After meeting in the Bay Area a decade ago, Shannon Shaw and Cody Blanchard began brewing up the Doo-Wop meets punk sound of Shannon & the Clams. Their love of pulpy horror and sci-fi books, John Waters movies and teenage torch songs of the ’60s folds into a musical persona that is visually and sonically rich. The band recently teamed with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys who produced their fifth album, Onion. Shannon tells of growing up Mormon in rural California and finding an escape in music.
Shannon Shaw: Well we lived on kind of like a hobby farm. We had horses and a ton of chickens and geese and ducks. As for music, we listened to a ton of oldies and ‘80s country music, and then I had an older brother who is 13 years older than me, and he listened to a lot of Slayer and Metallica and things like that. So I think that they’re all pretty good juxtaposition with farm country life and being Mormon. I think a big part of getting into more alternative music growing up was, you know, some kind of resistance. We also were pretty controlled by our parents and not allowed to listen to anything inappropriate.
Nick Spitzer: Cody, tell me about your growing up.
Cody Blanchard: I grew up in Portland actually, I just moved back there a couple months ago. But yeah I just grew up on a little ranch house, kind of running around in the woods.
NS: When did you meet? Where did you meet?
CB: So me and Shannon met at art school in Oakland in 2008, 2007.
SS: I don’t think you even noticed me or thought about me.
CB: I didn’t actually notice you, no I didn’t.
SS: I hated Cody.
NS: Perfect reason to form a band.
CB: Yeah. But then eventually, we were in that class for a whole semester, and then we were like, “Oh, she’s making cool stuff.”
SS: I instantly looked at him totally differently when I saw his art, which is interesting.
CB: Yeah me too actually.
NS: Listening to so many of the songs and the mood you create and just the titles that draw you in, I mean “Sleep Talk,” “Gone by Dawn,” “Surrounded by Ghosts,” there’s so much night spirit activity here. Are you moved by spirits and the nocturnal life?
SS: Do you know what “Old Hag Syndrome” is? Or sleep paralysis?
SS: I have had that since I was a kid, and when Shannon and the Clams began, that was like at the height of it. Every single night, I would have it and just feel insane all day the next day from not sleeping comfortably and stuff, and it was making me paranoid in the daytime. So I definitely just felt kind of haunted, and it was also making me reflect on ghost experiences from my childhood.
NS: What goes on in San Francisco and what do you guys do on Halloween?
SS: There’s a tradition of doing a Halloween cover set, so you would be a totally different band for Halloween, so we’ve done Alice Cooper, we’ve done Devo, the Misfits, we did Los Saicos, Peruvian punk from the ‘60s.
CB: We’re just going to probably play sort of a-
SS: Spooky set!
CB: Half a regular set and then throw a bunch of cover songs in.
NS: So what would be the cover songs in a spooky set?
SS: “Li’l Red Riding Hood.”
CB: “I Put a Spell on You,” “White Rabbit.”
SS: Oh yeah by Jefferson Airplane.
CB: That Jefferson Airplane song.
NS: You guys sound like you have such a good time doing these things, I’d like to be an honorary Clam.
SS: Yeah, you are! You actually are.
NS: You heard it folks.
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