FREAK FOLK REVISITED: Q&A With Philadelphia’s Shadow Band, Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic

Shadow Band


JAMIE DAVISBY JAMES M. DAVIS How do you explain the unexplainable? Who knows what darkness lies, hidden deep in the heart of man? The Shadow knows. Or, more accurately the Shadow Band know, but they’re not giving away too much. Although recently signed to Mexican Summer, they have been recording in their South Philadelphia Sanctum Sanctorum for years years. before that individual members could have been witnessed bouncing around Detroit and New Jersey respectively, waiting for winged destiny to descend. The music is primo folk-psyche, conjuring hope in ruined landscapes, evil underground rivers and the ghosts that haunt the New Jersey pines. We interviewed all four of them at once over the phone ahead of their show Saturday the 25th at Baird Mansion Atrium, the second stop on their national tour in support of the new Wilderness Of Love LP on Mexican Summer Records. We talked Sabbath, getting signed, and what being spooky means to them. Goblins, Rosicrucians, and of course, the New Jersey Devil, all make an appearance.

PHAWKER: Stoner rock is huge right now, you guys are almost the flip side of that. Shadow-Band_Paul-Benson
Where those guys are doing “Paranoid,” and you’re doing, like, “Planet Caravan.” Does that sound accurate?

SHADOW BAND: Oh man, yeah. We actually love that song! We played it at the bar we all went to Wednesday.

PHAWKER: You usually have a lot of people on stage, is that still going to be the case going forward?

SHADOW BAND: Well with going on tour, we can really only tour with like four people at once, so that’s gonna be different, yeah. But we’re gonna be doing a fair amount of switching it up on instruments. I’m gonna be playing guitar and singing, and also trying to switch it up with the flute and theremin on tour.

PHAWKER: So you guys just got signed and are going on tour soon. Has being signed to Mexican Summer changed things for you guys?

SHADOW BAND: But honestly I mean not really. To give you some idea we like recorded this album in 2013 so it’s been a long time for us. I mean honestly the biggest difference is that now we’re getting written up online and stuff like. Publicity I guess. Mexican Summer has a studio in Brooklyn and we were lucky enough to go there like two summers ago and record with the dude Jarvis from that band Woods and a few other people. And we did like three and a half songs or something and everyone, like, across the board agreed that the stuff we made in our home was better. I mean it sounded great, everyone did a great job on all of it, but we just kind of thrive in our own recording environment. It was really just too good, too clean and polished. Being in a professional studio is definitely something we’re not really used to. It seems kind of sterile in my opinion and kind of throws off the effect or like the feeling of it. Plus it was more pressure, like time is money. At home you can just, ya know if something doesn’t work out you can just come at it later that day or the next day.a4031440396_10

PHAWKER: Well what about influences, you guys wanna talk about influences? Like, I hear a kind of Brian Jonestown Massacre thing, anything there?

SHADOW BAND: Oh man, yeah. We love that movie, Dig. The part where he’s like rollerblading around this party being really manic and like, being an asshole to everyone, that really stuck with us.

PHAWKER: Yeah, I mean he’s the best. Except for that part where he kicked some dude in the head. . .

SHADOW BAND: What about you? What kind of music do you like?

PHAWKER: Ah fuck, I mean I actually do like you guys a lot, but uh. . . like, Blanche? You guys know Blanche they were from the Detroit garage rock thing in the early 2000’s.

SHADOW BAND: Ah man yeah Jules here is actually a native of Detroit. But they were more country. . .

PHAWKER: Yeah, but it’s like that spooky Americana thing. I love anything like that.

SHADOW BAND: Word yeah, I mean we like anything that’s spooky I guess. But uh, you know the Incredible String Band? They’re like a mutual thing we can all dig on I guess. They’re kind of a collective and we’re a collective so play in that way as well. I believe they have three songwriters and a few others but they’re still a collective. Yeah they’re pretty incredible as per their name. There’s a thing about modern bands with a similar vibe to us. Sun City Girls and the Sunburned Hand of the Man, out of New England I think have a pretty similar vibe to us. We like sun themed bands. Also Sun O)))) Although our music tends towards the quieter I side I think all of us tend towards the kind of doom or sludge. Any sonically abrasive heavy thing.

PHAWKER: Now, your music is spooky- there’s this real rural feeling to a lot of it as Shadow BandCOVERwell. Does any of that come from personal experience?

SHADOW BAND: Oh man, I mean. . . [laughter] Mike is from a fairly rural area in New Jersey- Yeah that’s not really something I can talk about. I mean, with the people involved and everything, I don’t really think it would be fair to them. I mean I grew up in a rural place, in New Jersey, around a lot of spooky things. But I will say that Philadelphia is quite haunted in my opinion. And just yesterday we were at this photoshoot you know taking some pictures next to a place near the river which is reputed to have some of the only goblin lore in the US.

PHAWKER: What is Goblin Lore? Lore of and relating to Goblins?

SHADOW BAND: Yeah I was reading something from the 16th century about Goblins along the river. Like most people think of them as a European thing but apparently Philadelphia might harbor some goblins, or at least used to. I mean I was definitely feeling a vibe down there, I don’t know about you guys. Were all big fans a part of Philadelphia near the Wissahickon as well, which is creek near Philadelphia, which was inhabited by hermits and mystics in the 17th century. They had a time machine which is apparently not open to the public, which is harbored in Philadelphia. But you can see the leader of that group’s telescope, which I believe was the one he used to discover Uranus. He was apparently also very influenced by the rosicrucians, although he wasn’t a rosicrucian, or at least he didn’t express that. The Rosicrucians are interesting in general because they did not really exist until the lore of them did, after which a bunch of sects opened up.

PHAWKER: Oh, I didn’t know that. I thought the Rosicrucians were legit, you’re telling me they’re not legit?

SHADOW BAND: [laughs] No no, we love the Rosicrucians. The Rosicrucians are cool.a0815498388_10

PHAWKER: You don’t think you could talk a little bit about what was haunted about growing up in New Jersey?

SHADOW BAND: Well I mean to be honest, I’m not sure if I want the attention going into detail about it- But I’ve seen some weird things in New Jersey, some strange paranormal things, and I know a lot of other people have too. I mean I feel somewhat uncomfortable talking in detail about it to protect other people and stuff. But I don’t know, New Jersey is kind of a strange place. I didn’t grow up in the Pine Barrens but I spent some time in the Pine Barrens and also heard that the Pine Barrens and some forest in Africa are statistically the two most haunted places in the world. New Jersey is a strange, fantastic land to me. I actually had a questionable Jersey Devil experience once. I was cat sitting at an old house in the Pine Barrens. I don’t know, unexplained wing flaps. My dad’s hunting buddy tried to give me the most rational explanation, although he is open to the paranormal. And he said it was probably an owl beating like a rabbit or a cat to death on the roof of this house. This house was a very old house, used to be part of the Underground Railroad, it’s just off of Jimmy Leeds’ road. Pretty connected to where the New Jersey Devil was reputedly born. As the thirteenth child.

PHAWKER: The Jersey Devil started as a person?

SHADOW BAND: Yeah I mean legend has it that the Jersey Devil — there was a woman in the pines, Mother Leeds, she did not want the thirteenth child, and in childbirth cursed it. And essentially the story goes that as she gave birth to it it transformed into a devil and slayed the people in the room and flew out the chimney, forever to haunt the pines.