New frontier

The Shimmies set their sights beyond Chico

When not rocking out, The Shimmies like to shift dirt and model flannel.

When not rocking out, The Shimmies like to shift dirt and model flannel.

Photo By des james

The Shimmies perform Thurs., July 29, at Café Coda for the Birds of Fire CD-release show with The New Limb and Road to Seneca.

Café Coda

265 Humboldt Ave.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 566-9476

The brothers Galloway grew up well shielded from the devil’s music. In fact, Christian music was the only soundtrack to the boys’ home-schooled upbringing until the secular stylings of the Beach Boys and later on The Beatles (pre-drug/mustache/Maharishi Mahesh Yogi years) were eventually allowed into the house. The Fab Four were the gateway to Simon & Garfunkel’s Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m., a pivotal record in shaping The Shimmies’ sweet harmonies: “We wore that cassette out behind closed doors,” says guitarist/vocalist Sean Galloway.

But leave it to an older brother to one-up Simon & Garfunkel by handing then-10-year-old Sean a copy of Nirvana’s Bleach.

“We were like, ‘What is this?’ ” Galloway reminisces about that monumental moment. “It almost scared us because we hadn’t heard anything like that. It was the first black-market music in the house.”

Some 20 years later The Shimmies are writing their own songs, chiseling rock ’n’ roll’s pockmarked history (as well as their own) down to one gleaming hour on their latest LP To All Beloved Enemies. Recorded at Chico’s Heirloom Studios with Chris Keene (whose studio touch has essentially made him the fifth member of local bands The Yule Logs and Armed for Apocalypse), Enemies is taut and muscular enough to heave these lads over the invisible force field that separates cozy Chico from the rest of the world.

It seems like only yesterday that The Shimmies were a soft and cuddly young band just getting their bearings, led by three happy-go-lucky brothers all with various stages of facial hair. In that short period of time, the Galloways—Sean, Jimmy and Stephen—and drummer Jack Gingerich have reached what amounts to superstar status here in Chico. Originally an acoustic two-piece featuring chief songwriters Sean and Jimmy, the duo lured a couple of friends to take on bass and drum duties for what would be the band’s Chico debut at the Ethos Music Camp (now The Collective Sound) back in 2006. Youngest bro Stephen and Gingerich eventually became full-time Shimmies, and the band members pieced together their debut full-length, The Frogtown LP, in 2008 while making a name for themselves with their always sweaty live shows.

The hard work has paid off. To All Beloved Enemies is the Shimmies fully realized. Rather than simply aping the band’s influences, the record loosely threads them together while bridging the implausible gap between coffee-shop folk and arena rock. Harmonies lilt over mighty choruses. And guitars go from spacey twinkles to heavy, stomp-box bursts, most notably in the song “Un Fantôme.” Affec-tionately dubbed “homeschool rock,” the music is unabashedly simple and effective.

Sean—the eldest Shimmie—says it’s his “terrible sleeping habits” that often lead to new songs. And while he likes the prospect of making music for a living, Galloway is still getting used to the possibility of reaching audiences outside Chico. He jokes: “Someone just asked me who I’d choose if I could be anybody, and I said J.D. Salinger. And they were like, ‘But he lived in total isolation.’ And I was like, ‘That sounds good to me.’ ”

Isolation will likely have to wait, since The Shimmies recently signed on with powerhouse Fanatic Promotion. And the band is already getting its share of digital ink around the blogosphere, and recent shows with L.A.’s The Delta Mirror and an upcoming gig at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill are sure to heighten The Shimmies’ profile. Of all the uncertainties of being a musician, Galloway does have one clear mission for the band.

“My dream is to play in front of a packed room filled with people I don’t know,” he says. “That would be the true test if people really like us.”