Print Edition: October 10, 2012
Some time during the evening of October 11, conversations about Durkheim, Sapir and the cultural superstructure—which you can expect to be rife in an environment like the Sociology Anthropology Undergraduate Society student party—will be drowned out by the bluesy inundations of East Vancouver Blues/Folk band this is THE SHOES.
The duo consists of Sabrina Robson and Jereme Collette, the former performing vocals, harmonica, and percussion, and the latter commanding guitar and kick drum. To understand more thoroughly this band whose precedents include The White Stripes and The Black Keys, I spoke with Jereme, and got some answers about THE SHOES, his positive thoughts on the blues, and why keeping it real matters.
How long have THE SHOES been together?
We’ve been around for like a year, a year that’s more like six month of grinding and taking it seriously, and instead of playing free shows in cafes we’ve moved onto bigger venues. We’ve been a band for a year, but the public started knowing about us about six months ago. Well, we released our EP in February.
Where are you guys from?
I’m from Maple Ridge and she’s from Port Coquitlam, but we’ve moved out to East Vancouver.
So how did you form the band?
Sabrina used to do a lot of singing competitions, and she comes from a musical theatre background. And so she used to do these competitions for money, to see if she could win them. And I had to help her do Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” She’d need backing tracks to perform these songs, and on the internet all you could get was the Mark Ronson version, which has the horns and is very grandiose. And she wanted the stripped down acoustic version which appears, I think, on a bonus track on one of her earlier albums. And so she couldn’t find it on the internet, so I recorded that for her and she sang over it at the singing competition. And she had actually introduced me to the Black Keys and so we always knew there was a blues influence there, and she has a voice tailored to the blues.
Do you confront any obstacles being a blues band from East Van? For example, people not taking you seriously? That said, are you serious about the blues?
In terms of taking us seriously as a blues band, more than geographical, it’s more an age thing. We’re only in our 20s, and some people don’t believe you have anything to gripe about when you’re only 25, but I always just point out the fact that Robert Johnson died when he was only 27. So the man that had the blues was well before his middle age before he could experience the old man blues. And that’s where I get the most eyebrows raised, “20 year old kids playing the blues? That’s just the Black Keys over again.” But we do take the blues seriously, being inspired by that band and numerous other bands. Starting with the Classic Rock blues revival of the ‘60s, Cream, The Yardbirds, and even back before that with Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James. I mean, Elmore James taught me the slide guitar. But we take the blues seriously and I hope people take us seriously, because we do deliver our own take on the blues. We’re not playing Stevie Ray Vaughan behind-the-back guitar solo stuff … The sonic ability they had back in the day, when they’d record with a guy in a room and that was it: two dudes play guitar. And so we want to go from that aesthetic of the blues rather than the ‘70s classic rock aesthetic of the blues with glitter pants and long hair.
What is it about the blues that has you deciding to use it as the genre of expressing yourselves musically? [Compared to the popular bands of indie and folk.]
It’s sort of the anti-thesis of that stuff. It’s stripped down, visceral. It’s not intellectual, I mean, I like to read, but music is totally visceral and primal. There’s not much metaphor when you’re writing a blues song … It’s not a deliberate attempt to be poetic. It’s not coded in poetic devices. Compared to some of the other stuff that’s out there it’s visceral and real. And it’s a fun part about the blues, that within it you can be so restricted, but you can be so creative within that regimented form, so it’s awesome.
Do you find it difficult writing music in such an old genre of popular music?
I don’t think it’s something any musician can get around, by pretending they’ve created a new genre of music. Like, everyone’s calling Grimes the future of music but it sounds like stuff Yoko Ono was doing years ago. Some people just want to hear that same old blues riff, but they want it done with sincerity. It’s that you do it with some integrity and sincerity.
When can we expect a full-length album from you bluesy folk?
We’re working on new material for a full length … it’s nice to get a taste, but you want the full painting, not just a piece of that painting. Aiming for next year.
Any upcoming shows?
On October 18 at Toby’s Pub and Grill in Vancouver, at the Media Club November 1, opening for a band called July Talks. And November 17, at the Howe Sound Brewing Company in Squamish.
One final question, why the name this is THE SHOES?
I’d had always wanted a band named “THE SHOES.” It came from a John Lennon interview when they asked him why “The Beatles.” He laughed and said it was just a name “we could have been called THE SHOES for all I care.” The “this is” is our way around having to share a name with some electronic duo from France. Like The Pack A.D., or D.F.A 1979, or Bush X. I stole the “this is” part from the movie This Is Spinal Tap. When put into an acronym it spells T.I.T.S. This was an afterthought.
On October 11, the Sociology Anthropology Undergraduate Society will be hosting the student party “SAUSed With SAUS” at AfterMath pub on UFV’s Abbotsford campus. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased from SAUS board members. From 7 to 11 p.m. you can expect trivia games, a raffle draw and plenty of libations. For more about this is THE SHOES, check out their website.