Interview by Dillon Geshel
Boneshaker is a newish hardcore punk band from Mid-Michigan that just put out a killer twenty song EP. I sent along some interview questions to the dudes and what followed you can read here. Enjoy.
Sam: Ricky and I had been talking about doing a band together for a while, especially while he was overseas. When he came back he banged out a bunch of songs and I thought they ruled so we started looking for some partners in crime.
Shawn: I found these guys like how most people find things these days: Craigslist.
The self-titled 20 track EP features a wide array of voices. Covering topics from positivity and sobriety to reflections on a thin blue line in law enforcement, these songs are really on point with progressive, forward thinking. On a vocal level, it also sounds like there’s a lot of diversity here. Did you guys have people do guest vocals for some tracks? What fueled the demanding lyrical presence in these songs?
Shawn: The only other vocals on the record besides mine are Sam’s in two songs, “Success,” and “Impaired.” I’m not sure if I intend to have “different voices” but everything that comes out of my vocal chords is just a reaction to the music I’m singing over. I feel that for the diversity of our songs, one style of vocal probably wouldn’t fit, so I adjust what I’m doing accordingly to match the mood. It might have something to do with the fact that some doctor person diagnosed me with dissociative identity disorder during my adolescent years, but there’s a possibility that some personalities unbeknownst to me are speaking through me. Who knows? As far as lyrical content, Ricky and I have written about 95% of the lyrics independently from each other. He’ll write for one song entirely, and I’ll write for another. Sometimes we’ll clash with the content, phrasings, and whatnot. But for the most part we see eye to eye on a lot of social issues so our lyrics tend to follow a distinguishable pattern. I guess the answer for what fuels the fire of our lyrical content can be the same for us as for most punk bands. There’s a lot shady business going on in the world that jeopardizes the future of humanity, and its the duty of any sort of counter culture to say something about it.
Ricky: Totally. One of the reasons Shawn is awesome is because he’s so flexible in his approach to each song and really tries to carve out a vocal sound that appropriately corresponds to what the music is doing. In other words, he’s a good listener. Ladies, take note.
A number of these songs clock in at under a minute, and the rest aren’t much longer. I love what you guys make of such a small space — all the songs are still full with transitions that range from super fast sections to near breakdowns reminiscent of late 80’s hardcore. Could you talk a little about the songwriting process for you guys? Were their certain sounds and/or bands you wanted to emulate for this record?
Shawn: I never really try to emulate any other artists. If I write or do something musically that sounds like something else, it might be something subliminal like I heard a progression before, and I rewrite it again. As individuals we all have our many influences which are pretty much all over the map. Even though Ricky is the primary songwriter and speaks for most of the direction of the band, I think the total package is a direct result of all of our said influences. Ricky brought the clay and the rest of us shaped it.
Ricky: I was quite conscious of the general direction I wanted to go in when I started writing stuff for what is now Boneshaker: fast, raw, punk. The foremost consideration in my mind and the biggest challenge has been channeling the energy and urgency of bands I love without merely imitating them. I’m not sure how directly any particular influence of mine comes through, as the final form of any one song has definitely, like Shawn said, been a collective effort. And naturally there are other factors in our sound that we’re totally unconscious of, as is true of any creative process. Basically though, I try to make music which is unique but also recognizable as part of a larger tradition, and that’s the balancing act I’m always trying to pull off.
As a newish band with an awesome first release under your belt, what other aspirations do you guys have for the band? Any shows or tours planned for the summer?
Sam: Speaking for myself, I’d just like to continue to make and play music, and hopefully in the future, tour. After we recorded these songs we’ve had a member change-up so once that’s all settled down hopefully we can hit the ground running. But right now we have nothing on our calendar. I choose to look at it as though the future is wide open.
Ricky: My goals are pretty modest. I just want to keep making and playing the music that I [and hopefully others] enjoy, and do some touring at some point. Getting a hard copy of the record out would be cool too!
Shawn: In the epic words of one Dana Carvey, as Garth of course: “I like to play.”
I ask this question of a lot of bands, hopefully it’s not getting too old… What’s it been like for you guys, playing in a punk and hardcore band in mid-Michigan? I think it’s an important reflection in the realm of things, just to sort of keep a written history of our relationship with the scene.
Sam: We’ve been lucky in that right from the start, we’ve had people who were ready to put us on shows even though we had no recorded material to speak of. Which is way out of the norm these days when every band has their songs online before they play a show. It hasn’t always been perfect, but its been really fun.
Ricky: Yeah, I’ve been really excited and surprised by the positive feedback we’ve received even though we’ve only been a band for about a year. There’s so much talent in Michigan and we’ve been able to share the stage with a lot of rad bands.
Shawn: I moved to Michigan from Massachusetts about 6 months prior to joining the band. The heavy music scene back home is a very different animal. In most regards, the kids there are a lot more energetic, but on the same token, a lot more pissed and violent. I like living somewhere that has a hardcore scene where every show doesn’t end with someone going to the hospital or getting shut down by the cops. Most of the guys I’ve met here and this scene seem extremely laid back which makes me feel like I fit, especially at this age.
I’ve noticed some of you play in other bands around lower Michigan. What do you guys like most about the outlet Boneshaker presents you with?
Sam: My other band (Great Reversals) rarely comes close to approaching the breakneck speed that Boneshaker plays at. Growing up watching cartoons and jamming sugar cereal in my mouth has left me with the attention span of a small bird, so these fast songs really you know, do it for me. I’m also more in my wheelhouse with this band in terms of providing lyrics and premises.
Shawn: I have my little pop/rock solo project where I’m in charge of everything in the studio, creatively, instrumentally, and production wise. This was good for me to do something completely different. Boneshaker gave me an opportunity again to work with other people for a change. It’s good to see others perspectives in a creative setting. And Boneshaker got me out from behind the computer and back to the stage. I’ve been on somewhat of a hiatus from the playing out live aspect. But most of all I like that I’ve found good friends in my bandmates.
Ricky: I’ve been in a lot of bands but this is new ground for me too, in terms of both style and songwriting. Like Sam, I’ve never really contributed a lot lyrically to my past projects, but with Boneshaker I have. I love that I’m able to use the art we’re making as a platform to talk about things that actually matter and bring attention to some issues facing us as individuals and as a society. Hopefully people will appreciate that and connect with what we’re trying to express.