Monday, April 6, 2015

Shawn James & The Shapeshifters Interview

1.For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the band?
We’re a 5 piece rowdy, southern “Rock & Roar” band featuring banjo & violin outta Fayetteville Arkansas that began as a folk band and has transformed into what we are now.

2.You have a new album coming out,how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording?
The new album, "The Gospel According to Shawn James and the Shapeshifters” is the hardest hitting record yet. For lack of any term whatsoever, the record could be described simply as “rock and roar”. At times, it evokes both Son House and SunO)))), with haunting fiddle and plucking banjo amidst swampy, fuzz driven slide guitars. Some parts are like a fog rising from a cave, some crashing like a thunderstorm.  We’ve all been in heavier bands growing up and wanted to fuse aspects of that with american rock and blues music.

3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the music?

A majority of the lyrical content from the Gospel explores areas of spiritual and religious belief from the perspective of someone who used to be apart of that lifestyle but no longer is. Some songs like Back Down & The Sandbox are about war and the devastating affects it can have. Lilith is based on a very old myth from the Middle East. One of my favorites, Lost, is about how our banjo player got lost in the woods one time and how I had to save him.

4.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'The Shapeshifters’?
I started as a solo performer playing acoustic music. Over time, I added more musicians to the mix but we never adhere’d to one style. We bounced from melancholy acoustic stuff to rowdy southern folk rock and everything in between. I’ve always been into old myths and legends as well. The name Shapeshifters not only describes how we don’t stick to just one genre, but also ties into a trilogy album we released called “The Shapeshifter Trilogy” which was based on native american folklore.

5.What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and also how would you describe your stage performance?
That’s a tough one. I’d have to say when we play here at home in Fayetteville, The Smoke & Barrel Tavern has hosted some of our favorite shows. It always packs out and everyone always gets rowdy and has a damn good time. Touring Europe is definitely another one of my favorites not only because we get to travel to places we’ve never been but we get to interact with different cultures and see how they relate to our music. Our live shows are intensely passionate, rowdy good fun and now heavier than ever before. It’s a purging of sorts for us.

6.Do you have any touring or show plans for the new album?

We’ll be touring for the rest of the year across the US, Europe and hopefully more. Our next tour is from April 9- May 2. We’re heading out to the Northwest area of the US and back for our first run this year. We’ll be sure to cover the rest of the US in months to come.

7.Currently you are unsigned, are you looking for a label or have received any interest?
We are unsigned still. I wouldn’t say that we’re looking for a label. We’ve been DIY and made everything happen on our own so far. We’d like to keep going and see how far we can take it. That being said, if we found a label that understood us, and made us feel like we were part of a family, then we would definitely consider signing on. Our end goal isn’t about getting signed. The goal is to continuously do what we love, grow as much as we can and have the freedom to choose what musical path we feel that we belong on.

8.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of metal and rock?
It’s been incredible but one thing we consistently heard was that folks wanted more of the rock and metal stuff, especially live. Our album & shows before now have blended elements of Metal and rock, but with a main element of folk and singer/songwriter music. This year our focus is on the heavier side of things.

9.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?

 There’s no telling really but I gotta say that this is the most excited we’ve been about an album and the live shows it’ll produce. I can see us adding to and growing this “Rock & Roar” style for a long while.

10.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

I’m all over the map with musical tastes and influences. I grew up classically trained in opera, classical orchestra and choir so i definitely have an appreciation of that world and the use of movements in music. I also grew up attending gospel churches in Chicago so I have that bluesy, soulful musical upbringing as well. Artists that have had huge influences on me include Son House, Muddy Waters, Zao, Otis Redding, Murder by Death, Earth, Tom Waits and many more. I’ve been listening to a lot of Witchcraft, Graveyard, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Wardruna, Russian Circles, Truckfighters and Father John Misty lately. I'm always cycling around different genre’s though.

11.Does Occultism play any role in your music?

Yes and no. I love all sorts of Nordic, Germanic, Egyptian, Native American and other cultures myths and legends. I wouldn’t say that we truly believe them on a spiritual level, but I definitely draw a lot of life lessons and wisdom from all the different kinds of stories and beliefs of other cultures.

12.What are some of your non musical interests?

Stuff like woodworking, tattoos, the outdoors, mythology, man shit like guns & knives, and of course smokin that good good.

13.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?

Carpe Diem
New song from The Gospel
Music Video for Hunger from The Bear:

-Shawn James

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