation you use to create your dark soundscapes?
Aine: I play bass mostly, and keys for some of the tracks – normally whatever keyboard or korg is working! The bass lines are generally pretty melodic which came about from using it to write vocals. I also really like gritty chaotic sounds so I’m interested in using objects like the blender, although it proves difficult to mic well for live gigs so we’ve had to cut back on using this type of instrumentation.
Robyn: It’s mostly electronic apart from the bass. The Korg DS is great for making heavy beats, robotic sounds and deep drones. I also play an old Casio keyboard that has its own distinctive hiss that sound guys love.
Jessica: I play a Xiosynth Novation 25, which has a huge array of arpeggios, dance sounds and various heavy dark synth tones. I also play a large outdated Yamaha keyboard for two songs, but I’ve become quite attached to it. And I bash a crash cymbal every now and again.
As an all female group how do you get on in the male dominated Irish music scene?
Jessica: We certainly notice it. Mostly we ignore it and get on with our own thing. It is not something that we will be dragged down by. We have been referred to as ‘the girls’ rather than ‘the band’ by a sound engineer. But what we’re doing is niche and sort of it’s own thing. We’re not really in competition with the infinity of indie boy bands that make up Ireland.
Aine: I definitely feel very aware of how we present ourselves live, and how this might influence attitudes towards us. Also, comments like “you should be more animated and engage with the crowd” can be very annoying when the same is not being said to the group of lads playing on the same bill.
I remember early on playing a small stage at a festival and noticing a lack of boundaries and respect from both the sound engineers and some of the crowd. A man – noticing we had no one on the drums – interrupted our very quick sound check to tell us he could play them for us, one of us got asked out on a date, and as we started into the first song a man shouted from the back ‘Yiz are very pretty’, all the while the sound guy was tutting ‘girls, you’re wasting your own time’ as we tried to renegotiate our set all because he hadn’t read our tech spec.
Robyn: Certain attitudes have reared their ugly heads for sure, but it would be good to point out that the majority of people have been totally cool. It’s a shame that there are negative or patronising views out there, but they actually drive us and fuel our work anyway. There’s nothing like playing a gig angry!
I missed the launch, have yiz any more gigs lined up?
Jessica: We don’t have any further gigs lined up yet. It’d be cool to get over to New York again (and play to the coke heads); we had a great time playing there.
Repeal the 8th!
Head over to Bandcamp to listen to Everything Shook.