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Interview w/ The Shills Bassist Dave Sicilian

July 2, 2015

Have another interview ready for you today with a band live and local from the Boston area called The Shills. The guys have a popcentric style to their sound that is not quite indie and not quite alternative, but is lodged right in the middle and brings about influences from all across the spectrum. The guys have been featured here on the site several times in the past, most recently with my review of their latest album, "Keep Your Hands Busy, Vol. 2". Recently, bassist Dave Sicilian took some time out of his schedule to do a liitle interview as we find out more about how the guys got started, plus their experiences making the new album along with what inspires them to do their best each day. Here is the transcript from our chat:

 

Give us your name and your role in the band?

Dave Sicilian - bass player, recording engineer

Where did the name The Shills originate and when did the group form?

We formed back in 2004. James and myself were in another band with The Shills' original guitar player, Eric Ryrie.  We were looking for a new singer and we literally found Bryan through Craigslist. We quickly found synergy in our styles and feverishly started writing music. Soon after​,​ we recorded a quick demo and started booking gigs. By early 2006 we released our first EP followed a year later by our first full length. Since then we've released 2 more full lengths, an EP, and a couple singles. In 2011​,​ Ryan Jackson joined the band after Eric left and that has opened a whole new chapter of creative possibilities that we are still exploring.Describe your sound to those who aren't familiar with you?We're all children of the 90's and love the "alternative" bands from that era: Soundgarden, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, etc. We're a rock band​,​ but I think our style spans many sub-genres within that realm. We enjoy writing a variety of songs that range from balls-out rock and roll, to ambient grooves, to straight pop-rock. Even though our songs can vary greatly from one to another there is always a consistent Shills sound to it. We like to think of it as a sound that is familiar but with a little special sauce mixed in. 

What were some of our individual musical influences that may have helped shaped or influence the style of the band?

We have our common interests but it's our individual influences that color our sound so that it's greater than the sum of its parts. I am into Motown and classic rock. Bryan is a trained jazz musician who has been playing multiple instruments for years. Ryan is a big prog-rock fan and James grew up listening to punk rock. Our writing approach leaves a lot of room for each member to add his own sound and approach to a song. This is what gives our tunes their distinct sound. It is rare that a song is brought to the band fully formed. We almost always write as a group and gradually add our own flavor to the tunes. Having this freedom keeps the writing process fresh for everyone.

Take us behind the recording process of "Keep Your Hands Busy Vol. 2" and what the whole experience was like for the each of you?

We self produced Keep Your Hands Busy Vol. 2. James and I are recording engineers and have done most of the work ourselves in the past. We took our time with this record, often intentionally but sometimes unintentionally. Being able to record at our leisure really paid off though. We were able get the right sounds and experiment to see what worked and what didn't. This freedom gave each song it's own space and feel and I think makes fore a much more nuanced and intimate record.

What are some of your personal favorite tracks off the new effort that you look back fondly on?

We had a lot of fun adding all the layers to "Oh, This Devilish Place". The foundation of a song is just a loop of a very simple guitar line. This left a world of possibilities in terms of layering. We threw everything at that song. There are two drum kits at one point. James and I played a trash can. We recorded the claps in various places in the hallways of the studio we were working in. Each song had it's own process but that one in particular stands out for me.

Take us behind the creation of your live shows and the energy surrounding it, any memorable ones that come to mind?

We've been together for 11 years now so playing with these guys is more a reflex than anything else. We're at the point where we're really comfortable with the material so we can be relaxed in terms of remembering how the songs go so we are able to pour more energy in actually playing them. Our aim is to just be a really tight rock band. We normally don't add a bunch of bells and whistles sound wise. We really just try to get the two guitars, bass, drums and vocals to drive the songs in their purest form.

What do you guys like to do for fun in your spare time when not making music?

Making music is the fun thing so I just work a full time job....

What's coming up next for you guys this year, any upcoming shows you'd like to plug?

We'll be debuting the video for "Oh, This Devilish Place" really soon, so we're excited about that. We also have a gig at the Middle East Upstairs on July 15th with Trespasser and Raw Blow.

Lastly, how has being in this band shaped or enrich your life up until this point?

Playing in The Shills has helped me grow as a musician, performer, and writer. We try to be as democratic as possible when making decisions in the band, from writing songs to booking gigs. That dynamic has allowed me to push the boundaries of my creativity and has made me a much better player.

 

Thanks once again to Dave for being so gracious in his time for this interview! You definitely get a sense of where the band draws their inspiration from, and you have a definite appreciation as well for all the hard work and dedication that they inject into their craft that makes their music definitely worth listening to. Take a listen to "Keep Your Hands Busy. Vol. 2" on CdBaby right over here, and make sure you 'Like' the band on Facebook right over here and visit their official homepage at this spot here.

 

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