Indietracks interview #17: Skeletal Shakes

Interview by Claire Walker

Skeletal Shakes are an indie-punk-pop trio, taking their name from a combination of anime episodes. On vocals and guitars are Dan and Hannah, with Andy on the drums. Skeletal Shakes started out in autumn 2013 with ex. Standard Fare members Andy and Dan blasting ideas into the gardens of their hometown of Buxton, Derbyshire. Shortly after, they invited Andy’s school friend Hannah along, bringing acoustic rhythms and soft vocals to the fast, edgy sounds.

Firstly I’m so pleased that you (Dan and Andy) decided to form a new band, the end of Standard Fare left a big hole in my musical life! How did it feel for you both?

Dan: The day after the last gig was a really strange feeling, still on a real high but yet knowing a big part of our lives had stopped.

Andy: Yes, to have rocked the walls in the 100 club for our last gig, and to have had such a good turnout was incredible – something we’d never dreamed of accomplishing. After we finished it did feel strange, but it was nice to have some time out to put energy in to other projects and enjoyments.

Dan: I found things pretty busy and exciting when my son was born, and I figured if I wasn’t thinking about the band, then other people definitely weren’t. It’s amazing to now find people wanting to hear the new things we’re doing!

When did you decide that you couldn’t keep the silence any longer and decided to form Skeletal Shakes?

Dan: We were still hanging out, working on some art projects and things, but it was about six months later when we decided to have a jam. We set up in the summer house in Andy’s garden and played so so loud, it was an awesome feeling!

Andy: Yeah it was really fun getting together after what felt like such a long time and blasting out new ideas! There were quite a lot of parts that really worked well together, it seemed silly not to push it forward!

Dan: It felt right to only play new things and when the ideas grew into songs, we were both on the same page about calling it a band.

When did you ask Hannah to join the band? Has that changed the structure of the band?

Dan: There was no formula for a line-up, we’d asked a singer along early on but it didn’t work out. Then I was at a party and got talking to a random guy about bands, and he convinced me a duo was all you need to get out there. So, we did some demos with me singing and played a gig for Odd Box Records, it was a really fun night but we found it kind of tough.

Andy: After the first gig, we thought we we’re trying too hard to fit different parts into the songs as a duo and decided that the best thing to do was invite a third member in to break them up, and give them more dynamics. I knew Han was in the area and had played in various bands before, it was great when she came along to a practice and enjoyed the sound. Her vocals and acoustic guitar really fitted and helped brighten the songs we had been playing. She has really settled in and it’s great having her around!

Hannah: I was delighted when I got a message from Andy one weekend asking if I would be interested in jamming with them and potentially adding vocals and acoustic guitar to a duo they already had set up. I remember our first practice, the guys made me feel so welcome. I have known Andy from school but it was the first time I had met Dan. I think we all knew by the end that we were going to work well together. I’ve done a lot of acoustic stuff in the past and also sang as part of an 11 piece funk/soul band for a few years, but playing and singing this genre of music is new to me, it’s really enjoyable and exciting. Full of energy!

Occasionally Dangerous on the Indietracks compilation (with Hannah on) does sound much softer and acoustic – is this the route you are now going down?

Hannah: Occasionally Dangerous was the first song I heard the boys do and is one of my favourite songs to perform and when we recorded it acoustically it gave it a completely different and new dynamic. I think the vocals work well together and compliment each other in both formats.

Dan: I love the way an acoustic guitar can change not just the sound but the way you view a song, it feels natural on some of the things we’ve been doing. We’re a bit of punk band at heart though, you can’t beat the energy of fast, upbeat, biting songs. We uploaded a song to our soundcloud page the other day, called ‘Target Jupiter’, which gives an insight to that side of us.

Hannah: We had such a great day recording it, I hope we get another few sessions in the studio in the future!

This is a question just for Dan, I have often wondered why you always wear a hat? Is there a correlation to you wearing one and making good music? Or is there an even more superstitious reason? 

Dan: I like the idea of a pre-match ritual! I think changing guitar strings is probably the closest I get to a paranoid system, and they still go ahead and snap anyway. With hats though, it’s simply that there’s only so many looks for guys with not much hair! Towards the end of Standard Fare, we’d played with some cool looking, trendy bands in their late teens and I became kind of stuck on the idea that this was what some people needed from us, something I couldn’t be, and I started to retreat, worrying about playing. I see now that I was missing the point, and so this time for me it’s just about enjoying what we’re doing, whilst it’s happening.

You are playing first on the outdoor stage on Saturday? What have you got lined up to get the crowd ready for a whole day of music? 

Andy: We are so excited to play and can’t wait for the weekend! The crowd will have to wait and see..

Dan: Yeh, we’re completely thrilled to be playing! Totally raring to go!

Hannah: I’m very much looking forward to playing at Indietracks, as I have never been to the festival. I am slightly nervous as I am a little rusty when it comes to the stage but I feel very comfortable performing alongside Dan and Andy and I hope people like our sound.

Who are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

Dan: I’m really looking forward to catching ONSIND who I haven’t had the chance to see yet, and hopefully some favorites like Allo Darlin’ and Nat Johnson.

Andy: There’s lots of cool bands on I’d like to see and witness for the first time – No Ditching and Dean Wareham sound fun! and it’ll be great to see some old faces and bop around to their songs!

What plans do Skeletal Shakes have for the next year? Can we expect any releases? or a tour?

Hannah: I’m very excited to find out what the next year will bring along for Skeletal Shakes. We have no set plans as such at this stage, we are just taking the chance to play and get our music out there when we can and having as much fun as possible doing it!

Dan: Yeh, it’s looking wide open, seeing what happens and where it goes, playing whatever comes our way. I don’t know about official releases but we love recording, so keep an eye out ’cause it’ll be out there in some shape or form!

Hannah: Knowing we have only been together as a trio for a few short months and have written a new set list, recorded songs and have been given the amazing opportunity to play at Indietracks, you can imagine we are just buzzing!

Thank you Skeletal Shakes, cannot wait to see you this weekend!