Blood on the Wall is breaking up. Not like you’d think, however.
The band, which until recently only had to schlep across Brooklyn to play a show, is driving across Texas to play a show in Austin, and our cellphone connection is repeatedly dropped.
“We’ll get this interview done,” said Courtney Shanks, the band’s singer and bassist, after the third call was lost to the expansive wasteland of the Lone Star State.
Still, it’s difficult not to think of the dropped calls as a metaphor for the band. Influenced by ’90s indie rock giants such as the Pixies, Sonic Youth and Sebadoh — the band creates an energetic, if slightly nostalgic, sound that is at odds with music in the now — hence, the failure of cellphone reception — but makes a solid case that lo-fi, guitar-based trios can build a following with charming, catchy tunes and a frenzied live show.
At the heart of this machine are brother-sister duo Courtney and Brad Shanks. They founded the band over eight years ago, after Courtney moved to New York and convinced Brad to uproot himself from Kansas to join her in starting a band.
“I always wanted to play music,” said Shanks as she drove the van, her bandmates asleep in the back. “So I asked Brad to come to New York. He’s one of the funniest people I’ve met in my life, and he’s kind of my best friend, too.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” she said, “we bicker and get on each other’s nerves, but for the most part, it’s fun.”
Blood on the Wall is touring in support of “Liferz,” its new release on Greenpoint’s Social Registry label, which also released the band’s self-titled debut CD and its sophomore effort, “Awesomer.” Currently traveling with drummer Zach Campbell, a replacement for Miggy Littleton, the group is doing stretches with Black Mountain and Cause Co-Motion on its cross-country tour.
Touring is old hat for the group. In the past, it’s toured with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Psychic Ills and Black Dice and traveled across Europe in support of its last record. On Feb. 22, the band returns to Brooklyn for a gig at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
“Brooklyn’s basically our hometown,” said Shanks. “That’s where we started the band and where all our friends are, and we haven’t played [there] in a year. There’s a lot of excitement to play a show and see all our friends again. We’re going to be psyched.”
The tour has exposed Shanks to new music, too.
“It’s so rad to go and play with people you’ve never played with before and then wind up being a fan of the band,” she said. “That’s got to be rare. It’s a beautiful surprise.”
She cites a band called Danny’s Dilemma from Missoula, Mont. as one example. She was also “psyched” to play with Erase Errata and The Ohsees in San Francisco.
“It’s fun to play with professional touring bands that are insane at what they do,” said Shanks about Black Mountain. “They’re an awesome band.”
Touring can sometimes be claustrophobic, with the outside world — the world of media and politics, say — becoming an abstraction. But Super Tuesday and the current wrangling over the Democratic nomination have not been lost on Shanks.
“It’s interesting, because you just get your news from word-of-mouth from people you run into,” she said. “They kind of keep you in tune with the world. Maybe you’re more aware on the road, because you’re getting exposed to more opinions and more people.”
At one stop, they traded CDs for Barack Obama pins. Afterwards, a Hillary Clinton supporter decried their solidarity with Obama.
“You’re out in the world a little more on tour,” said Shanks. “You’re actually in it. It’s a different type of exposure.”
The siblings recently moved away from Brooklyn, where the band was a mainstay at local clubs and outdoor music events, Courtney landing in Los Angeles and working at the clothing store Built By Wendy, and Brad in Lawrence, Kan. So far, it has not posed any problems for the band.
“It’s working out,” she said. “I flew into Kansas, and we practiced before starting the tour. We’ll be able to pull it off.”
Living in separate cities will not hurt the creative process, either, she said.
“It’s not like we ever sat in the same room and wrote songs together anyway,” said Courtney. “So it’s kind of the same thing.”
Blood on the Wall play at 9 pm on Feb. 22 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg (66 N. Sixth St. at Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg). Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 day of. For information, call (718) 486-5400 or visit www.musichallofwilliamsburg.com.
©2008 Community News Group
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