Shannon and the Clams is a little weird, a little vintage and a lot groovy. This Oakland band combines elements of Buddy Holly-esque early rock ‘n’ roll, ’60s girl groups, garage punk, surf and R&B into one unforgettable mishmash. The result is reminiscent of a band that would play at your high school prom in the ’50s, but with a bite. Shannon and the Clams consists of powerhouse vocalist and bassist Shannon Shaw, guitarist Cody Blanchard and drummer Nate Mahan.
For a taste of classic Shannon and the Clams, “Rip Van Winkle” off the band’s 2013 album, Dreams in the Rat House, is the perfect introduction. The song is very retro-sounding, showcasing Shaw’s powerful, deep, raspy vocals, which she alternately delivers smoothly and with a rough edge. The song has a very vintage girl-group feel to it, especially with the backing vocals. It also has a classic, catchy pop sound, so it’ll be bouncing around in your head for days.
“I definitely grew up on oldies, and that’s sort of instilled in me those classic structures,” said Shaw in an interview with The Daily Californian. “I’m also a fan of punk and old Disney movies and fairytales, and it’s all just wound itself around me and made its way into my mind.”
A fantastic contrast to the poppy “Rip Van Winkle” is the heavier, more aggressive “Bed Rock,” also from Dreams in the Rat House. This tune showcases Shannon and the Clams’ more punk side, complete with a dark, prominent bassline driving the song and some screaming, creepy, dramatic vocals.
Shannon and the Clams always likes to keep things unexpected, unreserved and goofy. For example, the eccentric “The Cult Song,” a song off the band’s 2011 release, Sleep Talk, opens with crazy, weird chanting and the repetition of “I don’t wanna be in your cult no more” and a chorus of “ooga booga ooga booga baby.” On the other hand, we have “Ozma,” the do0-wop-y ode to Shaw’s beloved dog, who died what she called a “super tragic death” in an interview with L.A. Record.
This is a band that keeps you guessing in more ways than one. Shannon and the Clams is also known for its exciting live shows and eye-catching ensembles. If you’re lucky enough to see the band live, anticipate a wild ride, including some vibrant, carnival-inspired attire. “We’re naturally really chipper and excited,” Shaw said. “People always say it looks like we’re having tons of fun, which I think we are.”
And as it turns out, you could indeed be lucky enough to see Shannon and the Clams live this summer. The group is playing tons of shows throughout June and July, including a stop in its hometown, Oakland. See the Clams play at Burger Boogaloo, the two-day Burger Records party in Oakland’s Mosswood Park on July 4 and 5.
Once you’ve seen this staple of the Bay Area garage-rock scene live, you’ll fall in love. Simple as that. Now brace yourself for even better news: The band is coming out with a new album! On Sept. 11, Shannon and the Clams will release Gone by Dawn, a brand new collection of songs. With the variety of music this band has pumped out in the past, it’ll be interesting to see where the Clams take us next.
Shaw gave us a hint of what’s to come in our interview. “It’s not dark, but it’s kind of a devastated album,” she explained. “Cody and I both ended up going through these really sad breakups right around the same time, so that’s absolutely reflected in the work. I feel incredibly proud of it.”
Produced by a band that doesn’t stick to the ordinary, the forthcoming album will definitely be an eccentric, lovable, sepia-tinted record like no other.
Madeline Wells writes the Friday blog series on Bay Area bands. Contact her at [email protected].