Shakey Graves Interview

Shakey 750px


I met Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves, at a house party in Austin, TX, 
my sophomore year in high school. We were hanging out in the attic and Ali played some crappy pop-punk song on his guitar. We both knew all the words and instantly became friends. I’ve been including his music in local skate videos ever since, but to formally introduce one of my best friends to the skate world at large via Thrasher?! Well, don’t mind if I do! Ladies and gentlemen, 
this is my bud, Shakey Graves. —Drew Pickles

You just finished your new album, Can’t Wake Up. What was the recording process like? Did you do it somewhere fancy?
Well, sort of. Me and Chris Boosahda did the last record, And the War Came, pretty much at my house. He has all this gear, all the weird racks of stuff that are typically in a studio. I met him when he was a sound guy for one of my sets during South by Southwest. He was in town from New York and was planning a move to Austin. He coincidentally ended up moving down the street from me. So instead of setting up a studio in Austin, he just set all his gear up in my house. That’s how we did the last one, and we tried to expand that on the new album. With my early stuff, I was recording it on a four track because 
I just didn’t know how to use Pro Tools. My old system made sense to me, and I had a ratty way of clipping things together on my computer, but eventually it made no sense to record on this awful software from 2001 that would crash on my Windows laptop, and it drove me crazy. For this album, I wanted to travel around, because the most fun shit to do is to go set up somewhere else and treat it like a holiday. The first place we did it was at Levon Helm’s house in Woodstock, New York. He died a few years ago. I met his daughter at a music festival and she was really cool. She asked if I ever saw her dad play at his barn and I said I never got to go, but I threw it out there that we were looking for a place to record stuff. And she was like “My dad would love this. That’s what the space is for and no one is using it.” It was crazy that no one was playing in this insane barn. It’s got a big fireplace, like one you can walk into, a medieval fireplace. We’d light a fire and smoke way too much weed and eat some edibles and get truly terrified and then make music. That was like our first swipe at making stuff.


That was almost two years ago, right? With that much time, how did you keep the same line of thought throughout the album? The songs all have different vibes. Was that because they were from different times, or was that deliberate?
They have deliberately different vibes. You know, as people have caught on to my stuff, I’ve kind of been typecast a little bit, which was sort of the point at the beginning. To get your head above water, you have to have an identity or style that is easily pointed at. For a while, I just wore a wife-beater and a cowboy hat and played a suitcase drum, and those three things were easy to point at. If you got into my music a little more, it went deeper than that, but there are tons of people who still imagine me as that guy, because that’s the only thing they’ve seen. But that was really important for me to stand out in the beginning as “the suitcase guy,” instead of just another dude from Texas.


I found one interview where you mentioned being in a hardcore band as a kid. Do people know that about you?
I don’t hide it, but I don’t really bring it up either. My favorite part about it was that our band sucked, but it was kind of our whole life at the same time. What I really took away from it, 
is more about the bands that we listened to at the time, and that I got exposed to, because that will never go away. That kind of musical renaissance starting my sophomore year in high school is probably the most music I will ever discover in my whole life. You’re just such a sponge at that age. Once you get older, and you’ve already decided what you like and don’t like, it’s hard to break out of it and discover 
new things.


That’s what I always say to people who are just learning how to skateboard, especially at an older age. Yeah, you might suck now, but I’m jealous of you, because the learning part is the best part.
For me, life is really about homies. Even in my brief shitty foray into skating, even though I wasn’t any good at it, the best parts of it were going and skating with other people. I was just doing the bare minimum, whatever tricks I could do. But bombing a parking garage with five people at the same time is a crazy experience. 
If I did it by myself it wouldn’t be as fun. It’s that weird need to share stuff with people. I like making music for myself but I still want other people to see it. It’s tough to have something personal and private be built for other people’s consumption, but it’s cool, too. And that’s part of the challenge with putting out new music. I’m so used to having these songs that I’ve been playing for years, and now I have new ones that I’m afraid will sound bad or whatever, and I haven’t felt this way in a while. But it’s kind of an exciting feeling to not know how things will go. 
I’ve never been more excited about a piece of 
art that I’ve made, all the way down to the 
album cover.


Shakey PQ 750px 

I think one of the best things about your show is that it seems organic, because the songs never sound the same twice. Is that because as an actor, you know how to improvise?
Well, I’m not really well trained enough to not sound like that. You kind of have to go with your strong suits. I’m someone who likes to make shit. I make shit all the time. I draw; I like putting pieces of 
stuff together.


Like the album cover?
Yeah, it was something I wanted to do mostly because it was a great excuse to stay in my house all day and tell people I was working, and just sit around and watch movies and tinker with it.


It looks professional as hell. And you did that on your own?
Yeah, on this album, we wanted to keep that DIY mentality. Not just to be DIY or whatever, but because people love handmade shit. Even with our band in high school, I remember seeing people print their own shirts and stuff, and I still care about that old merch, like my Die, Emperor! Die! tape, which I could still tell you where it is if I had to find it. If you can make people care about a terrible sounding screamo 45 or some shitty cassette tape by making it yourself, that’s pretty cool. If you make something that you really like, and other people don’t like it, that’s just their opinion. But if you settle for something you don’t love, and other people don’t like it, you’ll beat yourself up forever. That shit sucks. That’s the stuff that drives me absolutely crazy. 
Like, did I sell out? That’s the only real selling out. But if you know why you made the decision, even if it doesn’t turn out well, at least you made the choice for yourself and you can live with it.

That’s what I think about your new album. People who only know your old stuff shouldn’t feel alienated, because it’s always been about you doing what you want to do.
I mean, there’s always a possibility it will be perceived wrong, at least in the beginning. But either way, I like it a lot. I made something that I want to listen to, that’s a blend of all the music that I like, 
and that’s the whole point of it. I’ve had a lot of interesting battles with this record. I finally made something I’m really stoked on, but it doesn’t sound like what people whose job it is to sell me would want it to sound like. It’s tough to be told that you have to play ball. On one hand it’s true, but things are changing every day. I don’t want to write off a whole industry, and I don’t want to cut out a bunch of people who might find out about my music on 
the radio. But I also don’t want to cater towards 
only making music that’s radio-friendly, because 
I don’t think listeners want to be treated like children.



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