Shannon Shaw is the lead singer of amazing punk-pop-garage group Shannon and the Clams. This band has created a sound so original and I’ve been in love ever since I first laid ears on “Troublemaker.” Shannon’s wailing voice is remniscent of ‘60s girl groups The Shangri-Las and The Ronettes but with her own rougher spin on that sound. Guitarist Cody Blanchard is the other singer/songwriter of The Clams, and together the two produce their own brand of punk doo-wop (you didn’t think that was a thing, did you?). When she’s not working with The Clams, Shaw lends her impressive talent to beloved hairdresser pop experts Hunx & His Punx. Shannon was nice enough to answer some questions for us about the Muppets, the newest Clams album, and behind-the-scenes insanity on the set of Hunx’s TV show.
You and Cody both have amazing songwriting and singing abilities. How does the songwriting process work with you two?
Typically he and I come up with a ditty on our own and either develop the whole song and then present it to the band. I often come up with a few parts that aren’t connected yet and show Cody, then he figures out a guitar melody to go with the parts I wrote then we play the part over and over until we get a cohesive thang goin on. Pretty much all of our punk songs go like this:
“Hey, let’s write a punk song.”
“Ok Cody, do this- dddennn nennne neen nenene!” (makes guitar sounds with mouth)
Then we have a song! All the punk songs are pretty much collaborative whereas our other songs come from either Cody or myself.
I feel like a lot of people only hear the ’50s/’60s vibe in your music, but there is definitely a punk sound there. Who are the most influential punk singers/bands for you?
Thank for acknowledging a major part of our influence that people often don’t notice! I love Butthole Surfers, Los Saicos, Red Cross, Rik L. Rik, Bad Brains, Golden Pelicans, Stick Men With Ray Guns, Audacity, Screamers, Hubble Bubble, Protex.
If you were a Muppet, which one would you be?
Rowlf, the rock and roll dawg! He is always chipper and joking around and solves problems with music! I love his bib when he is a Muppet baby. I would wear it now. I think I also always have loved Rowlf because as a little kid my mother worked in a group home for the ‘differently abled’ and because I wasn’t good at daycare, I would go with mom to work and hang out with these adults with various mental issues. There was a woman who lived there named Sherry that shook all the time and couldn’t talk and didn’t seem to even like me, but she had a life sized Rowlf doll, much larger than four year old me! I would always insist on hanging with her just in case she would let me play with her Rowlf. I think I always thought of him as a good ‘person’ for living with shaking Sherry and keeping her company in that ole group home. Rowlf.
If you could write/could have written the soundtrack for a movie, what movie would it be? (Or what kind of movie would you want to write the sountrack for?)
I love this question! Early David Lynch films had the best soundtracks, the man’s is crazier than a coconut and has faboo taste to boot, and of course, John Waters has the best, weirdest songs, plus originals! For instance, Francine from the Polyester soundtrack, I could die to that song it’s so perfect. Ennio Morricone‘s Western scores could be the most inventive use of percussion and vocals and are a huge influence on the Clams, however all these things I’m listing already have amazing scores and songs so I can’t touch ‘em. Maybe I would do the soundtrack for something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Badlands, or that scary Australian movie Fortress. I would like to work with something scary and stressful that is filmed so beautifully and is set somewhere so epic.
If you could choose only one costume/outfit to wear for performances for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
My favorite thing I have that I know I already wear too much because the sequins are coming off is a tiny sparkly tuxedo bib sort of thing that dancers probably wore over spandex in the 80’s. Hunx gave it to me on my first tour with Hunx and His Punx and it changed my fashion from there on out. I typically wear my tuxedo bib with some gold sparkle suspenders and an apron of my choice and a big, gold sequined bone shaped bow in my hair. I could live in it.
What was it like starring in the first episode of Seth’s (of Hunx & His Punx) new TV show, Hollywood Nailz?
During the scene called “Interpretations” it’s a battle of the bands starring Grass Widow vs. Shannon and the Clams. Hollywood Nailz chose songs for us to cover, we got “I’ve got the Power” and Grass Widow got “Unbelievable.” It’s very hilarious. Miss Shannon, one of the judges (the scary one with the whip) hated me so much and during the taping and kept telling me she wished I would die and I didn’t deserve to be there and I sucked and she was whipping me while we were filming! You can’t detect the animosity when just watching the episode, but it WAS THERE, MAN. I want you to know what I went through! It’s crazy behind the scenes of Hollywood Nailz!
Are there any Oakland bands you’re listening to right now/that we should be watching out for?
Super stoked on the new record. I know you’re influenced by a number of different musical styles. Was there a certain one you were going for on this album/did you have a specific goal in mind?
There never a specific goal in mind with us, other than experimenting. We started recording this album in my uncles cabin a year ago with the idea that being in the fresh air in the mountains all nice and secluded would make us free ourselves a bit and try new things. Aside from the occasional visit from Uncle Tommy to make sure we were alive and a mouse friend who kept leaving us gifts of excrement in our food, we were totally alone out there. We toiled away for a week or two and thought we wrote a solid gold record. We now know that was the cabin fever talking because as soon as we got home and popped the tunes on, we realized everything we recorded had as much craft and talent as ‘Creed Shreds.’ I hope you are familiar with that. If not, here ya go!
After the first attempt at recording a full album, we had two more go’s and since last February we have recorded 25 something songs including a few covers. I guess where the experimenting came in was just learning a lot of cover songs in the hope that learning someone else’s songs could expand our minds and inspire us to try new things. I have no idea if it worked.
Photos via Shannon and the Clams’ Facebook, LastFM, and RecessRecords.