INTERVIEW: Jacob Reed (SHAG ROCK)
"Salty faced and Brissie based" - perhaps no better description could be given for Brisbane four-piece Shag Rock and indeed their surfy upbeat vibes: memorable, to the point and conjuring up sun-soaked afternoons chasing perfect waves and sinking beers.
As Aussies continue their ongoing love affair with the indie surf/reggae contingency (Sticky Fingers, Bootleg Rascal, Lime Cordiale and so on), the Shag Rock boys, made up of Alex Wilson, Jacob Reed, Nick Cavdarski, and Max Beech, bring good vibes and smooth grooves to everything they touch - but behind their seemingly effortless charm is some remarkably stellar songwriting and an ability to craft irresistibly catchy tunes that are as laid back as they are inherently memorable.
Perhaps it's no surprise that this enigmatic bunch can count Ian Haug of Powderfinger fame as a mentor, nor is it a surprise that they were handpicked by organisers to play at this year's Mondo Festival in New York. In fact, the only ones who seem surprised by this steady wave of success is the band themselves - in reality these are four talented, humble and effortlessly likable lads who have struck gold simply by doing what they love.
But before they head stateside, the boys are currently doing the rounds of some Aussie coastal meccas and larger cities, and guitarist Jacob Reed took a few moments while traveling in the band van (called, as legend has it, the Shag Wagon) to chat good vibes, good times and what's next for Shag Rock.
TIANA: So - Shag Rock. Both a geographical location and the name of a sensational Brisbane band. But what are you guys feeling about the Brisbane scene right now, it seems to be pretty pumping at the moment up there!
JACOB: Yeah, yeah, there seems to always be something happening in Brissie and all the bands are just super keen to gig together. I dunno, it's just really good vibes all the time, so it's a good time to be making music!
TIANA: And I have to admit something, I've actually been a bit of a fan for a while, you guys kept popping up in my Spotify Discovery Weekly playlist. The first I heard of you guys was 'Deep Froth', and it was kind of weirdly familiar but different all at the same time...like almost a hint of the Sticky Fingers/beachy vibe but you've put your own spin on it...Basically it just made me wanna kick back on a balcony and never go back to work again!
JACOB: (laughs) That's the goal! That's actually the goal. That's why we write it.
TIANA: Mission accomplished! And on that, how would you describe Shag Rock in three words?
JACOB: Mmmm. Yeah, I think the best way would be "Cool, Beers, Rock"...but we're not even rock...so just..."Cool, Beer.....Something"
TIANA: So I read you guys met in high school, and rumour has it you've always had those surfy kinda vibes since those early days....were you always going to end up in this kind of genre?
JACOB: Yeah, well we didn't really force anything. I guess back then we didn't really know what we wanted, and it was really just sparse, weird stuff that we were playing. We got into a groove and it ended up just being that sort of surfy but a lot fuller kind of thing.
TIANA: And given you evolved from some epic jam parties, did you know who was gonna play what instrument way back then?
JACOB: Well, our bass player played guitar and we all just did anything and we just picked up whatever and we were like "oh yeah, this'll be alright". Gave it a go (laughs) and you got sort of stuck with what you picked, and then you got used to it.
TIANA: So there's no chance you guys are just randomly going to switch it up one night and we'll suddenly see you on the drums?
JACOB: (laughs) Who knows, maybe a couple of beers and then we might give it a go!
TIANA: So influence wise, there are always going to be a few names that pop up with you guys, I know I kept finding Jack Johnson popping up repeatedly with your stuff. But are there any other bands that have influenced you guys beyond the more obvious surf/roots kind of artists?
JACOB: A lot of people seem to say Jack Johnson...but we're not really influenced by Jack Johnson, we loved growing up listening to him and stuff. But I would say, we get our harmony influences and that kind of stuff from Husky and I like to think we write in a way that's sort of similar to Ball Park Music...we really like their style of writing, but I don't know if that would be an obvious one. That's a band we really look up to, and a Brissie one too!
TIANA: And songwriting-wise...on the surface your songs are seemingly quite simple and really catchy, but they're also these absolute ear-worms as well. There's something really crazy likeable about them, how do you write these simple songs that are absolute low-key bangers?
JACOB: (laughs) I didn't even know they were low-key bangers! I think we just really work on our choruses to get them very repeatable. You don't want something that's a lot of words that you're just gonna forget and just be like "oh that was good". You want something that you can just listen to over and over, that gets really in your head. So I guess we just spend a lot of time getting melodies really nice and then, hopefully, people like to listen to it more than once. There's no real formula to it really, you just gotta do it until it seems to work!
TIANA: Shag Rock have already done a heap of tours, in fact you're currently on your 'Loosen Up Tour', and I noticed you guys have done a couple of acoustic ones in the past. But do you guys actually have a preference, do you prefer the live gig stuff or do you prefer the writing/recording process more? Or do you just love it all?
JACOB: We love it all, but you definitely go through phases. You'll really, really enjoy some of those gigs and then you'll finish a really big hometown gig and you're like "ok, it's time to get back into the studio" and then you love that as well. And we're always sort of writing the whole time, but don't get to lay them down until we're done with all the big tours and stuff because you're always concentrating on other stuff - you'll concentrate on the tours and then you're like "alright, let's knuckle down and get some songs actually recorded". But it's so much fun.
TIANA: Do you guys ever bust out some new stuff onstage before you've even recorded it?
JACOB: Occasionally...we've done it before where when we were in Melbourne or something and we'd just think "oh, we'll give it a go!". See how the crowd reacts, and if nothing really happens we'll be like "maybe we don't do that one then", but if the crowd just goes for it we're like "yeah, let's give that a proper crack!". It's good to test it out, and sometimes we'll just send it to our mates and they're like "yeah that's trash, that's good". It's good to hear someone else's perspective.
TIANA: And on the live thing, have you got any safe-for-work hilarious gig stories?
JACOB: Gig stories.... (Jacob asks other members in the car if they've got any hilarious gig stories). Actually, back in the day Cav (Nick Cavdarski) our bass player used to jump off things all the time. We literally used to bring a table to gigs, and he'd purely jump off a table. And then he did it once where he did a little spin and just clocked me right in the head mid-song (laughs). I think we need to bring back the table, is what I'm thinking.
TIANA: Yeah, I'm on Team Table. Bring back the table for sure.
JACOB: Yeah, jump table! We really need to bring that back. I'm glad you asked that cos I'd forgotten about the jump table. Thank you!
TIANA: Maybe we could do a crowd-fund for a new table to make sure this happens.
JACOB: (laughs) Done! Done.
TIANA: And this year too we saw you guys drop your album 'Barefoot' - what's the reaction been like from your perspective, everything I've read has been positive, but how do you guys feel it's been received compared to, say, your debut?
JACOB: Yeah, it felt like we were stepping up a bit in the way we were writing and how much time we put into it. It was over a longer period, we had heaps of songs that we could've narrowed it down to compared to the last time when we just went with it. And it's kind of been a slow burner, I guess? The reactions, I mean it came out and then more and more people just seemed to discover it and really enjoy it, and there were just more and more random fans coming to gigs. It's such a weird feeling, we had fans telling us stories that they'd driven a couple of hours or something, and we're like "you serious? we're so not worth that...but thankyou?!". It's great. But, yeah, I think the album's gone alright.
TIANA: Agreed. Now I want to throw this one out there, I feel like the term "indie" is something people are loving to throw around at the moment, but you guys...I mean at the end of last year 'Sunbleached Girl' had hit a quarter of a million streams on its own, you've bumped over the million streams mark now on Spotify, you're touring, you're going to New York in October....is it safe to say that indie label is wearing a bit thin perhaps?
JACOB: Well, we don't really mind what we're labelled. It feels good to be getting somewhere, and it feels like when we tour we're doing something worthwhile that's gonna get you fans, you're not just sitting back waiting for something to happen. But, I don't really mind what we're labelled. We're just trying to give it our best crack, hopefully that leads somewhere!
TIANA: And New York in October - how excited are you guys about it?
JACOB: Yeah, we literally had to fly down to Sydney on Thursday and got our visas approved so we're all ready to go. We have no idea what to expect for that, it's gonna be such an unreal experience. Just diving into the unknown, we've never been outside of Australia for a gig so who knows if they'll love it or just hate it (laughs). But hopefully it'll be awesome being an Aussie band over there.
TIANA: And in case you guys weren't overachieving enough, I've heard rumours you're currently tracking demos for your next release....is that correct?
JACOB: Yeah, yeah! We've had one demo day a while back and we've got a couple more locked in for this week coming actually. We've got heaps of new stuff that we're getting down, but hopefully get one if not two singles done by the end of the year. And then EP set to be sometime early next year...at this stage. All going well!
TIANA: I have to ask, obviously being a surf-rock band...who's the best surfer in Shag Rock?
JACOB: Oh. Definitely myself (laughs). Well, our drummer (Max Beech - drums) could not surf to save his life. He's very much a land-based animal. The rest of us surf a lot more. Nick....he gets up. He's getting there. It's mainly me and Alex (Alex Wilson - vocals and guitar) that surf, even though he's lost the drive for it. I need to get him back in the water.
TIANA: I don't know how much going to New York is going to help that.
JACOB: Yes, we'll have to pour some water on him. Get him back out there.
TIANA: And finally, one of my favourite questions - what's one song or band you have on your phone that's your secret shame.
JACOB: Oh.....Norah Jones. Actually, Norah Jones isn't even a guilty pleasure, that's just a pleasure! I don't even regret saying Norah Jones, I love Norah. So probably that.
TIANA: Well thank you so much for your time, and hope the rest of the tour goes really well. And if I don't see the jump table at the Sydney show, I'll be personally offended, just FYI.
JACOB: The pressure's on now! Thanks so much for the chat.
Shag Rock are currently charming people's eardrums all over Australia, tour info and a whole lot more below:
BY TIANA SPETER