Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “Swimming With Sharks” by The Shivas from the 2013 album Whiteout! on K Records.
If you read even a few write-ups of The Shivas’ full length debut, Whiteout!, you’ll notice most reviewers quickly steering the group’s sound away from “pastiche”, as if they needed to apologize for Vancouver, WA, band’s drawing so liberally from its sources, even while many of today’s most popular bands can be linked to as few as a single precursor. Still, you can’t help wonder why these then-teenagers might adopt such a specific subgenre sound that maybe their grandparents listened to, if they were cool enough. The Shivas are hardly the first to fall in love with primitive garage rock, though, and they clearly share interests with other labelmates of Burger Records, who first released Whiteout! on cassette. But it’s true that like their fellow Vancouverans (though BC rather than WA) Weed, The Shivas smartly thread other sources through the familiar fabric of their sound, creating a unique pattern, with a bit of western jangle here, a wisp of woozy psychedelia there, plus other touches of doo-wop, twee pop, pop punk, surf rock, even psychobilly as on the opening of today’s featured song.
“Swimming with Sharks” is a raucous romp kicked off by the piercing scream and thundering percussion of Kristin Leonard, followed by the propelled by the thumping rhythm of bassist Eric Shanafelt, while guitarists Jared Molyneux and Robert Mannering trade between searing buzz saws and a swaying jangle. Occasionally, Molyneux and Leonard trade swooning vocal harmonies even while ferociously tearing it up, though usually it’s Molyneux’s Alec Ounsworth-esqe nasal voice that cuts through. Maybe it’s the constant touring of the band (at least a dozen tours already by the time they appeared live on Audioasis with Sharlese), but The Shivas already posses a precision to their craft that most bands two or three times their age still lack.
Recently, The Shivas were the touring support for Portland psych pop group The Dandy Warhols. They’re currently recording a new LP for K Records at Dub Narcotic Studio, but according to their Facebook page, they’ll be “dialing in the new jams” at a house show at Portland’s Dekum Manor tonight! If you can’t wait for another chance to see them, here’s a video from their recent in-studio at KEXP: