Shellshag will tear it up at Sluggo’s North on Wednesday, October 28
The Brooklyn duo Shellshag is the epitome of the D.I.Y. spirit, known in the rock underground for its inspiring punk-pop bursts and hardworking, incessantly touring m.o. that has sustained the group.
So what’s the key to doing it yourself, the right way?
“Be friendly, be honest, be real and be appreciative,” said singer/drummer Jen Shag via email, in advance of the group’s Oct. 28 show at Sluggo’s North. “Even if you are the f***in’ bee’s knees, it’s a pretty special thing to be welcomed and hosted by a city and its music makers and lovers, so if you can’t see what a big deal it is for someone to put their energy into booking something for your band, then you shouldn’t be going to play their town.”
Shag and her bandmate and partner, singer/guitarist John Shell, a.k.a. Shellhead, met two decades ago in San Francisco at Starcleaner, an art warehouse/performance space, which now lends its name to the record label run by the twosome.
Shell, who played in the group 50 Million, and Shag, formerly of Static Faction, began collaborating in the late ’90s before focusing on Shellshag around a decade ago, developing the band’s potent and concise style, prickly and charged, with welcoming melodic hooks.
Shellshag’s explosive live shows feature the two facing each other using their trademark Y-shaped microphone configuration and Shag pounding her drums standing up, with sleigh bells attached to her belt. The duo is currently on a two-month-long tour supporting the album Why’d I Have to Get So High? released earlier this month on Don Giovanni Records and Starcleaner Records.
“We opened ourselves up by inviting all of our talented friends to play on the record. We had so much fun doing it, and relinquishing control is probably how we grew the most on this album,” said Shag. “’90’s problem’ was mostly written in the studio by Shellhead, and without the late-night hangs with our friends while recording, it may not have been the opus it became. Pookie from Pookie and the Poodlez who sings on ‘Rattletrap’ calls it ‘Bohemian Shellsody,’ which sums it up quite well.”
Recorded by Jerri and John of the group Vacation at The Lodge in Kentucky, the album features guest artists including Marissa from Screaming Females, Lil from Swim Team, Ava from Black Planet, Larry from Pretty Pretty and Peyton from Tweens.
“Every song has a pretty intense story,” said Shag. “’RIP’ was written five minutes after learning our friend died. We talked about calling him the night before he died, but we didn’t, and I will never not call someone when I think to ever again because of it. He sparked this song, and sadly it applies to many friends we have lost along the way.”
The group has special ties to Chattanooga, having been wholeheartedly embraced by the local punk community and being a highlight of the annual Do Ya Hear We punk festival, and the band’s cover album F**k Society, Vol. 1 even features guest appearances from notables from Chattanooga’s D.I.Y. scene.
“Our connection with our loved ones in Chattanooga formed over the last two decades in many cities,” said Shag. “Now, so many of our best friends who we have strong connections with live in Chattanooga, which makes it like a second home to us. Playing shows with our favorite bands from there and the local kids who are now adults always booking and welcoming us with open arms have made it a special place for us.”
However, it wasn’t always that way, as Shag described a regrettable Chattanooga show in 1998.
“50 Million at Instant Beer Pleasure, way too high, and pretty rude and dysfunctional, on Greg Rice Harvester’s birthday,” said Shag. “We played a freaky set of sloppy songs, fought with the owner and acted like asses, so much so that we spent did not return for a decade and spent 10 years apologizing to folks who came to that show when we would see them around the country. Our self-imposed ban of 10 years was over; we finally came back and put all our heart and soul into making up for that night by making sure we brought the best of ourselves to town instead of the worst.”
Shellshag with Wonk Unit, Basement Benders and Raging Nathans
501 Cherokee Blvd.
Wednesday, Oct. 28, 10 p.m.