Shakey Graves' Anti-Folk Country
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because: those harmonies!
By Carl Pettit
From Austin, Texas, to New York to Los Angeles and then back to Austin again, Shakey Graves has traveled an eclectic, ever-evolving musical route. One of the stops on that artistic journey is the album And the War Came, and the infectious, stomp-happy single “Dearly Departed.”
Shakey, born Alejandro Rose-Garcia, is a blues, folk and rock (plus many other melodic monikers) musician from Austin. He honed his raw “anti-folk” skills while doing the one-man band thing with his voice, guitar, a hi-hat and a drum built out of an old suitcase. For his second album, And the War Came, he went with a slightly more polished sound, enlisting the help of singer-songwriter Esmé Patterson, as well as an entire band.
Speaking about the change from smoldering solo artist to gigging with a band, Shakey acknowledges that it’s now “harder to say yes to everything.” In the past, he could travel wherever he wanted whenever he wanted, but with a group, there are “more moving parts” to deal with. He has to consider the busy lives of his bandmates. And when it comes to the tempo of a particular song he’s playing — or his touring schedule — he can no longer “change at the drop of a hat.”
“Dearly Departed” started out with a ’70s American rock feel, and had a surf-rock version as well.
With a band, though, Shakey gets to share his recording and onstage life with others. “When we lose, we lose together; when we win, we win together,” he says of shaking up his musical routine. Part of this newer approach is evident in the three songs written and sung with Patterson, a performer out of Denver whom Shakey met on tour while opening for another act.
For “Dearly Departed,” his up-tempo, playfully dark duet with Patterson, Shakey recounts how they “spent a long time figuring out where that song was going to rest.” It started out with a ’70s American rock feel, and had a surf-rock version as well. “Nothing really clicked,” Shakey says, until they started messing around with “a stomp routine, like a joke.” And thus the can’t-help-but-clap-along marching band rhythm to “Dearly Departed” was born.
As for the song’s haunting (in more ways than one) narrative, Shakey explains that the lyrics came from breaking up with a woman while he was on the road. Upon returning home, he found it “shockingly painful, going through the house” that she’d abruptly left. He even had to hide a mug with her name on it. “I absent-mindedly started singing the chorus while walking around my home, tortured.”
Alejandro Rose-Garcia refuses to be painted into an artistic corner. He’s also an actor, with appearances in several Robert Rodriguez films and on the TV show Friday Night Lights. The singer even admits to knowing the words to almost every Spice Girls song ever recorded, because, as he puts it, “cheesy ’90s songs are my thing.” Whatever the future holds for Shakey, it’s a safe bet he’ll keep on creating unusual, attention-grabbing music and art.