Vintage Life caught up with rockabilly band, The 58 Shakes…
How would you introduce yourselves to readers of Vintage Life?
Darren: I was hoping the questions would start easy and get more difficult… um… it’s tricky because on one hand we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band who like to throw in our own material with classic songs by Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, and anybody else you associate with American rock ‘n’ roll from the 1950s. On the other hand, we’re an originals band who are writing and performing our own stuff, so there are new rock ‘n’ roll songs for the new audience that seems to be growing. Phew.
Blu: Oh. I was going to say, “Hi, we’re the 58 Shakes. We’ve got Warren on Drums, Steve on guitar, Darren on Bass, Adam on guitar and me, Blu – on vocals.” See? This is probably why it’s better that I let Darren answer things!
What is your performing background?
Blu: I was raised on folk and country, so my style probably leans, unintentionally, towards that more but I discovered rock ‘n’ roll in my teens and have listened to it ever since. Is now the time to admit that I’ve only ever been in one band? I might have lied at my audition and said I’d been in loads… Warren and Steve played in a band together previously. From recollection, Adam has been in at least a couple of bands. I think as a band, collectively, we’ve kicked around the music circuit for the last 20 years – just not together until now.
Darren: Bands, bands and bands! We’ve all been in bands in the past, sometimes doing different jobs to what we’re doing now. Warren, who plays drums, is a bass player really. I chip in with backing vocals – and the occasional lead – but I’ve been solely a bass player in previous bands. This band is a chance to learn new skills and we’re all pretty cool with letting people do what they want.
Describe the style of music that you play…
Darren: We centre our sound around rock ‘n’ roll but we dip into all the little branches that come off it, so genres like blues, gospel, swing, jive – even country – and we try and write songs that are catchy and fun to sing along to. I think the classic rock ‘n’ roll songs all have that in common, people can sing along to songs like Great Balls Of Fire and Tutti Frutti and Stupid Cupid and we try to make our songs memorable.
Blu: One of the things I like the most about the band is that we all have different musical influences, so even though we originally describe ourselves as ‘rock ‘n’ roll’, like the original 50s music and artists, we have country, swing and blues in there as well. 50s and 60s music are the feelgood decades; so the music we play is all the things you want to dance and sing along to. It’s the best kind!
Darren: We look at it as dance music. It’s songs to move to and nothing does it better than simple rock ‘n’ roll songs. We often say to audiences that if this song or that song doesn’t make you want to dance, you must be either deaf or dead! One piece of feedback we get from our album is that the songs are catchy, which helps when you introduce songs into the set that people may have only heard once or twice before.
Describe your live performances…
Blu: Live performances? Haha! Well… I guess that’s very dependant on who we’ve got in the audience! We quite often have audience participation (who doesn’t know the last line of the chorus in Stupid Cupid?), heckling from the crowd – all good natured, I’m happy to say!
Darren: Chaos! Simple as that – chaos. We’ve watched bands in the past that are so well-polished and slick that you can almost hear the years of practice that has gone into a performance. But it can feel – and sound – stale. We’re not like that. We like to keep things light and able to accommodate anything unplanned that happens. What you will get when you come to a 58 Shakes gig is a warm welcome, great music, audience participation, myself and Blu chatting nonsense and a band that wants to entertain. At a show late last year we were asked if we knew a certain song (I think it was a Stray Cats song); during the interval we went off and learnt it for the second set. It wasn’t a carbon copy but it kick-started a singalong that lasted well into our third encore.
Blu: The band love performing, and I’d hope that comes over. There’s not much chat from Darren or myself; as Darren said, it’s probably nonsense anyway. It might get you a point in the local pub quiz, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Do you write any of your own material?
Blu: Darren is the main songwriter of the band. Like a lot of bands, he brings the bare bones of the song – the melody, chords and lyrics – and then we work on it. The songs can take a different feel and sound by the time we’ve all put some input in.
Darren: Yeah, very often the version I play to the band will be very different from what we finally finish with. I wasn’t sure I could write rock ‘n’ roll songs, it’s difficult following the rules of what makes it rock ‘n’ roll without falling into the trap of sounding like something written 60 years ago. It would be easy to copy a Chuck Berry melody and pass it off as our own but this is a dedicated audience, there are no fools, and if people think you’re somehow cheating, you’ll be found out.
Blu: Quite often I’ll change (drop!) lyrics, because there’s too many damn words in the line and I can’t get them all out without tripping over them. The perfect example of that is Strawberry Sunday, the last track on our album. We dropped words and I still fluffed them. You can hear me get all tongue twisted on that track – we kept it as the one take in the studio. I keep threatening to write something, but nothing so far.
Which song do you all enjoy performing the most and why?
Darren: Stand back, this might get messy (*both start throwing song titles around with mixed responses*). Graduation Day kicked off this whole foray into writing our own stuff so it holds a special place for us as a band but it isn’t as fun to play as something like Hey Freckles or Jodie, which is different every time we play it and gives us space to just explore it. I hope that doesn’t sound all ‘luvvie’ but that song has looser ‘borders’ so we’re not confined and can just go with it depending on how the audience is responding.
Blu: Hey! I don’t feature on Hey Freckles. Is that what makes it more fun to perform?! Personally I like performing songs that people will dance to. It’s something we all agree on – having people dance, naturally lifts the band. If I had to pick a specific song I like performing, it would be Graduation Day. It’s our first original and it gets the people up and dancing. My favourite cover? Probably Jailhouse Rock. It’s a standing joke that I can’t remember everyone’s names in the lyrics (I’m terrible with names!) but it’s such an iconic song by Elvis so people expect Darren to sing it. It always goes down well, and it got specifically mentioned in a review of one of our gigs.
What aspects of the music scene influence you the most?
Blu: I love the whole scene. The style, the sound, the fashion, the attitude. It’s very much part of my life, even before the band – my house is furnished with definite influences and my general wardrobe borrows heavily from the era. I love live music, so seeing other artists is not only a pleasure, but also a ‘how to’ (or even a ‘how not to’!) perform.
Does the band have a specific look?
Blu: Oh jeez… don’t even get me started. This is something we’ve talked about, round and round, for the last 3 years we’ve been together. So far we’ve agreed on nothing! We need styling! These boys are a project! Would someone please take them and restyle them?! Actually – we could all do with a good going over! Haha.
Darren: We often wear matching bowling shirts and varsity jackets. Converse are a staple for us fellas while Blu makes the extra effort and wears dresses or cropped trousers. But, Blu’s right, it’s something we need to work on, definitely.
How can readers keep in touch?
Blu: Come to a gig and say hi! We’d love to see you! Probably like everyone, we’re on Facebook, we have a website (I’m sure Darren knows it. As we’ve already discussed, I’m rubbish with information!). We’re on Twitter, you can even track us down on YouTube. We’re pretty much everywhere. I’m sure that’s how rumours start… 😉
Darren: Our website – which has some music, gig dates and links to other pages – ishttp://the58shakes.wixsite.com/officialbandpage so we’re easily contactable.