Nicole Shuman, purveyor of punk
A SoCal transplant punks up Folsom while saving rabbits along the way
Folsom may not be known for its punk-rock scene, but the city received a bit more cred as of May when recent transplant and Southern California native Nicole Shuman opened Wet Tail Designs in its downtown—right in the little shopping mall at 813 Sutter Street. Wet Tail Designs sells shirts, posters, records and other punk-rock odds and ends. When Shuman first moved to Folsom, she was hard-pressed to find anything punk-related in town. She's been connected to the music and the scene for 20 years, so she created this little punk-rock refuge in her new hometown. We caught up with Shuman to learn about her store, pick her brain about punk music and find out about the advocacy work she does with rabbits.
How have things been since opening?
I set up the shop with the intention of gathering a younger crowd for someplace to go. Ironically, it's turned into an adult scene that feels nostalgia. A lot of people are professional in some manner, and you wouldn't guess that's what they grew up listening to. They come in and see the Adicts or GG Allin. They look at the posters, and it opens this whole level of conversation. Normal people wouldn't assume that that person would have that history. If you know what the punk scene is about, you get a feel for it.
What is it about punk that speaks to you?
I'm one of nine kids in my house. It allowed me to separate myself from the rest. I started with the Prison Bound album from Social Distortion. I loved the attitude, what they were singing about. Growing up, I obviously had issues. I don't fit in like a mainstream girl. I grew up with brothers, so naturally I liked the tomboy look. It gave me a place to be an individual and a place to belong.
What are your top three punk albums?
(1) The Clash: [their] self-titled album. It's one of my all-time favorite bands and go-to for anyone looking at punk-rock roots. Joe Strummer is a hero. (2) Social Distortion: Mommy's Little Monster. Although it wasn't my first Social D record, it is a staple when I am taking long road trips or flights, or just looking for good punk rock. 3. Die Ärzte: Das ist nicht die ganze Wahrheit … [That's not the whole truth … ]. I used to live in Germany and this was the first German punk-rock band that I was shown. I became an instant fan. I saw them in concert and they're huge there and all around Europe. In addition to that, some of their lyrics are hilarious and their concerts are better than any stand-up acts I've seen.
Who’s your favorite nonpunk artist?
Depeche Mode. They are my absolute favorite band. They have so many other genres that they have influenced, just like Kraftwerk. People would never guess that I would be one of the largest Depeche Mode fans. I have their entire discography, and I had some Depeche Mode stuff here, and that stuff sold out fast, ironically enough. That was superpopular.
When did you get into clothing design?
I was doing that even as a child. I didn't like the way the typical girls' clothing looked and all of this gender assimilation that you had to be catered to if you were a girl, you were wearing pink—this starts at birth. My mom never cared what I wore or where I got my stuff from. I was allowed to have that creativity of cutting my shirts. Ever since I could remember, I was doing some sort of arts and crafts. It was just what you did. My mom, she made all of our clothes for us usually. We'd do our school clothes shopping and our mom made most of our clothes. We'd decorate them with the paints. I credit my mom for that.
Can you explain the name Wet Tail Designs?
I'm a surfer, too. I was originally going to do swimwear. It's actually a disease that small animals can get. It's called Wet Tail. I wanted to make a cool punk beach-clothing line and call it Wet Tail, like, “Go out and get your tail wet.” If you know animal advocacy, you know it's an awful disease that small animals, rodents can get. For me, it was more of a lighthearted kick on getting your tail wet.
Been to any good shows lately?
I went to the Agent Orange show. I've seen Social Distortion. I got to see the Subhumans and some underground bands. I was also at the Adolescents and Weirdos show.
Have you discovered any good local bands?
Some friends of mine took me to concerts in the park and we saw Rebel Punk. They're a rock 'n' roll group and have a 2000s Social Distortion rockabilly sound to them. I love their energy, showmanship and passion for the music they're playing. You can tell that they have a good time doing what they're doing and the crowd is all about it.
You are in the process of co-founding Rabbit Ear Rescue for rabbits. Why rabbits?
I love rabbits. I have a pet rabbit. Her name is Hasi. She was from a Craigslist rescue situation. When I was a kid we grew up with tons of rabbits, rescuing rabbits here and there. We took care of them all because people dumped them from Easter or whatnot. They are the third most popular house pet. Before I had a dog and a cat, I had bunnies. Rabbits, like cats, can be litterbox trained. They're supersmart, supersocial animals. There's a misconception that you put them in a cage. Rabbits require a good amount of space. You'll know if they're happy, just like dogs will wag their tails. Rabbits do what's known as a binky where they jump really high in the air, and kick their feet out. Rabbits are fantastic pets given the right education and environment. Rabbits are underdogs and I tend to gravitate towards the theme of the underdog just in life in general: the punk scene, rabbits, whatever. If the shoe fits.