Shook Twins: A good egg, slightly cracked

By Lindsay Hilton

The last time you might have seen super twins Laurie and Katelyn Shook on stage, it wasn’t with their eponymous group, Shook Twins. They were actually playing a more supporting role for the group Morning Ritual, headed by Ben Darwish, in December last year at the Green Frog. When they aren’t working on new music for their own band, they perform as part of a collaborative effort with Darwish. But backstage isn’t really their thing. And after being mesmerized by their celestial sounds and otherworldly presence, one quickly realizes that these talented sisters are not used to playing in the shadows.
Born in Sandpoint, Idaho, their musical career was nurtured as children by their father singing to them. Their own careers sprouted while performing in their fifth grade choir, and they continued to sing steadily throughout the years. They didn’t actually learn how to play musical instruments until they were 18, but now each shows mastery over a wide array, including the banjo, upright bass, ukulele, glockenspiel, and djembe, to name a few. Over the years they have played with Mason Jennings, The Head and the Heart, Elephant Revival, and the Lumineers.
Forming in 2004, the Shook Twins moved from Idaho shortly thereafter to Portland, Oregon. Their new album, What We Do, will be released April 8 on Grammy-nominated producer Ryan Hadlock’s label, Bear Creek Studio (The Lumineers, Metric). The recording features an eclectic mix of folk, country, and electronic elements, mixed in with a bit of folklore, fairy tale, and adventure.
The Shook Twins can easily be compared to the likes of Cowboy Junkies or the Indigo Girls but their music goes beyond those influences. They have a new, complex layer with the use of electronics that gives their music an edgy, chimeral quality not often heard in other folk music. The duo cite Bjork, Portland-based trip hop DJ Emancipator, and British DJ Bonobo among their electronic influences. To fold in this element, they focus on a lot of layering without the synth.
“We always want to stay true to the performance and have it stay live right in front of you,” Katelyn said.
Both Laurie and Katelyn write most of the band’s songs, and said there are discernible benefits to working together. Being family – and twins – the sisters can be very blunt in their creative and feedback processes; they don’t have to worry about offending or angering each other. “There’s an advantage of working with someone you are really close with,” Katelyn noted. “You don’t have to do this polite dance. We can just be really honest with each other.”
While the benefits of working together result in intuition and some mindreading, the song writing process for the Shooks is deliberate and slow, and their new album was no exception. Katelyn acknowledged there are themes running throughout the album in many of the songs, but is quick to point out that What We Do “doesn’t necessarily have an intentional cohesiveness found with many albums. Each song stands well on its own.”
The band consists of four main members – Katelyn and Laurie, with Kyle Volkman and Niko Daoussis – as well as two additional members, Anna Tivel and Russ Kleiner. They use a whole heap of instruments to create their cornucopia of sound. In any given track one can hear guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, glockenspiel, telephone microphone, djembe, ocarina flute, upright bass, drum kit, and tambourine… not to mention the Golden Egg, which deserves a feature article in its own right. (This large egg has been passed on to a number of people, all strangers, whose signatures mark its exterior.) In keeping with the ethereal quality of their music, Laurie came across the golden egg in a rather divine way, like something out of a fairy tale, and it has been touring with them ever since. Laurie made some modifications to the egg, so in addition to being a theme and source of inspiration during their performances, it also produces music.
Shook Twins mainly tour all throughout the Pacific Northwest but have played a few festivals in the Midwest and hope to expand their live performances more eastward. In addition to slated festivals on the spring and summer calendar, they just recently filmed a new video for “So Cold,” an R&B collaboration with Morning Ritual.
The first set of the band’s April 24 show at Wild Buffalo will feature songs straight from What We Do, and the second set will be more improvised, playing a hodgepodge of songs from older albums, including Window and You Can Have the Rest. Daoussis and Tivel will also share the spotlight during the second act, each performing a few songs from their respective bands, Cyber Camel and Anna and the Underbelly. And of course, fans can expect to see the Golden Egg—reason enough to check it out.
For more about the band, see Catch their live show April 24 at the Wild Buffalo.