Third time’s a charm
The Shivas grind out garage-rock perfection on new album
Last week, Portland-based psych garage-rock four-piece The Shivas released their newest album, Dark Thoughts. It’s the band’s third one. Not its third album ever—it’s actually the band’s fifth release—rather the third version of Dark Thoughts. The Shivas recorded the same album three times, throwing out the first two in favor of what was eventually released on Tender Loving Empire on Oct. 25.
“We had this thing in mind and we didn’t want to stop until we got it to a point where we felt like it needed to be,” guitarist/vocalist Jared Molyneux said during a recent interview.
The record marked a pivotal time for the band, which formed as a trio back in 2006, when Molyneux was around 15 years old. The next decade was spent touring constantly. At times that meant the underage players had to sit outside of bars and be escorted onto stage to play, then promptly taken out after their set. The band went through lineup changes, released music on K and Burger and other indie labels and toured the world. Molyneux even married a fellow bandmate, drummer/vocalist Kristin Leonard.
By 2016, The Shivas were ready to work on a fifth studio album (sixth, unofficially). The group began recording, but due to time constraints/scheduling issues, it just wasn’t coming together. The band members didn’t feel like they’d done the songs justice, so they decided to re-record it and “in a weird way the same thing happened again,” Molyneux said. “[We] ran out of time with touring schedules and people moving from here to there. We never got a chance to get it to a point where it really needed to be and it wasn’t possible to pick it back up.”
By 2018, the band found itself with two failed attempts. It would’ve been easy to toss the project out of frustration, but Molyneux said they wanted to get it right.
“If you think about the songs like a photograph—‘My mouth was open in that picture, let’s take one more’—it really did feel like that, because each time we cut the record it was a totally different view of these songs,” Molyneux said. “Everything sounds kinda different because it’s a slightly different angle, different lighting. [We] just wanted to get one where everyone’s eyes are all the way open and mouths are closed, know what I mean?”
For the third go at it, the band teamed up with longtime friend and engineer Cameron Spies. Instead of pushing against the clock, they took their time, stretching the process out to 50 days in the studio.
“Usually we’re paying for studio time, or even if we’re not, there’s only so much you can do on stuff, but it gave it a lot more time to experiment with overdubs and mixing,” Molyneux said. “We were able to feel it out a lot more, and make something that has more character.”
The result was The Shivas’ most ambitious, polished work yet. The single “Gloria” kicks off Dark Thoughts with a well-rounded, hip-shaking garage-rocker—surf-rock drums, grimy guitars, spooky sing-along vocals—that shows off the group’s work in the studio, as well as on the stage during its famously energetic live shows.
“It’s really through performing [the songs] live a lot that we got what we have on the album,” Molyneux said. “It’ll probably still change to some degree. I’m not really sure, but I’m curious to see.”
Whatever new versions might arise will have to be experienced live, since the album is finally done … probably.
“Everyone [was] constantly making jokes about getting done so we could start on it the fourth time,” Molyneux said. “It was a real test of our commitment. The fact that we came out of it feeling like it was worth it I think is something.”