Nobody does nostalgic references quite like retro-rock band Shannon and the Clams. Their music has been compared to 60s crooners, 80s punk bands and affectionately described as ‘weirdo oldies’ and even ‘haunted psychedelic spaghetti western’. We caught up with singer, Shannon Shaw after the band’s concert at Point Ephémère to talk about music, nostalgia and hugging big dogs.
Join the Dots: How would you describe your sound to anyone who has never heard your music?
Shannon Shaw: Cinematic, nostalgic, poppy, fun and strange.
You’ve said before that Shannon and the Clams is influenced by a range of music, from Roy Orbison, through 60s girl groups to 80s punk. Is there one era or movement that you feel a particular affinity with?
I think I identify with the intensity and emotion that is put into the vocals [as opposed to a specific era]. The voice in all those examples is used to engage you by connecting to your inner feelings.
Both your music and style are really unique. What are your creative influences outside of music?
My favourite art is the symbolist movement. A lot of that work is seen in turn of the century fairy tales and it crosses over with the pre-Raphaelite movement. I love the beauty and skill of the realism, the hidden meanings and dream logic of the surrealism.
Your debut album was entitled ‘I Wanna Go Home’. Where is home and what do you miss about it when you’re on the road?
I’m from Napa which is way out in the country in Northern California. I miss nature, huge trees, fields, wildflowers, the smell and blackberries ripening in the sun, the smell of fennel and oak trees. I miss having access to hugging big dogs! I know it’s weird but it’s so rare to spend time with creatures on the road.
Speaking of nostalgia and memories, are there any memorable first experiences you’d care to share with us?
I had a dream when I was really little, like 5 or 6, and in the dream, I had a boyfriend I was super in love with named Sweet Tony Pie. He was a drag racer and crashed his car and died right before my eyes. The dream was so real, so dramatic and I woke up weeping and missing Sweet Tony Pie. It’s weird for many reasons but I’d never been in love in real life obviously because I was a little kid! But the feeling was so deep and real. Anyway, as I awoke I realized my clock radio had come on and the oldies station had been playing ‘Sweet Talkin’ Guy’ by the Chiffons (which is one of my favourite girl group songs. The bridge/outro is so good and tragic). My child mind translated Sweet Talkin’ Guy to Sweet Tony Pie and every time I hear that song now I feel that same sense of extreme love and loss.
Interview and illustration by Holly James
With thanks to Shannon Shaw from Shannon and the Clams