Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hip Exclusive: Shady Groves "Waves"

Artwork by Connor Irwin
Shady Groves are preparing to take Detroit by storm! Today, they are releasing their first music video "Waves" for their upcoming album Bitzer which is also being released today! Then, they will be performing this Saturday at WhateverFest. The band sent over some of their tunes and we liked what we heard so we reached out to them to find out a little bit more about this project.

The band is unique in that three of the five members write the music, so each tune can have a different feel depending on who put it together. I also love that they take themselves seriously, but not too serious. Check out what they had to say, get the new album here, and come by WhateverFest at 4 p.m. this Saturday to see them perform live!

HID- How did the five of you meet and decide to play together?
Adam- "The three of us were in a band together called The Kodaks for a while; myself Jeff, Dylan and Mat Hofman were in that band. We put out our debut album “Night Surfing” in 2012 but then we all got pulled in different directions. After The Kodaks ended, Jeff did his project Animate Daze (which also featured Dylan) and I did Moon Lake with Mat Hofman and Ojala with Chris Jarvis. I also played guitar for James Linck for a while, that was a lot of fun. All of us kept writing our own songs and recording demos but we all had to start taking care of “adult life” too. Even when we weren’t putting out music we were all writing and when Jeff and Dylan started showing me the songs they were working on, I realized we all needed to work together. We met Jamie and Colt because they were playing music in the same area of Michigan as us, we know they are serious so we get along well. It can be hard to get people together and focus but I think we all support and respect each other."

Jeff- "I’ve known Dylan since 2nd grade. (I totally ripped his ass off trading hockey cards
back in the day. His mom even called my mom and made us do a “trade-back”.) I’ve known Adam since 7th grade. I was an obnoxious little skater kid, but we somehow became friends. So we’ve actually all played music together since high school, in some way or another. But, I started hanging out with and talking to Adam a lot more again in April or May of 2015 – and I suggested that we start another project. He said he was down and wanted to call it “Shady Groves”, and I had no qualms about the name because I thought it sounded cool. We hit up Dylan, and he wanted to be apart of it — and, bam, Shady Groves was born."

HID- Why did you name the band Shady Groves?
Adam- "I don’t know if I’ve really told anyone in the band this, but I had a kind of special out of body experience or something in a literal shady grove up north. Kind of an epiphany or moment of clarity or something, and I tied that lucidity to that shady grove. I think a name should be evocative in some sense while also being all encompassing. This project is a combination of efforts and since we all write songs and play a weird mix of instruments the name should translate the blended mystery a forest represents. This project is a platform that we can all use as a vehicle to further our musical aspirations. We’ve all wanted to make music for years, and now with Shady Groves we can do it the
right way."

Jeff- "The name actually made me think of Slim Shady at first, and I jokingly said that Eminem is going to sue us... But it turns out there are zillion things in the world named “Shady Grove” or “Shady Groves”, so finding us on Google is almost impossible, so that’s kind of the downside to the name. But yeah, I didn’t know Adam had an out of body experience in a Shady Grove until I read what he typed for this interview haha..."

Dylan- "Yeah, I’m with Jeff on this one. Had no idea the name had anything to do with leaving bodies, or witchcraft, or any of that business. Mostly I just liked how the name sounded when Adam brought it to the table… A real, literal wooden table, with fine craftsmanship; passed down through generations of other bands who used the same table to come up with their band names."

Adam- "If only we knew actual witchcraft…"

HID- Why did you title the first album Bitzer?
Jeff- "I was trying to think of an unusual, yet straightforward, album title that no band had
ever used before (or at least according to Google) – and I stumbled across the word “Bitzer” (which is apparently Australian/New Zealand slang) – and it seemed to make perfect sense because the primary definition of Bitzer is, “A contraption made from previously unrelated parts” – which is exactly what the album is.With the exception of “Waves” basically all of the songs on the album were
written/devised before Shady Groves officially became a band. But once the band started, we wanted to use our “best songs” to attempt to create an album. So in that sense, the songs were “previously unrelated” – but then they were amalgamated to form the contraption that is Shady Groves’ first album.People also use the word Bitzer to refer to a “mongrel dog” (i.e., a mutt), which also
makes sense when thinking of the album, since it contains “mixed musical genetics”..."

Adam- "We all write different styles of music and the more we write together and separately the songs and styles keep evolving and changing. Bitzer embodies the idea of our band being a collective made up of different elements."

Dylan- "I feel like most of my answers will just be agreeing with Adam and Jeff. I do remember several different album titles and Bitzer was the one that seemed to work. So we put it on the table; a real, wooden table, of course… made with American oak, carved by the finest Vikings."

HID- How many songs will be on the new album?
Adam- "Nine songs. Plus we are releasing three more songs as B-sides for a bonuspackage, so twelve songs total. These songs are the results of three different songwriters over the past two or three years."

HID- Describe the new album using a color. Explain!

Adam- "I feel like if the Milky Way were a color, that’s what Shady Groves go for. I think each song on the album has it’s own feel and therefore it’s own vibe or color. I guess I envision Bitzer like Aurora Borealis, an amalgamation of colors. Dylan, Jeff and I are the main songwriters but we each have really different personalities, tastes and styles of writing. Now that we’ve added Jamie and Colt to Shady Groves, the palate keeps expanding so to speak, so I don’t think there’s only one color that could describe our band or the album. We are all into a bunch of different genres of music, styles of playing, everything under the sun is an influence for us (and maybe everything in the dark reaches of space too) so the album is a mix... or a mutt… or a Bitzer."

Jeff- "Black. Like my non-existent soul. (Just kidding?)"

Dylan- "I would have to say a nice Royal Green… the same color that would force kings to their knees and into a fine wooden chair with a beautiful royal green cushion. The very same chair that would be placed at the very real table. A table developed from the hands of the peasants, and nourished by Aphrodite’s teet."

HID- Who came up with the concept for the “Waves” video?
Adam- "Our friend Connor Irwin has done all of our artwork and we decided to work together on a video. He kind of just filmed us hanging out in West Michigan for a long weekend. The song is about love, loss, confusion and moving forward… so we wanted to show different relationships and friendships changing and intertwining over time. Whenever we work with Connor we are always blown away with what he comes up with,he’s a multi-media artist that can churn out lots of different types of art and it’s all quality. Connor directed, filmed and edited the whole video, so we kind of gave him an idea of what we wanted but he really ran with it – AND he left in some funny shit, which
we really appreciate because nothing is more lame than a bunch of divas taking themselves too seriously."

Jeff- "Coming up with the concept for the Waves video was actually a somewhat dramaticand hilarious thing. There was supposed to be a hot lesbian kiss scene and affair between he two female actresses in the video, and then after the affair, they get back with their boyfriends... which I think was supposed to represent the “waves” in a relationship.However, since the two female actresses were actually Dylan’s and Adam’s significant others, I guess that idea was considered weird/scandalous. So the original idea was sorta executed, but made much tamer than originally envisioned. BUT, if viewers watch closely, they will notice two girls kissing each other in a dimly lit
room at some point in the video... I won’t say when. People will just have to really pay attention. But yeah, I agree that Connor deserves most of the credit for how the “Waves”video turned out."

Adam- "Obviously we didn’t want to exploit our ladies for the sake of the video. I think it comes across more genuine without all the acting and drama; we aren’t really like that in real life (I don’t think?) so I wouldn’t want to give people the wrong impression, although that can sometimes be interesting."

Dylan- "I remember we were all gathered around a table, talking of stories past. I don’t remember any of them (because of the barley we had been drinking) but I do distinctly remember the delightful chestnut aroma coming from the beautifully crafted table we were all sitting at. And this table was the real deal. Not a silly made up story table: I’m talking real wood. Hard as your grandfather’s knuckles in his prime of working down in the coal mines."

HID- Where was the video shot?
Adam- "We shot it with our friend Connor Irwin in Grand Rapids. He also filmed us in Grand Haven and in a national park on the western shores of Michigan. We rented a house via Air BnB and our little Shady Groves family hung out for a few days. It was like filming non-existent dramatic life events over a fun filled friend vacation in cold as shit December Michigan. I should thank Connor, Jessica, Josie, Ron, Joe and everyone else who was involved with the video and made it possible. My sister Elaine Smith has done our other videos so far too so we should thank her for her awesome work. We are lucky to have people who support us, because otherwise we wouldn’t get far."

Jeff- "We also went to some antique/thrift shops to get some of the shots. An abundance of nifty trinkets there."

HID- What’s the most difficult part about working with three different writers in a five piece band?
 "I don’t think it’s that difficult because we’re all good friends and have known each other for a long time. It was sort of the “agreement” going into the project that we would try to keep songwriting duties fairly equal to keep everyone’s stakes/interest in the band up. Also, Adam & Dylan are good songwriters – and all our styles complement each other’s in a weird way – so it just makes sense that we can all play/record each other’s songs and help promote the band together. But in my perspective, the most “difficult” part is having to teach everyone in the band how to play my songs... Because I write and record my own guitar and bass parts – but I play drums in the live band, so it’s like extra learning/teaching everyone has to do. But it’s not really that bad because everyone usually catches on pretty quick."

Adam- "Well, obviously everybody has an opinion and we feel everyone in this band is entitled to his own opinion being heard, so we do try and work together a lot. That being said, each songwriter also has the say on his own songs, and that’s not a problem. That just makes the most sense to us. Usually we will write the majority of a song on our own, then bring it to each other to finalize before recording it. Certain songs (like “Coyotes”) actually have all five of us on the recording but most songs aren’t like that. Jeff writes and almost always records every instrument on all his songs. Jeff records the songs for everybody in the studio he has built and now we all contribute gear to that studio. I will make demos and so will Dylan, all three of us have a lot more songs than we will ever release so we kind of get to pick and choose which songs everybody likes best. It can be hard because when Jeff and I write sometimes we will write and record every instrument on our own, so then we have to teach all the parts to the other guys later. So we all write alone most of the time but then Shady Groves work together to record and produce the music, and Jeff is the one producing every single track, working with every single layer, and then mixing everything. Dylan showed me “Plain Dream” maybe two years ago and I thought it was so good, sometimes I don’t think people realize how good their songwriting is because it’s hard to listen in on your own work and formulate an honest judgment/evaluation. I helped Dylan finish “Plain Dream” and then we ended up writing some more songs together so when Jeff and I started hanging out and writing together again it made sense for every one of us to go all in. Now we are helping each other with writing and recording more than ever, so I think our next record will be even more cohesive."

Dylan- "I will say the most difficult part for me is mostly that Adam and Jeff don’t understand what a table even is? It’s not just a surface that you eat your rabbit stew on, but rather something that represents a fine smooth brotherhood. The finely sanded and stained surface that lets you know, “Hey…everything is going to be okay, because I’m a table and we are friends”. The table is the foundation. And I just wish they would understand that."

Without further ado, "Waves":

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