It’s been a slow burn for Laurie and Katelyn Shook these past six years. First, in 2009, the twins packed up their glockenspiels to make the move from Sandpoint, Idaho, to the bigger stages of Stumptown.
Then, a year later, they broke onto the scene as resident musicians at McMenamin’s White Eagle. A second album, 2011’s Window, showed the fruit born of diligent networking (“We were going out all the time,” says Laurie)— with fourteen credited collaborators and a swelling calendar circuit of West Coast festivals.
Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman became a fan. The band expanded to include Niko Daoussis (of Cyber Camel), bassist Kyle Volkman, Russ Kleiner on drums, and Anna Tivel (Anna and the Underbelly). In 2014, Grammy-nominated producer Ryan Hadlock (the Lumineers) came on board to for What We Do—an album that soars with shiver-worthy harmonies, crackles like honey brittle, and rattles a darker cage.
The hint of danger has given the band greater reach; the twins have since toured the East Coast three times. They were courted by American Idol—an overture they firmly quashed. And they continue to attract skilled collaborators, from Gregory Alan Isakov to “modern-day troubadour” John Craigie.
We recently spoke with Laurie from the road—covering golden eggs, industry percentages, and cheffy flash mobs—in advance of the twins’ show this Saturday at Revolution Hall.
You went public with your reaction to American Idol’s audition invitation. Why?
It felt good to put out in the world what it means to be an independent musician; what it means to create your own path. It was a thesis statement; you don’t have to be on a record label. There’s something to be said for standing up for the art.
You and Katelyn are working musicians—it can’t be easy. What would you change, if you could?
Hmm. I’d maybe change the system that’s been in place. The publishers, the managers, these percentages set for what everyone gets—that all comes from a time when there was a different income structure. We make most of our money on the road, and it’s not much. We’re on the slow growing road. We’d definitely like to get to a place where we make most of our money from royalties, not touring. We’re a little road-weary. So I’d maybe change those percentages; what everyone gets.
What’s with the golden egg?
Ah, the golden egg drum! It is an ineffable thing. It started as a performance art piece. A woman in Seattle who organizes flash mobs had 30 people dressed as chefs handing out these golden eggs after a show, so there’s 30 of them out in the world. Some students started the tradition of signing it and passing it on. When I got it (from a random guy outside a bar), there were already 5-6 signatures on the egg. One time I filled it with popcorn, made a shaker and tapped the side. Now it’s at all our shows.
What can we expect for Saturday’s show?
It's the first time we’ll play at Rev Hall. We’re gonna bring the heat for sure, the biggest band we’ve had yet—a brass section and a string section. Annalisa Tornfelt opens, and those boys from Boston [Tall Heights]. The love from the home porch is so huge.
Your latest tour wraps up in early December. What’s next?
This winter the plan is to start recording—we have over half of a new album written. We’ll release a single first, then work in a new direction—a lot poppier. We’re working with the producer of our first two albums, experimenting with eerie, ambient tones, more noises. Since the last album, we’re using more of the electronic drum pad. As always, we try to write about the way we live our lives, the way the world is.