By Bella Savignano | May 5, 2022
The Shivas are an indisputably solid band through and through. That’s what happens when you’ve been together since 2006 and have maintained a ferociously rigorous touring schedule. The Portland mainstays have played hundreds of shows in over twenty-five countries, their verging-on supernatural musical aptitude growing with every show. As a band whose livelihood and passion both lie in playing their music live, we were curious to know how The Shivas coped with Covid lockdown– but it was pretty straightforward for them.
“We had a bunch of tours set up to do, and it wasn’t until quarantine started that we were like ‘ok, now that we can’t go on tour, let’s do something else– let’s record an album,’ so a lot of those songs weren’t ever really played in front of anybody before…Until now!” drummer and chanteuse aficionado, Kristin, told us. Although that order of operations, recording and releasing an album and then playing the songs on tour, may sound standard to most, it was anything but to The Shivas. See, they’ve got the perfect operation going. After they write a song that has promise, they’ll play it live hundreds of times before they choose to record it. We asked if that approach was to circumvent any…how do we put it…flops? on their albums, watching audience reception at shows as a sort of metric, but it’s not about sales for these musical martyrs.
“I would say it’s more that the songs develop when we play them live rather than using the audience as a test,” clarified Kristin. Of course, for The Shivas, it’s all about live music. And it all checks out– Shiva, in Hinduism, is an omniscient supreme god and patron of the arts. We don’t think The Shivas are self-important in their identity or pompous enough to admit that their musical savvy borders on mythical, but it really does. They’re just that good.
We caught them on the last stop of their U.S. tour (before embarking on an ambitious six-week, 36 show European tour) at Mercury Lounge, a dark, slouchy indie spot on East Houston, and they electrified the joint. Their music sits comfortably at the crossroads of psychedelic, surf, and good ole’ fashion rock ‘n’ roll. It has evolved pretty significantly since their inaugural album in 2010, but their roots remain intact. At their live show, they play an amalgamation of songs stretching the length of their discography: some are fronted by Jared with Kristin’s spectral cry floating in the peripheral (during which she also plays drums!) while for others, she takes center stage, Jeff appropriating the drum kit, and wails gushy ballads with a vocal intonation that could only develop with decades of experience. The band cites house parties and the general make-it-work intonation of the DIY scene as inspiration and the catalyst for their notoriously groovy shows, since they weren’t old enough to play bars in their early days.
“For us, growing up playing a lot of that kind of stuff shaped the sound of the band to some degree and the kind of show we put on. It’s suited for that kind of environment and it transfers over to a place like this or anywhere, really,” said guitarist and part-time frontman Jared. The band’s effortless capability is palpable. They look like they’re doing something inherent to human life up on stage, like breathing, or for some of us (and all of us at the groovement), going to shows. Moreover, they absolutely kill every song they play. The Shivas are one of those rare birds who sound just as good live as they do recorded, but they go a step further– somehow, they’re even better.
Outside Mercury Lounge, The Shivas answered some questions for the groovement:
What was your first concert:
Kristin: Britney Spears
Eric: The Who
How did you guys get started in music–individually or as a band?
Kristin: We’ve all been playing music for a long time, I was singing and doing other performing arts from the time I was five.
Jared: We all went to a public arts school, and that’s where we met, so we started doing music together for school projects.
How would you describe your music?
All: Rock ‘n’ roll.
Jared: That’s like the canned response. It’s hard to describe to people because people have different references for everything, so I usually try to keep it simple.
Who inspires you guys– in your personal life or when you’re writing or playing?
Jeff: The Kinks.
Eric: It changes, we all go through phases.
Do you have anything you want people to take from your music or anything to impart on your audience?
Jared: Anyone can do it and benefit from it. It’s a fun thing, it’s a constructive thing–playing music and doing art.
Jeff: Start a band.
What’s your dream venue to play? Or a favorite venue?
Jared: There was this one place in Italy that we were supposed to play right on the Mediterranean and it flooded the day we were supposed to play. We had set up our stuff, we got it out of the way in time but we were running to grab shit off of the stage as the water was rising. We never played because the show got canceled because of the flood.
Kristin: Now they think we’re cursed.
Are they back in business now or was that the end?
Kristin: They’re fine.
Jared: I don’t think they ever even closed, that wasn’t the first time that had happened.
Eric: It was a freak occurrence.
Jared: It happens every ten years or something like that.
📸: shot by Sierra Horne