Shortstack New Release Celebrating 10 years in DC!

Shortstack has been around the area for a while now and the music keeps coming from these stylishly twangy gang. Having represented Americana from the heart of the capital for nearly 10 years is no small feat, however these guys nail it with every song and the new album they have coming out may be there strongest offering yet.

Forgoing some of there “creepy/twang” sound that has become sort of a trademark, they set out to make a more accessible album and the result is a welcoming and insanely catchy mix of Americana, punk, and alternative. Instrumentally they took the less is more approach focusing on the magic of a couple notes rather than cramming in everything they could. In “Greyhound” they picked out a few notes and made them into a head-nodding centerpiece ending with a Wilco like indifference to what most people feel a solo should be.

Vocally you can hear some Brian Wilson and even some David Byrne. Adrian Carroll is in the zone on this album and easily puts together haunting lyrics with a twangy warble. In “Reckless and Alive” his melodies and phrasing stand out as some of the best written by the band so far and the lyrics touchingly fit into the feel of the song.

The rhythm section is in full force here and keep the rolling beats tight which lets the songs open up so well when it comes time for an interlude. This trick is not new but pulling it off well is tough and these guys have perfected it, of course what do expect from a band that has played with each other for 10 years. “Here’s to Progress” is one of the most infectious songs on the album and that immediate accessibility comes from the bass and drums being so tied together there is no room to slip out of the groove. It reminds me of some of Ted Leo’s best songs.

In preperation for their Album Release tonight at the Black Cat (4/16/10) I was fortunate enough to catch up with Mike who plays bass in the band. Below is some insight into the past, present and future of Shortstack.

1) How has Shortstack’s sound transformed over that last 10 years and what does the new music have in store for us?

There’ve been a lot of changes to our sound over time, but the biggest is the move away from the country and rockabilly ideas that we started with. When we began as a band we were really in love with those sounds and worked hard to learn how to play that kind of music, but that was never the only kind of music that we listened to or were influenced by. In the past few years we’ve liberated ourselves from some of the constraints we began with and have let some other sounds into our music, like 60′s psych and classic rock. The Covers EP we did a couple of years ago was a step in this direction, and the songs on Please Leave My Mind are another step.

One of ideas that we really enjoy exploring in our music is harmony. We like to layer our voices, guitars, and bass to create thick, interesting harmonies. And the way we do this has been one of the things that we’ve changed over time. We used to do it by playing a lot of busy parts – lots of notes, really complex stuff. As we’ve grown as a band we’ve opened up more space in our music and it’s given us a chance to do some different, heavier things with harmony. It’s been really fun, too.

2) The DC music scene has seen a lot of changes, if you had to pick a time that stands out in your mind from the last 10 years when would it be and why?

Hmmm. I feel like this is a trick question. The time that stands out for me is the time when I moved to DC, in ’96, which is obviously more than 10 years ago. The DC area bands that I really loved were all still playing – The Boom, The Sorts, Lungfish, Fugazi. And Shortstack got going just after a lot of these bands wound down. That’s not good or bad, it just is. I miss that time because DC itself was sort of different then – it seemed cheaper, everyone was living in group houses in Mount Pleasant, and there were a zillion bands. Even though most of those bands played Fort Reno then evaporated, there was a lot of energy being shared. Part of the difference between then and now is that we’re all older. I don’t want to live in a group house with 8 other people anymore. But part of it is also that DC itself is different. There isn’t the same community of people whose primary aim is to make art together. I truly believe that there is a lot of great music being made in DC right now, but I think that it’s also honest to say that times have changed.

3) Are there any more 7″s planned to be released in the future?

We’ve really been focused on getting this new LP out the door, s there aren’t any immediate plans for a new 7″. We may do another one in the future. We all really love listening to vinyl, and as a band, nothing is better than hearing your own music on vinyl.

4) While in the studio what was the most important or unique instrument that was played?

The most important instrument this time around were our voices. In the past we always buried the vocals a little, and this time we brought them out front, and we layered a lot of harmonies. Adrian and Burleigh have really amazing, and very different, voices and these songs are carried by the vocals more than anything we’ve done in the past.

We don’t tend to dress up our songs very much when we record them, so there aren’t a lot of unusual or unexpected instruments. Besides, I play double bass and that’s enough of pain in the ass to record well. This is the first recording we’ve done where I’ve been completely satisfied with the bass sounds. Burleigh did a really fantastic job on that.

5) What are you most excited for in 2010?

There are a lot of things that we’re excited about right now. We’re stoked that this record is coming out! We’re working with a really fantastic local record label, Free Dirt (! We’re going to be playing some shows over the next few months, and we love doing that. And we’re writing a bunch of new songs! All of the things we like are happening right now, so we’re happy.

Go here for more onĀ Shortstack. They have a slew of tour dates approaching and tonight at the Black Cat is going to be blast! See you there!