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21 Sep 2015

Blast From the Past: Shannon and the Clams Brings a '50s Sound and a Renowned Live Show to Pioneertown

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Shannon and the Clams. Shannon and the Clams.

The sound of Shannon and the Clams is a throwback to the ‘50s; you’ll hear elements of doo-wop and old-school rock ’n’ roll—as well as a classic R&B sound, surf rock and a girl-group vibe.

The group just released its fourth album, Gone By the Dawn. They’ll perform at Pappy and Harriet’s this Thursday, Sept. 24.

Critics have given Shannon and the Clams high ratings for their albums. Punknews.org gave a glowing review, stating, “(The) sound of a prom band in 1964 getting dosed with acid and having the sweetest lovelorn freak out. Imagine a brawling Etta James, backed up by the 13th Floor Elevators singing Shangri La’s tunes.”

During a phone interview with guitarist and vocalist Cody Blanchard, he said the band was primarily bassist/vocalist Shannon Shaw’s idea when it started in Oakland, Calif., back in 2007.

“That was all Shannon in the early days,” Blanchard said. “She used to play by herself before there was a band, and she was writing and matching all of her favorite music together. She’s really into ’80s punk and girl groups. I think she mashed it together without really thinking about it.”

When Shannon and the Clams got together and started to play live shows, the group quickly realized it was on to something, based on the embrace from the audience.

“It was always really good from the beginning,” Blanchard said. “It seemed like it was something that people never realized that they wanted to hear. Even when people heard it in the beginning, and we sounded like shit, it seemed like it was something really special.”

That doesn’t mean that Shannon and the Clams has always been well-received. 

“That’s happened to us in a few places in Europe,” Blanchard said about less-than-receptive audiences. “Europe is great, but there have been a few people (in Europe) where they just watch us and really don’t understand us. I think that’s been in the Netherlands and a few other places.”

Blanchard is well aware of the love Shannon and the Clams has gotten from critics.

“I think we get a lot of comparisons to our friends’ bands from the same area, but I don’t think we sound anything alike,” Blanchard said. “… I do think the one where they said we’re like ‘a John Waters lucid dream’ is pretty accurate. All of his movies are twisted and have oldies soundtracks, like obscure and really weird oldies stuff.”

For Gone by the Dawn, the group decided to take a different approach to recording.

“It’s very different,” Blanchard said. “We’ve always recorded our own albums and engineered (them) ourselves. This was the first time we actually didn’t do that. We went into an actual studio and had a producer. It was a lot of work for us, but it was great to have outside people make suggestions. They end up giving you more ideas and suggest different things. Our producer wasn’t very controlling at all.”

Shannon and the Clams have a reputation for being an amazing live band. Blanchard mentioned what those who attend the show can expect.

“People have said our live shows are probably better than the record. I don’t know if I agree with that,” he said. “But we have four people; we dress up pretty crazy; we have costumes, and I think it’s louder than the records. It’s definitely wild and loud.

“Our band is very vocal, and everyone is singing all the time, and I think we’re going to have some special stage stuff that will be pretty weird. But we’re still trying to make it come together.”

Shannon and the Clams with perform with Cool Ghouls and Death Valley Girls in an all-ages show at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 24, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $10 to $12. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

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