By Kevin Alan Lamb
The Beatles told us it’s all we need; some of our parents told us it’s only recipe for real success in a career, and our favorite artists try to comfort us by telling it’s the only thing that can be both heaven and hell. Cynics would tell you it’s a cliche; lesser men and women would tell you it’s a weakness; while lonely folk assure it’s an illusion; yet somehow, someway, I am none of those, and I am telling you, if love does not get you out of bed in the morning, and lay upon you as the blanket bringing you comfort before you sleep, then you will not find happiness in this life or the next.
Labor Day weekend I traveled to Shoe Fest in Manteno, Illinois to join forces with the five-piece, barefoot, sleeveless, whiskey drinking, bluegrass fueled Americana Austinites who have pole-vaulted mullets into relevance. I once heard a story of a man who described Whiskey Shivers as hipsters, three weeks later that man was found dead and buried inside of a Michigan Kmart with his toes painted fuchsia. When questioned the authorities believed his toes may have been painted to ensure he be sent to a particularly strange and painful place in Hell.
For those who have had the pleasure of experiencing The Shivers it is obvious they are simultaneously fueled and possessed by their intense thrill and self-imposed expectation to give each and every fan certainty that their time, energy, and money was well spent witnessing their performance in whichever city and whatever day no matter the duration of days they’ve traveled, shows they’ve played, or unreasonable choices made.
If you drew blood from their veins it would disprove most health experts’ theory on the basic vitals required to perform, let alone be brilliant; If you bathed in their energy and sound it would inspire dance you didn’t yet possess, while ensuring this was the first festival you showered at; and if you ever allowed doubt of to tarnish your love for music and those who not just create but live it, you’re welcome in advance.
(Unidentified responses labeled Whiskey Shivers)
Sound and Silence: We’re here with Whiskey Shivers in these lovely cabins at Shoe Fest in Mateno, Illinois, and if each of you had one superpower what would it be?
Bobby: I would go, invisible.
Andrew: Really? That’s the creepy one.
Bobby: I know [laughing].
Andrew: You’d sneak in on people? That’s the creepy one!
Sound and Silence: Well, nobody would know.
Andrew: I don’t know man, I’d have to go flight.
Bobby: How high though? Can you actually fly or just levitate?
Andrew: If I can fly like four feet above the ground that would be pretty awesome.
Bobby: Ok, that would be rad yeah.
Andrew: Travel the highway, going about 65 MPH.
Bobby: Eating bugs.
Washboard James: I’m gonna go with superspeed.
Whiskey Shivers: Nice
Bobby: Ok, but how do you stop? Are you gonna fall over?
Sound and Silence: More importantly, why do you want superspeed? What’s the first thing you’re going to do?
Washboard James: Go everywhere… see everything that I want to see.
Whiskey Shivers: But do you get superspeed and still have normal reflexes?
Sound and Silence: You’re just severely disabled, all the time.
Washboard James: I’d shower really quick.
Whiskey Shivers: You’d like rip your skin off.
Sound and Silence: I feel like it’s fair to consider that if someone had a superpower they’d have other random super things in the body to accommodate…
Whiskey Shivers: One would hope!
Banjo James: I’d like to hold my breath forever and withhold deep water pressure…
Whiskey Shivers: You get one man!
Sound and Silence: Focus man!
Whiskey Shivers: You want gills?
Banjo James: I’ll take gills, because you could just chill under water.
Sound and Silence: Like Kevin Costner.
Sound and Silence: Waterworld.
Banjo James: Exactly!
Washboard James: Hell yeah.
Banjo James: I’d like to be able to hold my breath forever, or I guess breathe water is similar.
Whiskey Shivers: This is a good question for Horti, Horti! Hey, one superpower…
Sound and Silence: Yeah you got one fuckin’ superpower, don’t try to say two.
Whiskey Shivers: And introduce yourself too, every question.
Horti: This is Horti, and…If I had one superpower, I think it would be gravity control.
Sound and Silence: What would you do with your gravity control?
Horti: I would probably… I could do… I would do what I would do…
Sound and Silence: That’s fair, I’m not looking for a five-year-plan. I’m just saying what interests you about controlling gravity?
Horti: What would I do while controlling gravity? Oh jees. Well I mean if you controlled gravity far enough you could even zap light out of the situation, you could just totally just fuck entire regions of space…
Whiskey Shivers: It’s pretty much omnipotence…
Horti: I mean if someone comes at you with fire you can gravity your way out of any sort of energy situation.
Sound and Silence: If you guys could spend one month on a boat with another band, recording a collaboration album, who would it be?
Whiskey Shivers: Alive or dead? I mean it changes the whole thing ya know?
Sound and Silence: Either, I don’t want to limit you, on a boat.
Banjo James: St. Vincent.
Whiskey Shivers: Ooooooo.
Sound and Silence: And I like the alive thing only because it plant seeds of possibility and potential. I’m not against the dead thing, but one of my favorite things about meeting beautiful, talented people like yourself is, I’m a good conduit that knows this person like Nahko was talking about The Avett Brothers who are tattooed on my wrists and then I interviewed The Avett Brothers and I can tell them that Nahko wants to go on a horseback tour with them in the LA Valley. Being a conduit… once you put something into the world it exists.
Whiskey Shivers: Awesome! [laughing]
Sound and Silence: But all of you answer whether alive or dead.
Bobby: I’d go with Jack Johnson.
Sound and Silence: I love you fuck yeah.
Sound and Silence: I hate when people hate on Jack Johnson, he’s the man.
Bobby: He’s the man, totally. I want that life.
Sound and Silence: He’s figured out a way to not make music all the time, surf…He has everything.
Bobby: It would be so much fun, whether we wrote a song or not [laughing].
Horti: I would go with Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Whiskey Shivers: Just Flea?
Horti: Just Flea.
Horti: Fuck Kiedis (Anthony Kiedis)!
Banjo James: Cause when you meet Anthony Kiedis, Horti says “Fuck you” but Flea is cool.
Horti: No, Kiedis is awesome but Flea just seems like he’d be running in circles the whole time, it would be awesome.
Sound and Silence: I could see that. Every time you felt like setting up a hammock he’d be doing backflips of the ship.
Horti: Yeah, totally.
Sound and Silence: It’s what it takes.
Horti: And he’s a great father apparently, and I am lacking [laughing].
Andrew: This is Andrew, bass player from Whiskey Shivers, I’d go with Pavement.
Whiskey Shivers: Pavement, sweet.
Andrew: They would be fun to hang out with, it would be a good time with them on the boat.
Sound and Silence: I’m not familiar…
Whiskey Shivers: Pavement? A nineties post-grunge… ahh that’s so lame to say.
Andrew: I just think it would be fun.
Banjo James: I agree.
Washboard James: I’m gonna go with Thundercat. I think it would be really weird. We’d do some really weird stuff, probably.
Sound and Silence: If you could play your perfect quintessential venue, as far as what you do with music as well as your family who follows you to shows, where do you think it would be? No limitations. Where is Cloud 9 for you?
Banjo James: On a boat with St. Vincent [laughing].
Sound and Silence: Smart man!
Whiskey Shivers: That’s a really difficult question.
Sound and Silence: Because a lot people say certain festivals, or venues, but that’s a limitation because that’s only where you know people are playing, what about anywhere and fuckin’ everywhere you could play music? And it would be everyone who loved you he helped you play your best.
Bobby: Probably a medium sized house party.
Whiskey Shivers: Yes! [laughing]
Banjo James: If we could play a medium sized house party and recreate the Smashing Pumpkin’s 1979 video…
Andrew: This is Andrew, bass, Whiskey Shivers.
Sound and Silence: Shit guys, this is the wrong interview!
Whiskey Shivers: Oh my God!
Sound and Silence: I was here for an interview and I ran into you motherfuckers! Son of a bitch!
Whiskey Shivers: Oh man [laughing]/
Sound and Silence: Milk was a terrible choice.
Whiskey Shivers: You’re not Shakey Graves [laughing].
Sound and Silence: You’re not Alejando!
Whiskey Shivers: There’s a haunted hotel in Colorado that the Shining is based on, and I guess they let bands play there from time to time, I think that would be pretty cool.
Sound and Silence: Alright this is where we get fun… If you could hear one last song before you die, what would it be?
Whiskey Shivers: Oh jees oh peets. One last song before I die? These are great! This is a really good question.
Sound and Silence: This is what we do, I covered professional sports in Detroit for a while and I asked them about music, and where they’d like to travel and all the athletes hated the other journalists but me and were like ‘This guy’s big and has long hair’, the Lions nicknamed me Sunshine at my fucking second practice. Nick Fairley was the defensive tackle and he watched Remember The Titans before every game, I’m walking away after interviewing Calvin Johnson, and he’s like “Sunshine… hey Sunshine!”
Sound and Silence: The next practice I’m on the second left, players are down stretching on the field and the entire team is yelling it. I’m the youngest guy out there, I’ve got long hair, tattooes, I write for a monthly that nobody’s fucking heard of but in that moment I was like, “I’m supposed to be here, I am good at this and fuck off. For everything I was worried about, all these people see me and were like ‘He’s better at this than we are.” Sports was fun but music is so much better because your team doesn’t lose, and music saves people’s lives, and that’s why This is a Good Sign is everywhere in the world, we made it about people and music and it’s been spreading and everyone’s a part of it and it’s helping people feel better, and that’s it, that’s enough.
Whiskey Shivers: I feel like you just said Grace dude, God Damnit!
[Collective cheer and laughter]
Sound and Silence: I fucking love you guys [laughing]. And I knew we had this love from the first time I saw you and in these few years it’s evolved and now we have a chance to get to know each other, and I feel like you guys probably don’t have a lot of time or read other people’s interviews, but if you get a chance, Wild Child and I had a hilarious interview where we just talked about everything and it was cool, I was interviewing them in a series of interviews I did, and I had listened to their music…. Most of the time I’m very purposeful with my interviews but sometimes it’s just me working hard, and later I was like ‘I fucking love these guys, and I’ve listened to these guys. Now back to it!
Horti: If I had one song to listen to before I died, it would be George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue, the 26 minute version.
Sound and Silence: Just to prolong his death! [laughing] He’s getting his money’s worth it’s smart.
Horti: I mean your life is going to flash before your eyes, you know how long you’re going to live so you might as well ride it out with this epic landscape of a song, it’s like holy shit! Then third grade, I’ve got a little bit of time to think about that, that was pretty cool.
Whiskey Shivers: Mine’s gonna be like Mozart’s Requiem…
Whiskey Shivers: Jesus.
Sound and Silence: You have something? Don’t back down just because someone revealed something else. That would be a cop out.
Whiskey Shivers: I was thinking like Allman Brothers Blue Sky [laughing].
Banjo James: It would probably be Ramblin Man by The Allman Brothers. Just ‘cause I like, what I thought was Duane Allman’s altro but it was sticky bets. But I remember listening to that as a little kid and I always thought it was cool.
Washboard James: I can’t remember the name of the song…[laughing] like this song is super important to me.
Whiskey Shivers: Washboard James!
Washboard James: It’s the last song on the OK Computer, Radiohead album…what was it? It was called Slow Down or something (The Tourist), that’s a good one.
Whiskey Shivers: Something about an alien right?
Washboard James: Yeah.
[Ominous Radiohead singing]
Sound and Silence: You enjoy life a lot more assuming there’s aliens right?
Whiskey Shivers: Of course! You have to. Ancient aliens.
Sound and Silence: I had to get that out of the way.
Andrew: I have to go with the title track to Disintegration by The Cure. It’s just beautiful.
Bobby: It might sound like a cop out but I just wouldn’t want any song to be played.
Bobby: I would absolutely not want.
Whiskey Shivers: You should have picked the National Anthem. God damnit he was a patriot!
Bobby: [Laughing] No, I just think I’d be pissed off by whatever, as soon as something came on I’d be like “No I wanted this one instead.”
Bobby: I’d be like ‘This is an awful pick!’ George Thorogood!? Nooooooo! [laughing] That’s my legacy!?
Sound and Silence: Can one of you say something wonderful about one other of you that speaks volumes to the family you’ve created by what you do by pursuing your love and your passion?
Banjo James: Yes, but only one of us. It has to be James. It has to be the new guy.
Washboard James: Wow, I think it’s just great what we’ve created with this group, we all push each other so hard and we push each other to our limits but we always catch each other and it always makes us try that much harder to strive to be good in what we do.
Whiskey Shivers: Good speech now do it again but better!
Sound and Silence: Do you remember the first show, set, or practice that you belonged?
Washboard James: Yeah! Really the first show I played with them in Greenville, right outside of Dallas, I remember right before the show, we’re a barefoot band and I kind of took it for granted at first, and right before we went on stage everybody looked at me and said, “You’re gonna take your shoes off right?” And I was like haha yeah that’s great, yeah that’s funny…
Washboard James: And nobody laughed. So I was like “Oh okay they’re serious about this and the whole night, I came in on short notice and I tried to do my homework and stuff, but everybody was there to be real supportive and make the show happen, and nobody even really knew I was the new guy, I didn’t even feel like the new guy because it was just a welcoming situation and we all just started playing music.
Banjo James: I can say I knew James belonged the first time he practiced with us and he was doing the dance, shaking a tambourine hitting the 808 and the snare with your left hand, [sound effects] it’s like this cool dance that he does and I knew then. That was the very first practice in Horti’s garage and he had the 808 hooked up to a practice amp or something.
Sound and Silence: Have you guys played any shows in the last six months or year where at least of your families was there and it felt like a family show?
Bobby: Frequently, rather frequently.
Washboard James: A lot of the Austin shows. Kentucky, Horti’s folks were there. Anytime we go to New York, Bob’s mom is there.
Bobby: I think one of the best things of having this as a career is the opportunity to see friends and family that we probably wouldn’t be able to see. Like being able to make a trip to Tuscan, or New York, is a big trip, and you have to keep the community alive, keep your friends and family close.
Banjo James: Otherwise it would be like “I don’t have the budget to fly to fucking Boise and see my grandma who’s in an old folks home, but because we tour I’ll probably see her sometime which is pretty gnarly.
Sound and Silence: If you could have any actor or actress do a cameo and dance on stage during a set with you, who would it be?
Whiskey Shivers: Taylor Swift!! [pronounced with laughter]
Washboard James: She’s not an actor.
Sound and Silence: Any human…
Washboard James: I think Michael Cera doing interpretative dance would be pretty cool.
Banjo James: Christopher Walken also doing interpretative dance would be awesome!
Horti: Could it be that we all get one person!?
Sound and Silence: Don’t threaten me with a good time.
Horti: I would pick Jackie Chan.
Sound and Silence: He would give you a lot of street credit all around.
Whiskey Shivers: Who’s the guy from Evil Dead? Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness!
Bobby: Pee Wee Herman.
[Collective and ecstatic yeahhh!]
Banjo James: Dude I met him one time, creepy story.
Sound and Silence: If you could write the theme song to any animated show, what would it be?
Whiskey Shivers: Oh gosh!
Bobby: Adventure time!
Andrew: Adventure Time! This is Andrew, not Bobby, Adventure time.
Banjo James I thought everyone was going to say The Simpsons. This is Banjo James, The Simpsons! Although Allison Cross already did a version of it.
Sound and Silence: Doesn’t mean you can’t do a better one!
Banjo James: That’s right Allison Cross! [laughing]
Whiskey Shivers: We can play that one. James!?
Washboard James: I’ve been addicted to Rick and Morty recently, it’s all I can think about it.
Horti: We already do the theme song from Game Of Thrones pretty good…
Whiskey Shivers: Dink litch Peter, dink litch Peter, dink litch Peter, dink litch peter… [singing and laughing at increasing pace].
Horti: If we can make that happen it would be pretty fun.
Sound and Silence: You guys make and play music for a living, what’s most different than you thought it would be?
Andrew: Green rooms are really weird. I always thought they were going to be this crazy party, but it’s just like sad, tired dudes, talking to their girlfriends, trying to charge their phone, on Facetime [laughing], apologizing for being a jerk.
Banjo James: Probably the end of the show. I remember as a kid, going to shows getting annoyed, “I just want to meet the band, I’ve been waiting out here and I just want to say hi and get them to sign this, what jerks! I can’t believe they’re not going to come out,” not knowing they’re just completely exhausted [laughing] and have to load up all your shit in the van.
Sound and Silence: A lot of people don’t realize that man.
Horti: And we’ve all got drinking problems [laughing].
Whiskey Shivers: Horti’s got the drinking problem!
Sound and Silence: Opportunities! Some people might just say it’s a great PR scheme, helps people love you.
Whiskey Shivers: Shhhhots!
Horti: This is Horti, shhhots!
Sound and Silence: Does it ever get hard that your debauchery which can make you more popular and more connected to might also be simultaneously contributing to the reckoning of your soul?
Horti: Yeah but that’s been the same, nothing has really changed.
Sound and Silence: And I wouldn’t ask you a question that I wouldn’t ask myself. I know there’s things that enable me or give me more energy to talk to more people, but it’s not always good to give your energy away.
Banjo James: I can say that about touring, that’s what I thought was different. Our first couple tours we were like “Woooo! Let’s party!” And now we’re like, “Uugghhh, maybe not, it’s Tuesday.” [laughing] But as far as doing that for fucking month long tour, which we’ve done before…
Whiskey Shivers: Over and over and over.
Banjo James: Over and over and over. That’s a little bit different, learning to be like “Ohh I also have to live on the road and kind of make sure my body is okay so I can play and sing, and sleep is an important thing. I think that and no matter what show you play, it’s never glamorous, you would think… you see a band play and you’re like “Damn, that’s tight”, but then you go backstage and like Andrew said it’s the saddest fucking thing, everyone’s all tired and…
Whiskey Shivers: Not always…
Banjo James: Not always, but…
Bobby: Every single time [monster truck rally voice].
Sound and Silence: It’s already draining of your energy because there are a lot of moving parts, it’s exhausting, and doing what you love takes an extraordinary toll, you get a ton out of it but you’re also like, “Fucking a man every night I’m giving away a part of me.”
Washboard James: Yeah, I think that’s a good sentiment, people don’t realize how, it’s a lot of fun we’re… to used the term blessed to do what we do, but it’s so taxing and we have to really treat it like a job to do well at it, we do it all the time so it can become old habit for us but it’s somebody’s special event everyday and it’s good for us to provide that, we need to show up and kick ass for these people, we want to kick ass but they want us to kick ass like… people don’t have a lot of time to do anything, some people save up for that stuff.
Sound and Silence: People have to be pretty intention with their time, money, energy to see you perform, and you give it back. And that’s, outside of you being very talented, that’s why I love you, and that’s why… I think that’s the new phase and new age of things growing…
Washboard James: You gotta do it because you love it or you’re not going to make any money.
Sound and Silence: Yeah, yeah yeah! And you guys love it, and on the flip side, and this will be the last one and I’ll let you guys be. I wouldn’t have kept talking but you guys seemed to be digging it, what’s the best thing about you guys doing what you love to do? Kind of specifically, I don’t want to hear the answer that you have the opportunity to do what you love, but something for you, we all grew up with these ideas of what we’re gonna do with our lives, our gifts, with what you’re doing now with your lives and gifts, what is best for you?
Banjo James: I think about this a lot, I kind of remember the first time I heard music and was like, “That’s really fucking cool,” and then growing up a kind of weird kid thinking “Well you can’t identify with much,” but then maybe you find something that at least for a time-being, gives you an identity and then you’re like, “I live in this fuckin’ world.” You can spend a whole year, and I feel like I have, inside an album or a song and it means the entire fucking world to you, and if I can be, or we can be just the tiniest party of that for someone, that’s fuckin’ awesome! That’s amazing. One fuckin’ person that that shit makes a difference is everything.
Horti: To speak specifically about touring, I think my favorite thing would be… I think a perfect day would be walking into a festival, being able to get fed, you get beers, a bed to sleep in, you get to play for a bunch of people and then you get to watch awesome bands, and often times those bands are your heroes. It’s awesome to be able to see people we’ve looked up to our entire lives, right there in front of us.
Sound and Silence: Who are one or two of them?
Horti: Oh man! We got to high five Skynyrd as they were stepping off stage after their set, and then back on stage they played freebird and we were like, “You gonna play Freebird!? Cool! Of course you are, and I’m gonna give you a high five, it was awesome, that was incredible… We got to play with Sam Bush the other day, that was really awesome, it was incredible.
Sound and Silence: Where’d you guys play?
Horti: That was at Blue Ox Festival in Eau Claire Wisconsin.
Whiskey Shivers: We got to see Del Mccoury.
Horti: Mark O’Connor who is also a pretty good skateboarder apparently.
Washboard James: The opportunity to travel and see so many places, things and people, you really get a sense of, we really have a fog ahead of us, a lot of people, with the way we perceive America, for example we mostly tour in America, and getting to actually interact with people and see places in person is a completely different experience than seeing it on TV or the internet or something like that, and actually getting to talk to people in different areas it really gives you a sense of how similar we are and how different we can be. It just really gives you a real perspective on how things are as opposed to somebody else shoving it down your throat, and I really appreciate that about touring.
Bobby: I think that mine’s real similar to yours, Washboard James [laughter], I think it’s being able to interact with so many people, being able to share a moment, a really specific moment, it’s the best part of touring for me. No matter what we’ve been through, traveling all day, it’s perfect now, even if it’s not the best, it’s the best, and being able to interact and share information with people, specifically have impact on people and have people impact you, but usually you’re kind of restricted to a certain size circle of people who you get to interact with right, but we get to spread it out way across the country which just makes it even richer, and I’m not sure what that would lead to but it seems to be good.
Sound and Silence: You guys kind of strike me as fellas that kind of walk with this purposefulness and intention that I’m meeting someone or something is happening because it’s suppose to, even if that something is bad, and when you’re able to do that it really shines through your music and living, and we’re all going to go through fucking shit, we all have bad days
Bobby: Yep [empathetic laughter]
Sound and Silence: But if you’re able to know and feel like this is significant because I’m growing and learning from it, then you’ll get through it a lot quicker and when people are around you can see that this was shitty, and he went through that but it was good… I think you guys have a real special opportunity to not just live that life but communicate that through fucking song. You guys have a stage and you’ve had to do so much to get there, you’ve had to work really hard to get there, and when you guys get there you’re telling a righteous story and I fucking appreciate that about you.
Bobby: Thank you.
Sound and Silence: And I know all these people here do as well. And I love telling people’s story because it makes me a part of them, but also it brings our story together.
Bobby: Hell yeah.
Whiskey Shivers: This has been an emotional interview! [laughing]
Sound and Silence: This is how I roll [laughing].
Andrew: (Wearing awesome pins on his hat). To kind of riff on what Bobby was saying, I think that our road relationships are my favorite part of it. I really like, certain bands that I’ve respect for years that we get to see out on the road, kind of digs in on James’ thing too, there are people that I’ve respected for years, people that I didn’t know existed, that we found on weird radio shows, mid-morning or some random show that we went down the road to, or whatever, and we end up knowing those people for years.
Sound and Silence: Who are some of the more significant people you’ve met by chance, who’s now a decent part of your life?
Andrew: By chance, there’s a band out in New York called The Defibulators that stands out, we played a radio show with them in Knoxville, Tennessee, Blue Plate Special, and we got on and I was borrowing their bass amp, and I forgot to turn it on and there were only three of us, and we kind of sucked [laughter], and then they got on and they were totally, completely, 100 percent amazing, and then they were super cool to us afterwards and we’ve known them for six years now.
Just in case you were looking for one, This is a Good Sound.