‘No band is an island’
Skip Allums (guitars, vocals, harmonica), Sam Tokheim (pedal steel, guitars), Carver Cordes (bass, vocals), Adam Burstein (drums)
What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot, if you analyse the history of The Shant’s moniker. Initially named after a tiny assortment of Scottish islands (spelt ‘Shaints’, pronounced ‘Shants’), the band’s official bio claims that the name “represents many things… first that no man is an island, and he will surely list into despair when isolated. It represents the long fabric of history, and how it can shape one’s fate. It represents both the folly and the enchantment found in the unexpected turns of life.” Guitarist Sam, meanwhile, has a simpler explanation: ‘it means shit-pants’.
Presently based in Oakland, California, the band have united across several geographical boundaries. “Sam is from Minnesota, near the South Dakota border,” they explain, “so he brings this stark, gruff-yet-sentimental Midwestern sensibility. Skip is from South Louisiana, so he's all about slow, sweet, dark & dusty overtones. Adam is from sunny LA, so his playing & demeanor are very bright, laid-back. Carver comes from the Central Coast; he’s very much influenced by all those rolling green hills and fog.”
That explains how their hometowns have influenced their mellow, slow-burning Southern rock aesthetic. But what about their musical heroes? Who ignited those all-important creative sparks? It’s a pretty impressive list they offer – “Junior Kimborough, Fats Domino, The Jayhawks, Richard Buckner, Hank Williams, & Lee Dorsey.”
While they may have taken inspirational cues from those artists, their sound has an undeniable personal touch – one which has developed over their time together. “Our songs are a lot more road-worn now, and we a little more time to get where we're going,” they muse. “We're not in as much of a hurry. Between the four of us, we've learned when to play & when not to play... depending on the song.”
This development hasn’t been entirely plain sailing (just like the development of any other band). The Shants have had both good moments and bad – the good ones include “opening for Basia Bulat, recording our new album BEAUTIFUL WAS THE NIGHT (which is available Sept. 27)”, the bad ones have included “nearly getting kicked out of an In & Out Burger for a seating dispute, playing for free at a lousy roadside BBQ stand”. Well – at least both places had a selection of food on offer …
In terms of contemporaries, they have an affinity with a number of other acts. “Locally we're big fans of Il Gato, Spidermeow, Vandella and Or The Whale,” they say. “There's a pretty strong folk/Americana community in the Bay Area, and we feel very appreciative to be included with such good songwriters.”
The BAMM Questionnaire
What would be your dream gig/venue?
Any place that serves cold beer and knows what a monitor is. We're happy playing any place where folks want to hear real American music.
What event would prove to yourself that you've "made it"?
The idealist in us probably would like to be opening for Wilco or racking up a bar tab with Lucinda Williams, but right now it's enough to have our music in folks' headphones at all - that is the most personal form of music appreciation.
Sam likes to sing Elton John songs to himself sometimes during practice. Carver can belt any old Sam Cooke or Isley Brothers number. Skip can do a mean David Bowie impression.
Drink of choice?
Carver: whatever's free
Adam: bourbon, or coffee
Skip: root beer (prefers Abita or Virgil's)
If you had to make a pretty girl/guy laugh, what's your joke?
Boudreaux dies & goes to hell. When he arrives the Devil turns the thermostat way up:
The Devil: Welcome Boudreax! How do you like the heat down here?
Boudreax: Oh its nice. Its like Bayou Teche in July!
This angered the Devil. He turned the thermostat even higher:
The Devil: How you like it NOW Boudreaux??
Boudreaux: Mighty fine. It reminds me of Bayou Lafouche.
The Devil thought for a second, then turned the thermostat way down to freezing:
The Devil: How you like it NOW Boudreaux??
Boudreaux: Alright! The Saints won the Super Bowl!
“The crew is all right on target, and they make you feel quite at ease - video shooting can be such a cold, alienating experience. The camera guys really get into the music, they try to go where you go and match the energy of the song. Damn fine work.”