Interview by Mark Bell and Sarah Williams.
The Shell Corporation are an ascerbically political, enticingly fast meldodic punk band from Burbank, California, who our podcast host Mark Bell is a particular fan of. They’ve just released an incredible new album fucked. on La Escalera records, and they’re taking a trip over to the UK for the first time in May!
We spoke to Jan (vocals) and Curtiss (guitar) to learn more about the awesome new record, their relentless touring and how they function as a band. As it turns out, they make great jokes as well as great music.
Thank you for talking to us! You’re on the road promoting the new album fucked. at the moment. How’s the tour going so far?
- JAN: The tour went well! It’s good to get back to places that we’ve been before and see old friends. I’m always pleasantly surprised to show up at a gig and there are twenty people there to see my band, and I don’t even know any of them.
- CURTISS: Ya, this last tour up the West Coast was really fun, but I’m really looking forward to Europe in May. We are getting to play a lot of new places and this will be the first time we are going to the UK so we are pretty stoked. From what I can tell, this upcoming tour has no places where I have to shit in a hole, so everything’s coming up Milhouse.
What’s the strangest (or most notable) thing to happen to you so far, on this tour?
- JAN: Thankfully, nothing notable or strange happened to us on the tour. The van didn’t break down, we got paid at almost every show and nothing got stolen. I’d call that a win.
- CURTISS: Hmm… This tour was pretty tame on the weirdness scale actually. Which is kind of a bummer (as a guy in a punk rock band) but a total blessing at the same time (as a guy who also has a mortgage to pay). In the past we’ve always had stuff like Sean’s toe being ripped from his body, Jake nearly dying in a German hospital, getting shaken down by border cops and accidentally destroying a farm town’s prize squash. But nah, besides getting yelled at by methheads for not sharing our Jameson, this tour was pretty positive.
How long have you know each other? Have you always been in bands together?
- JAN: Curtiss and I have known each other since 1988 or thereabouts. We’ve been playing in bands together since we were in high school. I met Sean when we started this band (he was a friend of a friend of Curtiss’), and Curtiss and I met Jake on tour in Europe. He was playing drums for The Briggs and we were playing guitar in another band. When we were putting together Shell Corp., we ran into Joey Briggs at Punk Rock Bowling. He mentioned that Jake was looking for a band, and so we made Joey call Jake right then and there to get him on board.
- CURTISS: Ya, like Jan said, we’ve known each other since we were wee little kids. I think we traded Nintendo games. Then later we were the only two kids in town who liked Propagandhi and Dead Kennedys but also John Coltrane and Miles Davis. It makes for a strange mix of patches on a leather jacket, but apparently a long lasting friendship. I first met Sean in Las Vegas. He was onstage at a karaoke bar singing Poison by Bel Biv Devoe in a Jawbreaker shirt. Instant friendship. Jake however, was too talented to be in our band. However, alcohol makes us very charming and we convinced him to make a terrible career choice and join us.
Can you describe your song writing process?
- JAN: I write the lyrics and melody and usually some kind of an outline of an arrangement. I record that on my iPad with maybe a track of backups and some guitar or bass – whatever is needed to convey the idea of the song. Curtiss, Jake, and Sean take that sketch and write their parts and work out the arrangement for the song, which usually ends up being totally different than how I had envisioned it. Some of the fastest burners on fucked. started out as ballads.
- CURTISS: For this record, I bowed out of the writing process and just focused on the production side. Partly because I thought it would be better to have Jan’s singular vision drive the songs, but more than that it was probably just me being lazy. Don’t tell him that though… if he asks it’s because of a more “pure artistic” process or some shit.
You’ve just released ‘Fucked’. How has the response been to the album?
- JAN: The response has been overwhelmingly good! The reviews have been very positive, and the new songs are playing well live, even though they’re new to the audiences.
- CURTISS: Pretty rad I think. People seem to genuinely like it. However, my favorite negative response has got to be a comment on punknews that said something like “They sound like they phoned this one in, their first album is so much better.” I read that and laughed so hard because we wrote and recorded the first album in 3 weeks. Me and Jan were pretty much drunk the entire time sitting at a table going “Is that song done?” “Who gives a shit, it’s fine… we have like 7 more to finish so we can go on tour.” This fucking record took two years and I agonized over every little detail. That’s what I get for trying.
What are your favourite songs to play live from it?
- JAN: My faves are Poor Devils and Not Funny.
- CURTISS: Not Funny cause I get to take a lot of breaks.
Who are you guys listening to at the moment – any new bands we should be aware of?
- JAN: Not Scientists just released a new record and I really like it. I’m pretty bad about listening to new bands, though. I’m going to kick this question over to Curtiss, who listens to everything…
- CURTISS: The new Ghost single Rats was just released today so that’s really exciting. We are all huge Ghost fans. Sean just bought the $200 deluxe bundle that comes with an 8 track version of the album. I mean, that’s just pointless, but I’m jealous. The new Turnstile record rules. As for new bands that are under the radar, shit. I’d agree with Not Scientists are the jam and deserve to be way bigger.
Jan, you’re a pilot. What would be the song you pick to go down to if it all went wrong?
- JAN: Maiden’s Flight of Icarus would be fitting, no?
What has been the biggest challenge of the band so far?
- JAN: Getting records on time seems to be pretty difficult… The first 4 years of this band were non-stop touring, so that was pretty tough to keep our marriages together and keep morale up when you’re plugging away trying to build a following. It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times…
- CURTISS: Every time I come home from tour I have to make it up to my cat. He acts pretty pissed off and makes me feel guilty for being gone. That’s a bummer. My wife doesn’t seem to mind.
Where is your favourite place to play and why?
- JAN: On the West Coast? Probably the Kraken in Seattle. That place is always a good time.
- CURTISS: IN YOUR TOWN! That’s what we are supposed to say right?
If you had to give up music, how would you get spend your pent up creative energy?
- JAN: That assumes that I would have pent up creative energy. I would probably get a real job paying real money.
- CURTISS: Counting my stacks of money that I was previously throwing into a fire pit.
Your band spontaneously combusts (as they tend to do) and you have to replace them with any musicians (living or dead). Who would you pick to compliment yourself?
- JAN: John Entwistle and Keith Moon on bass and drums, and Joe Strummer on guitar.
- CURTISS: My band members are irreplaceable gems. I can’t imagine anyone being able to fill their shoes their amazing, capable… OK, they left… scratch what I said, I could totally replace them with the first people I found at any Guitar Center. Trained monkeys could probably do what we do, and better.
Tell me about the person who does the majority of your artwork? It’s such an interesting style, how does it fit with your image of the band?
- CURTISS: His name is Luc Martin and in a perfect world he would be a famous artist. But this is not a perfect world and shit costs money, so he works at Apple as a creative director or something. We have a deal with him. We tell him the name of the album. He draws whatever the hell he wants and we have to print it, no questions asked. Then we pay him with a really nice bottle of scotch. So far we are the clear winners of this deal.
Thanks very much to The Shell Corporation for talking to Shout Louder. You can buy their new album Fucked from La Escalera Records now.
The Shell Corporation are touring the UK in the near future. Keep an eye out for them at the following locations:
- 21st May: The Edge of The Wedge, Porstmouth
- 22nd May: The Fulford Arms, York
- 23rd May: Yardbirds Arms, Grimsby
- 24th May: New Cross Inn, London
They’re also doing a handful of dates on the Euro mainland. Do it!
Interview by Mark Bell and Sarah Williams.