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Music

Talking vintage inspiration, flaming passion and loving Florida with Shannon and the Clams

A Q&A with the Hardly Art band’s frontwoman, Shannon Shaw

Photo: Photo by Kaliisa Conlon, License: N/A

Photo by Kaliisa Conlon


SHANNON AND THE CLAMS with the Delusionaires, Gino and the Goons, Hungry Gayze

\8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15 | Will’s Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave. | willspub.org | $10-$12

Oakland-based trio Shannon and the Clams separates itself from the current garage-rock crush by filling the role of that brightly costumed, erratically eccentric and shockingly creative friend you envy and evade in equal measure. The versatile tunes Shannon Shaw, Cody Blanchard and Ian Amberson have released since 2009 bounce between gritty R&B, disarming doo-wop and druggy psych-pop, with flashes of classic country and punkabilly. Since Shaw is a powerhouse personality both onstage and off – just check her and Blanchard’s cartoonish visual flair, twin sibling-like songwriting chemistry and riotous, self-deprecating rock & roll spirit – we decided to pick her brain.

Orlando Weekly: You just toured with Seth Bogart of Hunx and His Punx in support of the new album you co-wrote, Street Punk. How do you balance your own songwriting with collaborations?
Shannon Shaw: It’s a nice challenge. We wrote Street Punk by sitting together and hammering out some rough demos that started off as a joke [about] capturing a few silly songs we made up. But once we started filling them out, we realized how much we truly loved them. By the way, Keith Morris [of Black Flag, Circle Jerks and OFF!] bought our record!

Is writing for Hunx different from writing with Blanchard for the Clams?
Cody and I jam more and also hem and haw over details and finishing touches. We’re around each other constantly and have more of a brother-sister relationship, so our writing is more raw, emotional and bratty – like with your siblings, you can act as nuts as you need. With Seth, it’s more of a party. Both experiences are fun, cathartic and important to me. 

So much of Shannon and the Clams’ music feels like a throwback. Do you ever consciously channel old inspiration into new material?
Honestly, doing a Halloween cover set every year like we just did with the music of [Peruvian punk pioneers] Los Saicos is very inspiring. Oftentimes, I’ll sit down with a song I’m obsessed with and try to figure out what elements make it so haunting to me – and then incorporate some of those flavors, ideas or methods into something new.

What’s your favorite piece of vintage fashion you currently own?
Some bright-red suspenders and a California Highway Patrol shirt, which makes me a walking contradiction. I love uniforms – especially when they don’t make much sense. Like in Mad Max when people repurpose things from the old world. If it was easier to wear, you better believe I’d have a skillet as a hat.

You’ve been on the road nonstop since May. Does the touring life ever get old?
I need to stop exhausting myself, but I love the road and I love to create. I never want to burn myself out – instead, I hope I can find a way to balance [playing music] with other creative outlets and give maximum effort and fiery, flaming passion to everything. 

You and the Clams visit Florida often. What is it about our state that you love?
We’ve become serious Florida-philes! It’s probably the punkest state because of [St. Augustine promoter] Nick Commoditie, [Gainesville-area musician] Waylon Thornton, the [Orlando-based] Floridas Dying gang — and Marilyn Manson.

Related:
Album review: Shannon and the Clams' Dreams in the Rat House

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