The Shivas: “Nothing to it but do it.”

Adam Blackman
Adam Blackman

Last November, Portland rock ‘n’ rollers the Shivas were set to headline the Rickshaw Theatre here in Vancouver. They had just released their fourth full-length album, the surf-ready You Know What To Do, a few days prior to the show. But unfortunately, they cancelled their appearance – particularly disappointing news for those who’d seen the band open for the Dandy Warhols two summers ago.

Thankfully, the Shivas return this June as part of an incredible line-up of today’s finest garage, psych, and experimental music at the first-ever Levitation Vancouver (even though the band leans more towards 60s pop, with sunny vibes).

Originally a four-piece from Vancouver, WA, most of the band has relocated to Portland. They’ve since entrenched themselves in their local music scene, where they’ve befriended the likes of the Dandy Warhols, members of San Francisco’s Brian Jonestown Massacre, and perhaps most significantly Beat Happening/K Records founder Calvin Johnson. (Johnson went on to record You Know What To Do.) The band tours hard: core duo Jared Molyneux (guitar/vocals) and Kristin Leonard (drums/vocals) racked up hundreds of high-energy shows across the United States after high school alone. Even as a live two-piece, the band is a deceptively gusty force.

These days, the Shivas make their live rounds as the original trio: Molyneux and Leonard, with Eric Shanafelt on bass. Vancouver Weekly caught up with Molyneux to talk about the band’s new album, working with Calvin Johnson, and their upcoming appearance at Levitation.

Vancouver Weekly: When did you two [Jared and Kristin] relocate to Portland? What were some of the things that drew you there?

Jared Molyneux: We all grew up in Vancouver, WA, just outside of Portland. Eric and I moved here at different times within the last five years or so, and Kristin still lives in Vancouver. When we lived up there, we spent most of our time on the east side of Portland and so eventually just moved down here.

VW: You once again released your album through Olympia, WA label K Records. How did you guys hook up with Calvin Johnson?

JM: We met Calvin playing shows around the Northwest. A lot of good shows happen in Olympia too, so we were up there a lot for that. We released WHITEOUT on tape on Burger Records, and Calvin liked it, so we both decided to put it out on LP on K.

VW: What bits of wisdom have you picked up from working with someone as reputable as Johnson?

JM: Nothing to it but do it.

VW: You recorded Whiteout in Portland with Collin Hegna (of Federale and the Brian Jonestown Massacre). Where and with whom did you record You Know What To Do?

JM: Yeah, WHITEOUT was with Collin at Revolver Studio in Portland; You Know What To Do was done in Olympia at K’s Dub Narcotic Studio and was recorded by Calvin. That’s also where we made the You Make Me Wanna Die 7″ EP that was released a few months before the LP.

VW: Whiteout features performances by members of SexyWaterSpiders and the Dandy Warhols. Did any of them feature in any way on You Know?

JM: Because we recorded You Know What To Do outside of Portland, it was a little more difficult to arrange to have a lot of our friends from Portland to come to the studio in Olympia. That being said, Ian from SexyWaterSpiders is on the album a bunch, as are some others who have played on our records before.

VW: The Shivas began as a duo, but you added bassist Eric Shanafelt and second guitarist Robert Mannering to your live line-up. When did they come into the live fold? Were either of them involved in creating the new album? Are they still part of the live band?

JM: The Shivas actually began as a four-piece group. The three of us that now make up the group were all involved from the beginning. Eric and I were in the performing line-up, and Kristin sang on the records. The line-up shifted around a bit, and everyone settled into the parts they play now, Rob having joined the band in 2010. All of us were involved in making You Know What To Do. Now though, the live line-up has returned to being a three-piece: Kristin, Eric, and myself.

VW: With Eric and Robert bolstering your live sound, where has that left your “longtime secret studio weapon” Ian Hartley, who has also stepped in as a live member of the Shivas before? What does Hartley bring to the recording sessions?

JM: We have always asked Ian to play on our records because he’s a good friend of ours and very good at playing a lot of different things. He has played in the live group when it works out, but he is also very busy with many different projects.

VW: How has adding Eric and Robert altered the Shivas’ song-writing process?

JM: Our songwriting process has always been pretty much the same: someone brings something to the group, and whoever is there fleshes it out into a song or whatever. Everyone alters it in as much as they are present for it.

VW: Unfortunately, you had to cancel your show here last November. Can you talk about what happened? Did the reason for cancelling affect the rest of the tour?

JM: It was a bummer not to be able to come up last year, I don’t recall exactly why the show was cancelled, but we like playing in BC a lot so we always look forward to coming back.

VW: How does it feel to return to Vancouver on a platform as large as Levitation?

JM: It’s gonna be great.

VW: Have you played with any of the other bands who are going to be at Levitation before?

JM: Yeah, we just finished a tour with La Luz through the US. We’ve also played with Cosmonauts and Mr. Elevator and Dead Ghosts in the past.

VW: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the festival?

JM: So many. It has a really good line-up. I’m looking forward to seeing Dead Moon, La Luz, Black Lips, Cosmonauts, King Tuff, Black Angels. Also, Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel from LA and Dead Ghosts from Vancouver.

VW: For those who’ve never been to Austin Psych Fest, can you describe the kind of vibe festival-goers might be able to expect at Levitation?

JM: Constantly solid bands and a good laid back audience.

Levitation Vancouver runs June 5th-7th at the Malkin Bowl and multiple venues along Main Street. Festival passes are available online now.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu