The Shook Twins
Magic revolves around the number two. Opposite halves define our existence. There’s dark and light, black and white, night and day, yin-and-yang, and so on and so forth.
On their 2017 EP 2, critically acclaimed Idaho-born and Portland-based indie outfit Shook Twins draw on the inherent power of the group’s namesake duo—identical twin sisters Katelyn Shook [vocals, guitar] and Laurie Shook [banjo, vocals]. In early 2017, the pair holed up alone in a room with just two voices and two instruments and cut the seven-song collection live to tape, serving up bare bones renditions of fan favorites, covers, and one new tune entitled “Safe.”
“Musically, it differs from our other studio albums, because it’s just two twins in a room performing on two instruments,” explains Katelyn. “It’s much more raw emotionally and almost vulnerable. It’s nice to hear our growth as a duo and notice our individual grooves. It showcases these songs in a different way than they had been or will be recorded. It’s just a taste of the simplest core of our band: The Shook Twins.”
“It goes back to the very beginning,” adds Laurie. “When we were 18, we started writing songs together, just the two of us. We practiced how to blend our voices and instruments, trying to make our 2 voices and 2 instruments sound like one thing instead of 4 separate pieces. That’s how we started this whole musical life. We wanted to go back to that for a minute and remember.”
The process represents something of a full circle moment for Shook Twins. The group emerged in 2008 with their independent debut You Can Have The Rest followed by Window and 2014’s What We Do—which garnered acclaim from USA Today and more. Organically stirring up a buzz, they engendered fandom in fellow creators such as Langhorne Slim, The Lumineers, Mason Jennings, and iconic best-selling author Neil Gaiman who claimed, “They make music that twines through your soul the way vines cover an abandoned shack in the woods.” Along the way, the full band, including Niko Slice [electric guitar, mandolin, vocals], Barra Brown [drums, vocals, drum pad], and Josh Simon [bass, vocals, electric guitar, synth], has shared bills with everyone from Ryan Adams to The Indigo Girls. Moreover, they graced the stages of High Sierra, Bumbershoot, Hulaween, Floydfest, Summer Camp Music Festival, Oregon County Fair, Fayetteville Roots Festival, Northwest String Summit and many more in addition to performing at Red Rocks alongside Gregory Alan Isakov and Ani DiFranco. Their artful amalgam of folk heart, indie spirit, and alternative energy has effectively captivated fans internationally.
Now, 2 comes to life on the strength of the twins’ own musical union. Penned by a friend named Vance Bergeson, the first single “Mad Scientist” shuffles from rustic instrumentation into cinematic storytelling, weaving together its own mythos.
“Vance is a luthier and a mountain man, and this track is truly his essence,” explains Katelyn. “For some reason, we believed we had something to offer the song as well. We believe it needs to be heard by as many people as possible.”
They strip the What We Do centerpiece “Shake” down to its quaking and quivering acoustic essence. Meanwhile, the 2017 composition “Safe” illuminates their creative strides towards 2018’s forthcoming new full-length, Some Good Lives (recorded with the full band), bridging the past and present with its delicate songcraft and lovelorn lyricism.
“This is a brand new one that we wrote in a cabin by Mt. Hood recently,” explains Laurie. “It’s been a long year of unsure love in my life, so I resonated with the hook that Katelyn started singing while I was eating breakfast. It grew from there as a collaboration.”
As Shook Twins hit the road in support of 2 and ready their next body of work, their bond extends to listeners everywhere.
“I want people to feel like they know us,” concludes Laurie. “I hope it’s like we’re friends, and we’re just hanging out comfortably in our living room together.”
“If you’re a music listener and supporter, you make ALL the different to us,” Katelyn leaves off. “It would be a pretty pointless job, if you weren’t there.”