Before taking the stage tonight (Sat., Aug. 16), at 529, Shampoo guitarist Chandler Kelley took a few minutes to talk about how Madonna has influenced his songwriting, the group's first demos, and where he hopes to see it all go from her.
Is it safe to say that you are the main songwriter for Shampoo?
You could say that. I write the chords and melodies, and, so far, all the lyrics. But that might change. I usually write the tunes that Rush is singing, but there are entire long sections in songs where Rush (Myers) or Catherine (Quesenberry) tell me what to play.
How did this band come about?
After the second Goldilocks record came out, we had some songs, but we had trouble finding a bassist to play with us. Then it just sort of tapered off. People stopped coming to our shows. We played several Goldilocks shows in front of four people. It just got to be a bummer, so we stopped doing it. But I had these songs, and Rush really liked a few of them. We tried to get Goldilocks back together and record. Then we did a thing where I was going to produce instrumentals on my laptop, and Rush would sing over them. It would be like a producer/singer relationship, like Erasure or Timbaland, but I just wasn't good at it. It sounded really rinky-dinky. Then we formed a band where he would play guitar and sing, and I would play something else. We tried to find other musicians. The one we found first, that was good, was Catherine. She played keyboards, so I ended up on bass. We asked a few people to play drums. They all said no, so went with the drum machine. Now we have people asking to play drums in our band, but we kind of like the drum machine. We got used to it, and like how it sounds.
The musical influences you often bring up in our conversations include things like Erasure - acts with a producer/singer kind of relationship. At one point you also mentioned that you're really influenced by the first four Madonna records.
We're seeing things through the lens of time now. Those records came out when I was in grade school and Junior High ...
Yeah, I think the first two came out before I was born.
It's unapologetically mainstream pop. I tend to think of Shampoo as coming from a DIY, indie rock background, which is kind of the antithesis of what Madonna's records were all about.
Well, I definitely think of her as being unapologetically pop, but she also came out of downtown New York. Sonic Youth was into her way back when, and her and Cyndi Lauper had something else going on, more than just someone like Huey Lewis. Not that I don't like Huey Lewis. It's probably a generational thing. I think a lot of people my age don't see a distinction between whatever indie rock is or was about, which I guess is something like ... What seems to be the big difference, to me, is that music like that can express feelings and emotions and thoughts that are less fun, and that's really it. Music that you want to be able to control when you listen to it, and not just that you're down to listen to all the time on the radio. Lots of people love Cat Power, but if a Cat Power song came on the radio, a lot of people would be like, "I wasn't really trying to listen to Cat Power right now." A part of me feels like that's the difference. Rush listens to a lot of stuff that sounds like, if you were to play four seconds of it and turn it off, you'd think, "that's a pop record." Like Sky Ferreira, How to Dress Well, stuff that sounds like pop music. I think Shampoo sounds like that, or wants to sound like that. It has all the elements to be a pop record in the same way.
The meaning of term "indie rock" has changed over the years, and it will continue to mean different things to different people. Nowadays it has a kind of bed wetter connotation, whereas mainstream pop music can too, but it works in a context of good-time music ... we're talking about these things in very abstract terms. No two people will ever think of them the exact same way.
Yea, and to a certain extent pop music just got less white-bred. If pop music was still Huey Lewis, you would probably see fewer bands that sound like Chvrches.
Are you working on a proper album now?
We have enough tracks, and we want to do an album. We sort of put the demos out with hopes that someone would reach out. We sent them to a bunch of blogs and we thought maybe a label, even a local label, would want to put out an album. We feel pretty confident about the songs and don't want them to fall through the cracks of not being ... You know what I mean, when something just gets released and doesn't go anywhere. We will re-record these songs and include them on the album.
We need to play more shows. People have been responding to our live shows a lot - more than they ever did with Goldilocks.
Who came up with the name Shampoo?
I did. We were choosing between Shampoo and Fiancée, but we thought Fiancée sounded too like Beyonce.
Rush came up with Fiancée. I liked it because it has this feeling of absence, because it's not an actual spouse, it's like this weird in-between thing. But then I realized it sounds exactly like "Beyonce."
Shampoo: I got the idea, because I was just scrolling through my iTunes and there's this song called "Shampoo" by Happy Birthday that I really like. It's about getting dressed up to go on a date with a girl you have a crush on, and it's all about grooming. It's really tight. We're named after that, and we're named after this character - you know that manga character Ranma 1/2? There's this Japanese cartoon from the late '80s/'90s about a kid that, whenever he gets doused in cold water, turns into a girl, because he fell into a magical spring. His dad gets turned into a panda when he gets doused in cold water, and then hot water will turn him back. So in this cartoon, there's this Chinese Amazon warrior princess who's in love with the male Ranma but has an intense rivalry with the female Ranma, and doesn't realize they're the same person. Comic high jinks ensue. Her name is Shampoo. That's the two meanings of the band name.
Catherine keeps trying to make shampoo jokes, and I'm like, "Let's avoid the shampoo jokes." We're not named after the stuff that you rub in your hair."
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