"Shirock's debut has an international sound like U2 or The Parlotones." – Interview

I love discovering new bands, especially ones that can become as big as U2. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Shirock can become as big as U2. The band has an international sound to it and the writing and music are on the same level. I recently chatted with Chuck Shirock about the band, its music and Shirock’s non-profit company.

Q - Shirock is from Nashville, TN but the band has an international sound to it. How would you describe Shirock's sound?

A - We are based in Nashville, but actually none of us are from here. We all ended up here because of college. Most of us went to a music school here in Nashville. I’d agree with you that Shirock has an ‘international’ sound. I think it comes from a variety of places…myself growing up overseas, Pap living in Turkey and Ecuador, and the band guys having extensively traveled around the world, all play into it. We’ve also been inspired by many artists from around the world. Shirock’s music is a blend of honest writing and our best attempts at using our instruments, melodies and sounds to help convey the emotions in the songs.

Q - You lived in the Philippines when you were younger. Do you speak Tagalog? (I ask this because my parents are Filipino and speak it back and forth to one another.)

A - I did live in Baguio City until I was about 8. While we were there I went to an International school, where classes were mostly taught in English. We had Filipino people that lived with us a lot of the time when we were in Baguio, as well as many Filipino friends. I never really learned much Tagalog, just a few phrases. All of our friends over there knew English much better than any of us knew Tagalog, so we ended up speaking English nearly all of the time.

Q - How did spending time overseas influence your writing and outlook on music?

A - I think the biggest impact growing up in the Philippines and Scotland had on my music is that it kept me in a musical bubble of sorts. In the Philippines we really didn’t have access to much music. Most of what I remember was either music at church or local music and dances (tinikling). In Aberdeen, Scotland, I was first introduced to some pop music, but for the most part I still didn’t have access to a wide variety of music or artists. So instead of diving into other’s music, this forced me to (unknowingly) dive into my own. I started singing and playing piano, writing music and experimenting when I was really young. It forced me to develop my own creativity since I had little outside influences. It wasn’t until I moved to America (when I was about 13), that I first started listening to a lot of new music. Soon after, my Dad got me my first electric guitar, and within a year or so I had started my first band.

Q - Your wife, Pap, also is in Shirock. What are the challenges and obstacles that you come across personally and professionally?

A - We met toward the end of High School, and shortly after she began singing on demos with me, and helping with the song writing process. We had a gradual melding of our relationship and our music. It’s an incredible thing to be able to do something that you love with a person that you love. It’s made the best times in the studio or onstage that much more amazing. But there have been a lot of challenges that come along with it. When you put two extremely passionate and creative people together on one project there will no doubt be intense times. There is no line between our work relationship and our business relationship, which at times can be good, but at other times it can be very wearing on us. Being on tour has its own set of ups and downs. It’s amazing to experience all of this together, but it’s hard because when we’re gone for 4 or 5 weeks we almost have no time alone. We have to intentionally pull away and make time for our relationship. That said, the band guys are a family with us when we’re on tour, and they’re always sensitive to our relationship, and always sensitive to Pap. So in short, it’s incredible to do this together…harder than I ever imagined, but the good by far outweighs the obstacles.

Q - When writing music, what role does the band play with contributing parts? Is the writing process something you do alone? Is there a formula?

A - There isn’t really a formula; it just depends on the song. Certain songs come to me more complete. In the writing process I’ll hear the guitar, piano, bass lines, some rhythmic parts, all while constructing the song. In those instances as a band we’ll take those parts, learn them, and then make them our own. A song like “Still Young” is a good example of this. Many of those parts were constructed during the writing of the song. I demoed the song to a loop (the one used in the actual track), and played the bass, guitars, and some of the keyboard parts. Pap and I worked on further defining the keyboards, and Adam came in and made up the drum part. The guys in the band are very creative, and are amazing musicians on their own, so they are always bringing new ideas to the songs. In other instances the songs are more “bare bones” when we bring them to the band. Pap and I may have a finished song, and we know a direction for it, but not specific parts. The band works on the arrangement together and we develop the parts. A song like “Time Goes By” is an example of this. The song was basically just guitar vocal and piano, and we sort of built up the arrangement together.

Q - I really love the debut album "Everything Burns." I actually compare Shirock to U2 and believe the band can have similar success. When releasing the album, what goes through your mind in terms of critics', fans' and industry's reaction? What do you want the album to accomplish?

A - When we release an album we typically don’t think much about the reaction it will get. It’s all a very organic process…there isn’t a lot of thought leading up to it. We write music that moves us first. Pap has always been a temperature gauge of sorts for me. She’s the first person to hear a new idea, and if it moves her I know I’ve got something. The kind of music that we love is completely honest and vulnerable, an extension of human emotion. That’s what we connect with and that’s the kind of music we aim to create. We believe that if it moves us, it will move our fans, new listeners, and even critics, and people in the industry. We hope that “Everything Burns” will take us to new places around the world, and put us in front of many new audiences. We’re a band that comes alive on stage, and being able to tour around the world and share this music and our lives with people would be incredible.

Q - Where did the idea to have you handle lead vocals on certain songs and Pap handle them on others come from?

A - This was another thing that we never really planned or thought much about. Pap has always written music, and like her helping me with my songs, she began asking me for input on hers. “I’ll Take Rain” was really the turning point for this. She was working on the song, and brought it to me. We worked on it together, and it just was natural. We recorded a demo of it, and started playing it live. There were people that told us it was odd having her sing one song, but we really didn’t care or think about it at all. In fact, we wanted her vocals to be even more prominent on all of the songs. Having her voice in this music really sets it apart. She adds such a unique element. Even in our early demos we never thought about it - she would just sing harmonies, and some lead parts and we never once talked about it, or realized what we were doing.

Q - Tell me about your non-profit company, Everything Burns. What is it about and why did you decide to start it?

A - Pap and I founded Everything Burns in early 2009. The idea was birthed with the song “Everything Burns” – which is actually the oldest song on the album. It started with the idea that time is the most valuable thing we have, and we didn’t want to go through life living for things that were ‘here today and gone tomorrow.’ So much around us is temporary, and personally, we wanted to live for things mattered. At the time we didn’t know what this would look like, but as we continued touring and further defining the ‘Everything Burns’ idea, we started to see a trend among people in our culture – so many were feeling the same thing, especially young people. Because of the access to information that we now have, we are all so much more aware and informed about what is happening around the world. So many people have a desire to get involved and to make a difference in social issues, but feel ill equipped to do something. Whether it’s not knowing what to do, or how to take a first step, there is a desire to do something, but often, no means to make it happen. With EB (Everything Burns) we aim to fix that. We work to provide practical ways for people to get involved in social issues. Our current focus is launching High School and College EB Chapters around the U.S. On each campus the students in the EB Chapter pick a social issue they are passionate about and want to address. Everything Burns connects with them, and together we come up with practical ways that those students can make a tangible difference in that issue. It’s been amazing to see what these students can do given the resources to make a difference. The “Everything Burns” idea is one that runs through our album, and our lives. At the end of the day, the reason we’re a part of this band, and pouring our time, resources and lives into all of this is because we too want to “Live for things that matter…everything else just burns.”

Q - Thanks again for taking the time. Is there anything you wanted to add?

A - We would love to have people check out everything we’re doing online. The best way is to visit http://www.shirock.net/, and link to our other sites from there. We’re on all of the social sites and we’d love it if you checked out http://www.everythingburns.org/ if you’re interested in what we’re doing, and how you can get involved. And come see a show! That’s where it all comes alive for us, and we’d love to have you out.


Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at jason@zoiksonline.com.
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