|Guitar Rock, with a Schmear
Amanda Schupak - November 14, 2010
The Shake like to think of themselves as the next generation of NYC indie rock, “whatever that means.” Frontman Jon Merkin, guitarist Eliad Shapiro and bassist Jeremy Stein recently celebrated four years of collaboration and the release of their third album, “The Shake Go Crazy,” with drummer Vishal Kumar, who joined the band in 2008. From the power pop of “Your Idols” to the hauntingly lilting “I Can Remember” and the sinister but eminently catchy single, “Got No Soul,” “Go Crazy” is, above all, guitar heavy rock n’ roll padded by Merkin’s oscillating vocals, dewy smooth one moment, insistent rasp the next. The Deli sat down with Jon, Eliad and Vish (Jeremy was busy at the School of Visual Arts, where he studies graphic design. Eliad: “I think he has a crayon exam.”) to talk about the new record, Judaism, disco and balls.
Three of you (Jon, Eliad and Jeremy) are Orthodox Jews. You won’t play on shabbat, yet you don’t wear your yarmulkes on stage.
JM: If people weren’t to make assumptions about the band or about the music seeing something on our heads I think it wouldn’t be an issue.
ES: It immediately turns you into a novelty.
JM: Or some kind of klezmer band.
ES: Friday’s not the only night that people go to shows. You can play Wednesday night. People will still come.
JM: It doesn’t mean you can’t have a career.
You just released “Go Crazy,” your third album, and the first with Vish on drums. New direction, or latest iteration?
ES: The second album felt a bit contrived. The music was good, but didn’t have the soul because it was more of an intellectual enterprise. By the time we got to this album, aside from having a new drummer and that lending itself to a new dynamic, we learned how to coexist as songwriters, and how to be honest with each other and with ourselves. What resulted was an album of really honest songs.
I sense faint disco undertones in a few tracks, and you cover the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” in your live shows. Do you have a secret penchant for disco?
VK: A lot of times when [our producer] Greg cut parts up he was like, “bitches wont dance to this.” So you start adding things that bitches will dance to, and a lot of times that’s disco.
ES: Are we really going to refer to girls as bitches?
JM: Well, we can’t misquote him.
The album was produced by Greg Latimer, who did Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr’s first solo release. How did he shape this record?
ES: He didn’t want a bit of auto tune on it, he didn’t want it to sound perfect.
JM: This album is the closest to what we sound like live. There's no added synths or extra layers. Gregory came in and said, make everything much simpler and mean every note that you play. Don’t make things more complex and intricate for the sake of it, or because you’re bored doing it that way.
The first track, “Merry Musket,” opens with Jon talking about grabbing his balls. Care to explain?
JM: Those opening chords have to be hit hard, and if I don’t hit them well, if I’m lazy about it, you hear it. Vish said I had to grab my balls. It really sums up the record: us diving straight in, figuratively and literally grabbing our balls.
VK: The point was that we had what we had written and the rest was going to be performed and recorded from the soul, for lack of better words. Things like grabbing your balls, or like on a couple of his vocal takes he took off his shirt. Little things that psych you into making a really incredible recording.
ES: Were we all shirtless in the vocal booth at some point?
JM: That’s not relevant.
"This album is the closest to what we sound like live. There's no added synths or extra layers."
listen to "
Riff-heavy, guitar-driven rock