The Coors Light-loving, California girls-hating, noise-pop-obsessive dudes in Brooklyn locals Shark? are helping lead an ever-bulging batch of on-the-rise indie rock bands who champion one another, play gigs together and have formed a camaraderie. Even, dare we say, a formidable scene, albeit with the Northampton and Boston sect. Wielding and cranking up the six-string action are Radical Dads, Sleepies, Low Fat Getting High, Big Ups, Speedy Ortiz and Potty Mouth.
See also: We Explored The Hole With Speedy Ortiz
Local fledgling label Old Flame is doing its part, snatching up Potty Mouth (the ladies’ Hell Bent was just unleashed) and now is upping the momentum even further with the release of Savior, Shark?’s second long-player. Led by the bearded and burly, beer-guzzling, cig-dangling pop disciple Kevin Diamond and his monotone whine, the addictive batch of tunes on Savior is a glorious joint full of catchy as-all-hell, loose jangle, barbed-wire slacker pop drenched in stoner psych glimmer and Brooklyn DIY gunk.
Shark? not only have been churning out its sandy-beached, booze-soaked, weed wafters for a few years now ,but Savior–with its should-be summer hit single “California Grrls”–was part crowd-funded (don’t worry, dudes are broke) and they actually lived up to their pledge promises by going to a fan’s apartment and making them pizza.
We found Diamond toiling around on a bench in Massachusetts, waiting to pick up a used van for tour. We talked to him about his band’s propensity to wear Mitt Romney masks, Jimmy Buffett’s influence, and beer.
So you’re on the way to pick up a van for your tour? Where?
Yeah, we just picked up a van in Acton, Massachusetts–a 2004 van. And surprisingly, it still runs.
You made it a whole band trip?
Yeah, the band is inside this restaurant eating lunch and I’m out on a bench doing this.
Then you guys have the record release show on Tuesday and hit the road with the new, old van?
Exactly, yeah. It’s kind of full of pine needles and spiders right now. The van was sitting in the backyard of my aunt’s house for the last three years. But miraculously it runs perfectly, so…
Did you score the van for free?
We got it for a dollar, but we had to pay sales tax on that but it’s alright.
That’s still a good deal.
More importantly, what’s with the question mark after Shark?
Question mark. Um, it seemed like it was a funny idea at the time–the idea of a Shark but you’re not sure if it’s a shark or not. It turned out to be a difficult-to-Google-name because of it. But I guess we’re stuck with it now.
That “California Grrls” video cracks me up. You guys are wearing Mitt Romney masks, right?
They are. They are Mitt Romney masks. Our original idea (for the video) was to run a Craigslist ad for people who look like Mitt Romney, but who were willing to get paid $50 to do the video. We were going to have them ride roller blades and bicycles and do tricks but it seemed like it was way too difficult.
That does sound complicated.
Well, we wanted four guys who think they look like Mitt Romney, but probably don’t actually, and are willing to make 50 bucks to look stupid. But we got the masks, which was a nice substitute for that. And the masks were only about 10 bucks a pop because he just had lost the election so they were having a fire sale.
The general vibe we were going for was–the director wanted to spoof a certain style of videos that people make a lot now. The whole video era is like “We are young, we are rock star dudes, we don’t give a fuck about anything, we’re gonna cruise through the town, we’re gonna be laissez-faire, we’re gonna do some cool tricks and go to a fair and just be like really cool dudes.” So we were like “Okay, let’s make one of these cool dude rock star videos and we’ll wear the goofiest masks possible. That’ll add the subtle realness to it.
And you guys then wore the Mitt masks?
Yeah, that was us in them and a couple of other friends in them, too. We also got a couple of skateboard kids to wear the masks and do some tricks. So, we were trying to create this world where everyone looks like Mitt Romney for no apparent reason.
Plus you were selling one of the Mitt masks when you crowd-funded the record.
Yeah, no one pledged for it, though. So, we might have set the bar a little bit too high. The best thing that someone did to actually pledge for it was we said we would come and make you pizza for $75. We did that last weekend. We went up to this apartment in Queens. We met this really great couple and their friend who had pledged the money in together. We had a really awesome time. We made them a bunch of different pizzas from scratch. The best quote from the night was one the guys said “This is way better pizza than I thought that could be made by a band” [Laughing]. He thought we were going to show up and bring some Di Giorno’s and throw ’em in the oven. We made the dough and the sauce and everything. We did it right.
They were pretty big Shark? fans then?
They were. We hadn’t met them before but they had seen us open up for Diarrhea Planet at Shea Stadium a while ago. They were tweeting at us and pledged and, so…It was funny because during the night we were like “We were really nervous about this because we didn’t know if you guys were gonna be weird, or what.” They were like “Same with us! We thought you guys were gonna be weird, too.” But we got along really well and it was great.
So going to someone’s house to make pizza is less of a pledge than a Mitt Romney mask from the video?
Yeah, it must have been, I guess. It was probably too expensive for a Mitt Romney mask.
Definitely. I’d say so [Laughs] Considering I bought it for $10. We’re trying to make some money.
Did you feel guilty taking money from your fans to fund Savior?
…there’s been some backlash for artists that do that.
I think the backlash comes from a lot of times from people who have the resources that are using that, like Zach Braff. Zach Braff can get a movie made; he doesn’t need to take that money from fans. We don’t. We work dead end jobs in Brooklyn. It’s not like we have a bunch of money in the bank and we don’t want to pay for our own projects, ya know? Most people paid 10 to 20 bucks and they are going to get a record and that’s how much a record costs. We’re pretty happy with it.
How did you start Shark? originally?
I started the band with a couple of friends, I guess, five years ago, which is crazy. I found a lineup that stuck, and made a few records with a few guys. I’ve been making records since I was a kid but had never had a band. I was 25 years-old and I was like “I can’t keep on making music and putting it on the internet. That’s never gonna happen. I gotta get a band and play these songs out.” As soon as I got that, the music became better because the influence of the people you play with is going to make you a better songwriter and they are going to add good ideas. It’s been a really great experience being able to play in a collaborative art form.
Your label, Old Flame, is on the rise. How did you hook up with them?
We met Rob [Mason] a couple years ago and just started talking to him. He liked us. Honestly, it was only about a year ago that we first started talking to him about putting out this record and it just took a while to record it, to do the mix ourselves, and that took too long. Finally, about two years later, we’re happy to be putting it out.
Old Flame just put out the Potty Mouth record, too.
They’re really awesome; we’ve played with them a couple of times. There just seems to be a really great group of bands that, if we are playing with these bands, are just like-minded. They seem to have similar influences and we like playing together, whether they’re from Boston or from New York. It’s been a really great year for that.
That show with Shark?, Potty Mouth, Bleeding Rainbow and A Place to Bury Strangers at Death by Audio was killer.
That was probably one of the best shows we ever played. It’s like “How often do you play a bill like that where every single band is at the top of their game?” It was really awesome.
That was as packed of a show as I’ve ever seen DbA.
I’ve seen it a little bit more packed than that. It was the Halloween show where Sleepies played as the Pixies and some other guys played as the Ramones. I think that was the most packed. This was a close second, for sure.
What other bands on the scene do you feel a kinship with besides Potty Mouth?
Sleepies I think are really big, and Big Ups are amazing–bands from Boston like Krill and Bent Shapes are really great and even there’s this band from Ireland, Squarehead. They just released a new record and that’s one of the best records I’ve heard all year. We played with them in New York and Austin and they are just doing really cool stuff. Speedy Ortiz are so great. There seems to be a lot of cool bands, all coming out right now and a lot are our friends.
Shark? played at a Rockaway benefit over the summer with some of those bands.
That was amazing. It’s really awesome to play a show and then you’re all sweaty and you can literally just go jump in the ocean–one of a kind experience. Unless you’re Jimmy Buffet, you don’t get that kind of experience.
Shark? has a kind of beachy, summery vibe going, though.
I’m from Nantucket, Massachusetts, originally, which is an island so that kinda seems to play in. And Jimmy Buffett is my dad’s favorite band so maybe there’s some subtle Jimmy Buffett influence in there, too. Very deep.
Did you have trepidation singing about Cali girls, considering the history? Sonic Youth wanted to “kill the California girls.”
I just thought it was a funny idea. Honestly, other people have had it before me. The Magnetic Fields wrote a song about hating California girls. I was listening to a lot of like “September Gurls” from Big Star and “Southern Girls” from Cheap Trick. There will be songs about certain kinds of girls and when you think about it, it’s kind of sexist, but everyone’s okay with it because it’s positive. So I thought “It’s funny, if you talk about how you hate ‘these kinds’ of girls all of a sudden you realize the sexism of it.
Shark? has a super-melodic thing going on. Where does that come from?
I think it probably comes from the music we listened to as children; listening to bands in the ’80s and ’90s where melody was pretty important and the lyrics were important and style was less important. So, it’s not about drenching yourself in reverb and having flashing lights in your live shows. It’s about writing catchy hooks and writing songs that are fun and are fun to dance to and fun to drink beer to and fun to watch with your friends.
Beer seems to play a big role in Shark?’s world.
Are you calling us alcoholics, man? [Laughs] I just think when we startedwhat we wanted was to create a band that was fun to see, fun to hang out with your friends and watch. Beer seems to be a big part of that, but people can enjoy it without that. That’s important, too. We always have fun. I don’t think we like to party a lot, but beer is really delicious. When I’m putting on a show, I always want to have a beer in my hand.
Does Shark? have a beer preference?
Whatever’s cheap. I could drink a lot of Coors Light which I don’t know why. I just choose it as my cheap beer of choice.
So with “California Grrls” being in the Grand Theft Auto V thing, Shark? have already sold out?
Oh, yeah, totally. That was a no-brainer. They asked us to use the song and that’s like as if they gave me a million dollars already (since) it’s gonna be heard by so many people and it’s such a fun game to play. I remember being in college and playing Grand Theft Auto III for just whole weekends–just driving over jumps and crashing into things and shooting people for no reason. So, if I could get our song in there, that would be pretty rad.
You must be stoked.
Yeah, we got some free copies of the game, which is great. It’s really surreal to be playing and seeing that car and to get in the car and your song plays.
How did the song get in there?
Our label got an email that was like “Hi. Would Shark? be interested in this?” I have no problem with it. As long as the song is just the song in the video game, it’s fine with me. We’re getting good shit from it and a lot of weird comments. For like two weeks, people would comment on our video like “This song is in Grand Theft Auto V!” with seven exclamation points at the end and we’re like “Yeah. We know. That’s our song. We’re aware.” People are really amped about it. It’s really cool.
Any haters of the song?
I think we got only one, actually. I was surprised. One comment was just like “This fuckin’ sucks.’ And someone replied to that with “Shut up! You don’t know anything!” There’s just a bunch of 12 year-olds arguing on the Internet, which is really why the Internet was invented in the first place, I think.
And you probably got a big-assed check from Grand Theft Auto, too.
It was fine, yeah. If they gave me a billion dollars it would just be a drop in the bucket for them. To us, it’s a big deal. It’s going to help us tour more, it’s gonna help us to make our next record–that’s why it was a no-brainer. Being in a band isn’t exactly a money-making venture, so if you can do that, then you can put that back towards your art. It’s hard to say no to that. I think we are in a kind of in a post-sell out culture. I’m not mad at Of Montreal for putting their song in an Outback commercial–good for them. If you can make some money doing what you love then you should do that.
Shark? play Death by Audio on Tuesday with Tyvek, Darlings and Juan
Wauters (of The Beets)