I heard you’re originally from the "Land down under" — how long have
you been in the US and how do you like it so far? Was there much of an
adjustment for you?
JH (James Hall) : I moved to the US in 1999. So, I’ve been here a while now. It wasn’t much of an adjustment really – although I was pretty shocked that for a lot of people their only knowledge of Australia was the Crocodile Hunter or Outback Steakhouse. I’ve even had people ask me what language we speak in Australia!
Was the harder approach always planned for "Sunny Days" or did it come
from touring on the last album?
JH: It wasn’t really planned – but the way we recorded meant it sounded a lot more like our live sound. We recorded all the drums, bass and rhythm guitar tracks live and even kept some of the guide vocals. Most of the time you would re-record the vocals later but there’s a certain energy that comes across on songs like You Don’t Care, Get It Together and Who Do You Love where we left those live vocals on, so what you hear is pretty much a live performance. We also recorded most of the songs in a handful of takes – some of them in only one take – which also keeps that energy in there. Some of the new songs just lent themselves to a slightly heavier approach too.
GM (Gary Miller): I agree with James on that. I do think the energy of our live show really informed the writing process of these songs much more than the first record, which was recorded prior to any performances. And you know how it goes when you get on stage — things tend to be played faster and louder. I also think Chris’ natural tendencies for THE ROCK took us in that direction. He’s got a great rock-n-roll heart, and his drumming really drives the whole thing.
How did you go about writing the songs for this album? Is it melody first and add lyrics later, or do you say "I’m writing a break-up" song?
JH: I’m nearly always a melody first, lyrics later guy. I normally write alone but for this record, Gary and I were both curious about co-writing and that turned out to be incredibly productive. We would get together on weekends and record demos with basic melodies and guitar chords, then the next weekend we’d come back with lyrics or new parts and the songs just grew over time. After we’d written a few songs that way Chris started showing up with a lot of great ideas – and then we’d get together as a band and David would write his parts as we went. So this was a very collaborative record.
GM: Occasionally lyric ideas come first, as was the case with "Unusual Girl" on this record. But, in general, my tendency is to write music first, melodies second, and lyrics third. As James said, that seemed to work well for how we starting putting songs together this time around. Sometimes I would have a piece of music and bring that into the fold and James would attach ideas to it, and vice versa. The whole process was really organic, which was fun.
How do compare the Australian and New Zealand Music scenes with Seattle?
JH: Both scenes are pretty tough for bands. But I think that also produces a very strong and vibrant music community. When I was growing up in Australia there was a very strong pub rock scene – bands like INXS, Midnight Oil, Hoodoo Gurus, the Church and You Am I all came out of that scene and were all incredibly strong live bands because the audiences were so tough – you really had to put on a show. I hear that’s died to some extent which is a real shame. The scene in Seattle is very similar but it’s concentrated into one city – there
are so many good bands here, in a lot of varying genres, and the crowds are very musically articulate, so it takes a lot to get them excited. We always liked going to Portland because the crowds were just euphoric compared to Seattle crowds.
Any good stories from on tour or during the recording for "Live at the
GM: I think the funniest thing is how different our final two shows of 2007 were from each other — We played Bumbershoot, followed by a local street festival. Bumbershoot was huge, with a massive stage and tons of people. But, then we followed that with our last show of 2007, which was a pretty poorly attended street festival. Our set was held mid-afternoon and the crowd was like two homeless people, our girlfriends and wives and a smattering of the local neighbors. It was pleasantly humbling to go from a big rock festival to a reality check like that.
JH: One of my favorite shows from 2007 was at a little bar called the Mars Bar – it was a really hot Saturday night last summer and for some reason we decided to play the 12 songs we knew the least, which included a handful of covers we barely ever played. It was probably the most loose and comfortable show we ever did. We were just given a recording of that show and we’re hoping to post it online pretty soon– it’s pretty cool.
GM: What the hell were we thinking when we put that set list together? Ha! That was awesome! On the other end of the spectrum, I think my favorite show was with The Purrs at The Sunset Tavern in March 2007. KEXP had been playing the first record a lot, and both SSA! and The Purrs had been getting good press. We played to a couple hundred people, and it was really rewarding to be able to play in front of a big local crowd who was appreciating what we were doing.
If you could tour with any band in the world now – who would it be?
GM: I’m not a touring guy. But, since we’re in hypothetical land here, I would say Elvis Costello and the Attractions. When those guys are on, it’s heaven for me. But, if I were a youngster again, I’d say let’s load up a few vans with us, Young Sportsmen, The Small Change and Andy Werth and just hit the road for fun with friends.
What’s next for the band?
JH: That’s a good question! Gary now lives in North Carolina and the rest of us were keen for a break from the band – we worked pretty hard in 2007 and we all needed a break from playing the same songs. I’ll be working on a Jeunes record for the rest of the year and after that we’ll just have to see which way the wind blows
GM: We recorded a number of tunes that didn’t make this record, and I’d love for some of them to see the light of day. The beauty of digital recording is that we could still potentially collaborate from a distance, and it would be cool if that can happen in some form or another. But, James is the heart and soul of Shake Some Action!, and he and the other guys have my full blessing to replace me if it helps keep it going!
Thanks for interview, Gary and James.
Click here to get the new Shake Some Action CD "Sunny Days Ahead ".