Sisters shaking up the folk scene
February 3, 2012
Guitarist and mandolin player Katelyn Shook, who along with her banjo-slinging sister Laurie, are known as the up-and-coming folk duo The Shook Twins, said although they started dabbling in music while singing in a church choir, their listening habits were not what was expected for the acoustic-music playing siblings.
"Unfortunately, my parents didn’t raise us on the Beatles and good stuff like that," Shook said during a phone call from Portland, Ore. "We were listening to Celine Dion and other weird stuff that my parents liked, which was really funny."
In high school, the twins turned to the new-folk movement, which includes Ani DiFranco and Andrew Bird.
"We liked the sound of that style and started writing our own songs," Shook said. "We started playing our own instruments when we were 18."
The Shook Twins will bring their songs and love of folk to the Spur Bar & Grill on Thursday, Feb. 9.
The two will be accompanied by stand-up bassist Kyle Volkman, whom they met while living in Sandpoint, Idaho.
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"Kyle and a cellist were playing some open mic nights there and we started hearing a buzz about them," Shook said. "So, we finally made a date to see them and they started playing with us regularly.
"We all lived together at our parents’ house, like a hippie commune, which was really kind of fun, and we would play music and tour," she said.
Shook doesn’t remember exactly when the four decided to pursue music as a profession, but said it was more practical than finding a job after graduating college.
"Laurie and I both had gone to college to study radio and other digital media production and knew we were never going to use the degree, so we started playing gigs every weekend and started making money," she said. "Soon, we were going places and people began to recognize us, so we decided to make it our career."
With each passing year, The Shook Twins gained more success and recognition, and found if they kept a low profile, they could still have fun.
"To this day, we’re taking the journey a little bit at a time to not put any pressure on ourselves, and it’s worked out," Shook said. "We just have fun with it and don’t try to stress ourselves out or make it something that has to be something super successful, because we’re paying the bills."
Even when Volkman left the group and moved to Minnesota, things worked out when he eventually reconnected with the sisters after they relocated to Portland.
"He began playing with us again, because he loved us," Shook said with a laugh.
These days, The Shook Twins are focusing on the next step, which is to reach more people with music.
"As far as getting our music out nationwide, we have some work to do there, but I think we’re doing what we can," Shook said. "Plus, it’s so much easier nowadays to get heard thanks to the Internet."
The live show is where the musicians make the biggest impression.
"Our songs are half personal experiences and half random, weird stuff, but we’re pretty open with our lives," Shook explained. "On stage, we talk a lot and, I know this isn’t very professional, but we don’t take ourselves very seriously in a good way. We like to be playful on stage, so we don’t have a problem sharing ourselves through our music and our live shows at all."
On the business side of their lives, The Shook Twins have taken steps that they hope will help them attract the ears of an independent record label.
"We hired a publicist this year and she’s doing a radio campaign and sending out our CD to get our sound out there more," Shook said. "We just got a manager and booking agent and we’re starting to get our name out in Portland and the surrounding areas."
Regardless if any label representatives like what they hear, the Shooks have connected with a core group of fans that they have cultivated over the past five years.
"After every show, we have people tell us how much our music has helped them," Shook said. "We also get a lot of emails from people who used our music to get through some hard times. I finally feel like people are listening. It’s just the best.
"That’s why we do what we do," she said. "It’s so cool and fun to see crowds starting to respond more to our stuff, so we’re happy and successful as far as we’re concerned."
The Shook Twins will play the Spur Bar and Grill on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. For more information, visit http://www.thespurbarandgrill.com