Band of the Day: Shellac

Whilst Band of the Day usually takes an interview format, the guys at Shellac spend so much of their time answering questions; they are well-known for literally stopping mid set for a Q&A session, that maybe we can give them the day off? This is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about sarcy math-rockers Shellac.

Where did it all begin?

Shellac was formed in Chicago all the way back in 1992. The band began as a pretty informal thing between guitarist Steve Albini and drummer Todd Trainer. Both being recording engineers they were fastidious about production, both loving an analog sound above all, and preferring to spend time positioning microphones and choosing the perfect equipment in the first place, rather than twiddling around with things afterwards. Together Weston and Albini got together and revelled in their favourite style of minimalist, asymmetric, ‘mathsy’ music before realising that maybe, they could afford to bring a bassist in. Camilo Gonzales, formerly of Naked Raygun began sitting in on super early days rehearsals. Camilo brought the bass to one of the songs on their first single, which helped them to find Bob Weston, who completed the trio as their now permanent bassist and vocalist.

What’s everyone’s backstory?

Guitarist Steve Albini is a man of many talents, not only is he perhaps best known for his work as a producer, more on that later, he is also a champion in the world of poker. Back in 2018 Albini won the WSOP bracelet, taking home a cool $166,519. Poker seems to be a game whose ties run deep with the world of rock and metal. AC/DC, Motorhead and Eagles all have rock classics that hail from the poker world, with many players even listening to them as inspiration whilst they play. In his life as a producer, Albini has worked with bands such as Nirvana and Pixies and is considered a genius in his field.

Bob Weston, like Albini had worked with Pixies, but he managed to sneak in whilst he was still studying at University. After becoming firm friends with Albini, he was invited to work in Nirvana’s In Utero with him, but has also worked with numerous big names under his own volition. Whilst production is his true love, he credits playing in a band with giving him the unique insight that helps him to understand what musicians want to hear.

Todd Trainer is the final piece of the puzzle. He is lauded for his primal style of drumming, having been likened to a man in a loin cloth, a drone and a stubborn stomper, it’s fair to say he has a style of his own. As well as playing with Shellac, he’s also the sole creator behind Brick Layer Cake. This solo project sees Trainer play every instrument, including vocals. For those who like slow tempo, monotone rock it’s seriously worth a listen. Outside of this he’s a total nut for his dog Uffizi. The Italian greyhound was the inspiration for their fourth album ‘Excellent Italian Greyhound’ and has even featured on TV alongside Trainer. Pretty cute.

What sets them apart from others?

Well, apart from being heralded as the legends of noise rock? Their sound is without a doubt responsible for inspiring so many bands since them. Signature repetitive rhythms, nasty guitar sounds, and unusual structures all come together to create a sound that is often imitated, but rarely bettered. Their lyrics also deserve a mention, often political, mostly sarcastic and snarky, you’ll occasionally chuckle to yourself when you catch a particularly good line.

As well as being pretty great musicians, the band also have a penchant for collecting vintage instruments. You’ll often see them playing Travis Bean guitars which are lauded for their unique sound thanks to aluminium necks. Copper plectrums are also a favourite and add to that distinctive metallic sound. Although they are still active, having released The End of Radio back in 2019, you’re unlikely to get a chance to see them, unless you’re in the know; Shellac famously prefer intimate shows. However, if the last few years are anything to go by then you might get the chance to see them at All Tomorrow’s Parties, a festival that they have twice curated and got into the habit of playing a few sets at.

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