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Shy Child
the unabashed noise
by: Nancy Chow - June 17, 2008

For eight months last year, guiboard-wielding vocalist Pete Cafarella and drummer Nate Smith became expatriates. Broadway gave way to Piccadilly: London was their new home.

But this by no means was a vacation from the chaotic New York City life. Racking up over 100 shows, Shy Child performed with the likes of Klaxons and Reverend and The Makers, touring extensively and incessantly behind their latest release “Noise Won’t Stop” around the United Kingdom. They even managed to squeeze in some legendary festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds into their schedule.

Recorded in 2006 at Gigantic Studios, “Noise Won’t Stop” exerts a fuller, more polished sound than its predecessors that were recorded in Cafarella’s bedroom. The frenetic synths, polyrhythmic textures and primal, passionate chants that drove songs from “Please Consider Our Time” and “One With The Sun” are still there, but the move from sparse, lo-fi production to a lustrous quality draws them closer to their 󈦰s new wave influences and DFA movers and shakers.

Paul Epworth, the British producer who worked his magic on Bloc Party’s and Kate Nash’s critically acclaimed debuts, lent a meticulous hand with “Drop The Phone” and “Astronaut,” two pernicious songs that instantly hit the listener with their unrelenting suffused energy. But the production change is most evident in rerecorded tracks “Noise Won’t Stop” and “Summer,” which are highlighted with a renewed vivacity.

“Noise Won’t Stop” recently dropped in the United States on May 6 on Kill Rock Stars, but it was released abroad over a year ago on Wall of Sound, a London label. When asked about the differences between the U.S. and United Kingdom markets, Cafarella says he could write an extensive article on the differences between the two music worlds. He and Smith throw out some ideas of geographical and cultural factors, but it all boils down to what it means to be indie.

“We’re indie, which stands for a lot here, but doesn’t stand for much over there,” says Cafarella. “You know, it’s kind of like, ‘We’re in a band – can we get on the radio?’”

“If you’re in a band on a label, you got a chance to be on the radio,” clarifies Smith. “They don’t really have that here.”

“There’s like no weird divide,” continues Cafarella. “It’s hard to explain. There are no self-sustaining indie bands there, but there are here.”

For a two-piece band that eschews the typical rock set-up even by indie standards, they project a complete, uncompromised sound that translates as fully live as in the studio. To generate this layered sound in a live setting, Cafarella programmed his guiboard to allow control over multiple synths, while Smith provides the commanding drums.

“Most of the songs we’ve played live for so long that they were written like live songs before we recorded them,” Smith says of the limited adjustments from studio to stage arrangements. “We made a decision not to play with backing tracks, because it would be too easy, but so many bands just play with backing tracks. To me, using backing tracks really decreases the energy of live shows, so we keep it all live.”

Their dedication to recreate their histrionic studio recordings in an electrifying live setting earned them an invitation to perform at “Later…With Jools Holland” last summer. With Paul McCartney behind them, Björk sitting cross-legged in front of them, and an atypical set-up placing them in the middle of the room instead of the sides, the pressure was on.

Though it was a “nerve-wracking” and “out- of-body” experience, it was there that Shy Child impressed fashion designer Stella McCartney with their performance of “Drop the Phone” she later asked them to perform the very same song to accompany her fashion line at Fashion Rocks. The performance also exposed Björk to their eccentric, dynamic style.

“I’m totally starstruck by Björk,” says Cafarella, a fan since his teen years. “I totally fucked up and didn’t talk to her.”

Earlier this year, the guiboard-drums duo supported her at the Sydney Opera House, where Cafarella was given a second chance to talk to her.

“One practice, remember you were like, ‘All right, I’m going to talk to her,’ was the night she put duct tape over her mouth,” reminds Smith. Her voice had been acting up, so the duct tape was a precautionary measure to save her voice.

“Yeah,” recalls Cafarella with a sigh. “At the after party, I was like ‘Fuck it, I don’t care. I’m just going to look like an idiot or whatever.’ We walked right up to her. Duct tape on her mouth. And I said something really awkward like ‘good show.’ Yeah, not even, it was more like ‘Ohhh, duct tape.’”

After a rigorous period of relentless touring, they are eager to start working on their next album. They are busy writing material to record at the end of summer to have the album ideally out by early next year.

“We've just started working on our next album, and I'm excited about what we're doing, but it’s too early to really describe how it sounds,” says Smith. “There's a lot of great things to be influenced by that are happening right now, but there's so much old stuff that's influencing us too - Cerrone and Hall & Oates, just to name a few.”

Along with writing new material, they will continue remixing songs for artists such as Midnight Juggernauts, who they just wrapped up a tour with in early May. Their remix of The Futureheads’ “Decent Days and Nights” was their first foray into splicing songs into their own interpretation, and remixes for Tokyo Police Club and Editors followed. But it was their remix of fellow New Yorkers The Boggs’ “Arm in Arm” that received the most attention, as it was picked up to be featured in a trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV.

“It's a blank slate for us,” says Smith of picking up remixes. “There are no rules or conventions we have to follow, and we have a lot of fun. Mostly we just are trying to make [the remixes] rhythmically infectious, usually based around the vocals of the original.”

Shy Child has come a long way from the “weird, abstract shit” it began with that presented a complicated set-up of keyboard rigs, sequencers and computers at shows. Despite their astounding track record, it is still difficult for Cafarella and Smith to perceive being indie musicians as a job.

“I don’t want to think about it as my occupation,” says Cafarella. “I still feel weird being like ‘I’m going to work,’ when we’re going to practice.”

“I like that, because I’ve gone to work before and it sucks,” asserts Smith.

“I mean it’s weird to think that like a normal person would be like ‘What? Your work is like going into some weird basement practice space and playing weird shit for five hours and drinking beer? That’s your job?’” says Cafarella. “But we work hard. It’s hard work. Don’t get me wrong – we work a lot.”

“We take it seriously but lightly. Like that?” asks Smith. “Lightly, seriously.”

“Lightly, seriously,” repeats Cafarella, pausing for a moment to contemplate the adverbs together. “That’s the name of our new album.”


“I’m totally starstruck by Björk, I totally fucked up and didn’t talk to her.”

Shy Child
""Noise Won’t Stop""

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what it is

Unabashed noise, of the buzzy type.