Shark Week started out as a band that just wanted to have a little fun, but during their year-long existence, have achieved the kind of success in their short lifespan that many bands strive for years to achieve. Now with a final line-up, and upcoming SXSW and Sweetlife festivals, things are really taking off for the local band. To help celebrate their success, catch Shark Week tonight, March 8, at the Rock and Roll Hotel for their SXSW send-off party.
We met up with Shark Week’s Ryan Mitchell, Danielle Vu, Dan Newhauser, and Alberto Pacheco at Eastern Confederate, front man Mitchell’s vintage and unique subterranean hair salon in Mount Pleasant, which is guarded by two sweet cats. We had a very entertaining conversation as to how the band has evolved over the past year, their recent trip to Puerto Rico, and of course, vinyl. Today, Shark Week release the video for “Baby Maybe,” shot in Puerto Rico and soon available on their forthcoming 7-inch single.
Shark Week has recorded two songs for a 7-inch vinyl single set to come out in April titled “Santurce,” named after the city in Puerto Rico where it was recorded. Can you talk about that experience and how you ended up in Puerto Rico?
Dan: We met these guys, Fantasmes, a band from Puerto Rico—we randomly got booked with them in Philly and New York and became friends. They asked us to come visit, and we decided to actually take them up on it. They have a studio there, so we decided to record while we were there. It was great. It’s a beautiful place, and we really liked how everything came out.
Alberto: That whole feeling ends up on the record, like a destination thing, at least for us.
Ryan: Yeah, we picked songs that we thought would put us in the right mood while we were down there. It’s a little slower than [the self-titled debut EP]. It’s not that we have progressed as a band—we just are putting out a different set of songs.
Talk about SXSW.
Ryan: We applied, and they picked us. We found out in late December and were really excited. That’s when we decided to go to Puerto Rico and record.
It sounds like you are re-energized. You mentioned that Shark Week started as fun thing to do, but now that real things are happening, you’ve had to shift your “fun” way of thinking into a more serious project.
Ryan: Yeah, you are absolutely right; there are these new expectations for us. The band started as a joke, but now, it’s setting a new bar for us. I guess we are stuck with “Goo-Goo Dolls,” because now we can’t change our name (laughs). When we come back from Austin, we have a couple more shows in the works and then the Sweetlife festival. We are excited about that. Going from underground party shows to a big stage is going to be different. Our natural environment is a basement. We have to line up our ducks and figure out how to do things properly now that things are progressing for our band.
Your live show can be described as when Elvis meets Sid Vicious during an exorcism. Your stage presence is electrifying…
Ryan: I’m going to use that description from now on! A lot of it is how people play together. We feel really comfortable together. There’s a lot of energy because we’re having a good time. I might write a song thinking one way and then someone else wants to try and reference another sound, then we combine our references. It’s more of a communication thing, but I’m not against having blatant references. It’s like Tarantino—he’s paying homage, but he rips stuff off, and I think we do that. It’s not a bad thing.
You put a new take on something familiar. So while you may think you are ripping off a particular artist, what comes out is really your own.
Ryan: Thank you; it’s nice to hear that. Here’s a good quote from Jim Jarmusch: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.” No one is really original.
Which bands do you think are doing good things in DC?
What are your thoughts on DC as a music scene—so many people outside the area don’t realize that well-known bands like Chain and the Gang are from DC.
Ryan/Dan: People don’t think of DC as a scene. I think part of that has a lot to do with old DC bands like Fugazi and Bad Brains—which we all love, but isn’t what we do. There are still articles showing up about the old DC scene, which in a way clouds what is going on right now. Another thing is that everyone is really plugged in, meaning there is so much going on in DC on the same night, which could contribute to that. I tell bands to just do their thing and not think about it as a DC sound. That’s what we do. We are also making sure to get out there and play in other cities, like Baltimore.
Alberto: As an outsider from Baltimore, I am always really impressed with the energy DC brings. It’s really different—people dance and have a party night just to go out and see a rock and roll band. That doesn’t happen in Baltimore. In DC it’s less calculated; it’s cool. There are people doing cool things in DC, and you don’t have to be a “hipster” to go see a particular show.
Lastly, because we are The Vinyl District, what does vinyl mean for you?
Alberto: I’m a huge vinyl fan. I sit around late at night and listen to records. It forces you to get up, it’s a huge mess, and it’s incredible. I can’t wait to hear our music on vinyl! I put on Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” in my living room, and it doesn’t sound like anywhere else. That’s what is powerful about it. Also, the way you set up your gear makes it sound different—it’s a personal experience. Records carry tremendous energy—it’s something that lasts through ages.
Danielle: My parents owned records. My first exposure to music was through my dad’s record collection. He had Stevie Wonder, Johnny Mathis, and the James Bond soundtrack on vinyl. My dad gave me his record collection when I was ten years old, and I was dumb enough to sell it at a garage sale. I was like, “I need the New Kids on the Block CD!” But aside from giving away my records, the physical experience of moving the needle at age six was really fascinating. Records introduced me to this world of music.
Dan: I went through a DJ phase where I would get a Waylon Jennings record and mix it with break beats. It sounded like shit, but it was so fun to have these two pieces of music you can hold in your hand. I still remember my dad’s record collection. He had the Stones, Fleetwood Mac—he went to Woodstock and was an old hippie, so he had all these cool records. I used to love thumbing through them, and not even listening to them, just looking at them. Recently, I went to my parent’s house for my dad’s 65th birthday. Part of my present to him was to fix up his record player—it hadn’t worked for ten years. So my dad and I sat and listened to records all day. He was so happy to listen to these records that he hadn’t heard in ten years. It was such a cool and special experience for me.
Ryan: I’ve got The Hobbit on vinyl, and a lot of country and folk. I did not grow up with parents who owned vinyl, but I got a record player at a garage sale when I was 13. Then in high school, I’d hang out at record stores every day after school. I never got into CDs or downloading much. I have a lot of cassettes. I started collecting 45s and 12-inches over the last ten years. Roadhouse Oldies in Silver Spring is a great record store. Joe’s Record Paradise is the best record store around; anyone who DJs goes to Joe’s.