The Chain Letter Interviews: SXSW Pt.II

Kerri O'Malley

Shannon & The Clams

Welcome back to the second installment of our three-part Chain Letter interview series, conducted at this year’s SXSW. How does the chain work? Each band gives us three questions to ask the next band, who propose their own for the following band, and so on. Thanks to today’s chain, we’ve learned that everybody poops…and has some shit to work out with their moms. For those just tuning in, check out the Pt.I of our SXSW edition of the Chain Letter with Permanent Collection, Bad Cop, and Natural Child.

In part two of our SXSW Chain Letter series, Weekend hilariously misunderstand one of Natural Child’s innocent inquiries, leading to the best drug story I’ve heard in awhile. The bad-attitude boys then pass some heavy questions about mom-hate onto the sparkly suspenders and red lips of Shannon & the Clams outside of their North Door show. Across the street in the sunshine, we meet the incredibly mellow Colleen Green with some down-and-dirty tough ones she ponders without even a shade of pink in her cheeks, and we stole Levek’s David Levesque away from his show at The Grackle into an alley to talk about his pubes.

Weekend

At the end of our first full day in Austin, fueled by far too little food, we made our way to the Hilton to meet Brooklyn transplants and somewhat dismal Weekend at an outdoor, shaded hotel bar set up on pure concrete, caught in grey moments before our mutual collapse. Cheery good vibes were shared all around.

So what’s been your SXSW highlight so far?

Kevin Johnson: Let’s face it, South By fucking sucks. Everybody hates this shit.

Shaun Durkan: This is our third year here, and we just, like, see through everything and don’t care. I’m just trying to take a backseat, passive role in the whole thing and not get too caught up.

Abe Pedroza: I’m surprised they haven’t changed the name of any of the streets to “Doritos Street” or “Monster Energy Street.” It’s fucked up, dude.

Shaun: They didn’t even give us a free backpack. No backpacks this year.

What’s the best $20 you’ve ever spent?

Shaun: I’m going to tell a story that makes me sound like a good person – my superhero moment. I was walking around Oakland, and there was this older black man in hospital wear, like, stumbling and falling, and he fell in the middle of the street – this busy, two- way street – and I helped him up and walked him over to the side of the street and asked him what was going on. He said he broke his back the day before at work, and he had no friends to pick him up at the hospital or anything, so I paid for his cab home.

Abe: That’s karma points, dude.

Shaun: I need them.

That’s a great story. Can any of you guys top that?

Kevin: Should’ve had you go last, dude. [Laughs] I was going to say something really superficial. I bought this jacket off of our roommate, Nick, when we were living in Oakland, because he was so broke that he was just surviving on what he coined as “salty rice” — just rice and salt. He really needed money, so he sold me his grandfather’s Vietnam jacket for $20. [All laugh]

That’s like, the exact opposite of the other story.

Abe: Yeah, he sold you a war relic.

Kevin: Yeah, dude, it was, like, all sentimental to him, and I was like, “Dude, I’ll totally take that for $20.”

What’s the worst shit you’ve ever taken on tour?

Kevin: We had this crazy fucking fan that came to every one of our East Coast shows on tour one time named Saldo, and he gave us these pot brownies, and we ate them. An hour later we were like, “Oh this is fun, we’re super high eating cheese steaks in Philadelphia!” And then, an hour after that, it got fucked up. It was the most intense, psychedelic drug experience of my life. I’ve done, like, a decent amount of drugs —

Abe: It was like acid.

Kevin: We couldn’t even function physically and our consciousness was, like, folding…

Abe: He couldn’t figure out how to brush his teeth.

No! That sounds awful.

Abe: We were sitting on the couch, and at one point, Shaun looked at me, and he said, “I’m the highest man on the planet.” [All laugh]

Shaun: I stand by that. I was.

Kevin: We were on tour with a great band, Talk Normal, and staying with one of their member’s moms in Delaware. Some, like suburban house, and we walk in, these three totally freaked out guys who couldn’t even speak to them.

Shaun: Thinking, like, “What would a human say?” [Extends hand robotically] “Helllooooo.” [All laugh] Kevin was, like, downstairs in crisis mode, and Abe and I were just locked eye-to-eye laughing for, like, ten minutes straight.

Kevin: I had to eventually just, like, cover my eyes and ears and assume the fetal position and, like, rock myself to sleep.

Shaun: That’s what you did?

Kevin: Yeah, it was terrible.

But wait…where’s the poop in this story?

Kevin: Wait, I thought you were asking the craziest drugs we’ve ever taken.

[Laughs uproariously for about five minutes] No, no, but I’m glad that’s the answer we got either way. Last question: Have you ever seen god?

Shaun: I’m seeing him on Friday: Stephan Jenkins and Third Eye Blind.

Abe: God’s fake. God’s not real.

Straight answer. What questions do you want to ask the next band?

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said about your mother?
Who’s your least favorite contemporary band?
If you had to kill any of your band members, who would it be?

Shannon & the Clams

We started day two on the right side of the bed, filling up on brunch before making our way to North Door for the Shannon & the Clams show. Crunched into the black, carved- out interior, we danced surf rock circles as Shannon Shaw, Cody Blanchard, and their SXSW fill-in drummer took the stage, then caught them outside in the sun to talk about rats, beards, and the pleasures of punching some dude out.

How did you start the band?

Shannon Shaw: I used to just play by myself – just bass and singing – at open mics when I was really depressed.

Cody Blanchard: When you were just a lonely little turd. [Laughs]

Shannon: When I was just a lonely little turd. I was going to art school at the time, and someone asked me to play a house party, but I was too embarrassed to play solo. So I asked a couple of friends at the time to play drums and guitar for just one show, never thinking it would go anywhere or become…AN INTERNATIONAL SENSATION! [Laughs] Just kidding. But yeah, one was my roommate, one was a friend I went to school with, and we would always practice at Cody’s house. I really didn’t get along with the guitar player in the band at the time. He hated my songs. He really didn’t like my personality, and he thought I was a really bad musician. Good to have around, right? But these girls who lived in Cody’s house where we practiced were always telling me, like, “You should really kick out that guy. He’s such a jerk. He obviously doesn’t like you. You should play with Cody! He’s awesome! He’s really good at guitar, and he loves your band.” But I was like, “I don’t feel like kicking anyone out. This is not going anywhere anyway.”

“That guy Cody doesn’t seem that cool.”

Shannon: Actually, side note, I hated Cody when I first met him. We went to school together, and I thought he was a pretentious jerk because he would always roll his eyes at our very sensitive teacher. But we became friends because he did this really funny video in our 4-D class with one of those little chickie things –

Cody: It was a wind-up toy.

Shannon: Yeah, one of those little chick ones that bounces and a really tiny robot, and they were, like, hopping through this kitchen world looking for each other, playing in a refrigerator.

Cody: It’s pretty cute.

Shannon: Kraftwerk was playing in the background. And I thought, “This guy can’t be that bad if he’s making this video.” Going back to the band, I came over for breakfast one day, and I can hear Cody in his bedroom playing this one song of ours, and it was, like, the guitar sound that I wanted but our guitar player thought was stupid and probably was not capable of anyway. And it was, like, instantly, “Oh my god, how are we going to get rid of the other guitar player and get Cody in the band?!”

Kind of like…this is a fucked-up story that reminds me of that: I used to have a pet rat named Penelope, and she was pretty cute, and I really wanted her to like me. I tried to keep her on my shoulder, but she wouldn’t stay. I tried to keep her in my pocket, but she wouldn’t stay. One day I was cleaning her cage, and my little brother was supposed to keep an eye on her, and Penelope escaped into our ivy. And I was like, “Oh, shit!” My brother started looking for her, and my dog started trying to kill her, and instantly, instead of being freaked out and trying to find Penelope – I know I sound like a sociopath – I was like, “My next rat shall be all white with red eyes and I’ll call him Nicodemus!” [Laughs]

That’s what I thought of instantly when I heard Cody playing in his room – “My next rat shall be called Cody!”

Cody: I’m rat number two.

I hope for your sake there’s no rat number three! I just want to apologize before asking these next couple of questions. Weekend took it to a dark, dark place. [Deep breath] What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said about your mother?

Cody: Shannon’s said a lot of bad stuff about her mom.

Shannon: Well, she’s kind of a jerk sometimes. [All laugh] I’m sure I’ve called her a “C U Next Tuesday” or something. I don’t just pull things out of my cheeks about her. She’s a real wild card. She used to be real mean and crazy when I was a kid because she was on tons of diet pills and stuff – it was the 80s, you know?

Cody: One time I wrote a poem about how my mom didn’t look as good when she took her glasses off. When she didn’t wear her glasses, I didn’t recognize her.

The reverse Clark Kent! I felt that way when my dad shaved his beard. My entire life, he always had a beard, but when I was 14 he shaved it for, like, a week, and the first day, I came downstairs, saw his face, started crying and ran upstairs.

Shannon: The same thing happened to me! None of us recognized our dad, which is weird because he’s a big, giant, fat, tan guy, and he’s the only other big, fat, giant, tan guy that lives at his house. And me and my brothers were just watching TV and he came out really excited, thinking that’s we’d be like, “Ooo, Dad, looking good!” But we were like, “Wahhh!” And we started freaking out.

Who’s your least favorite contemporary band?

Shannon: I’m not going to go there.

Cody: Woah-ho, so many! Where do I start?

Shannon: It’s mean because, guess what, the contemporary band I hate the most is probably someone I love as a person. And also, I change my mind a lot.

Cody: I hate everything. But who do I hate the most? I complain about it all the time…

I could take a top five if you can’t narrow it down.

Shannon: Don’t do it, Cody. Don’t take their evil, dark bait!

They specifically wanted to start a fight, that’s true.

Cody: I thought of a band I hate more than anyone. I hate Fidlar.

Shannon: Noooooooooooooooooo! They’re so nice. That’s terrible. I can’t believe you said that!

Cody: We played with them, and they’re really nice, but I just don’t like their music.

If you had to kill any of your band members, who would it be?

Shannon: Our real drummer [who didn’t make it to SXSW], Ian, I guess.

Cody: Because he’s not here right now.

Shannon: I don’t think I’m capable of killing anyone.

Cody: She did punch someone in the face yesterday, though.

Shannon: He really deserved it, and I felt really bad afterwards. But he deserved it. He admitted that he deserved it, and his friends said he deserved it.

What did he do?

Cody: He was being a perv.

Shannon: A super-aggressive, grabby perv. I think he thought I was going to be like, “Oh my god, no one says that to me ever!” And that I was going to be thrilled, and, like, into the attention. But I instantly just went, like, [mimics punching this douche out]. After I punched him he, like, fell to the ground, and I apologized to his friends, who were really nice guys, and they were like, “Dude, he deserved it. Do it again! He’s been an asshole to girls all day.” [Laughs] When the guy got up, I was like, “Listen, I shouldn’t have punched you, but you should never talk to anyone like that, ever.” He was really humiliated and sad, but he fucking deserved it. This was, like, on the way to the stage, too. These girls came up to the stage and were like, “I saw you punch that guy. Thank you! He was messing with me earlier. That was awesome!”

Cody: Uh…I think both of us would kill Ian, but I think Ian would kill me, probably.

Shannon: That’s why I would kill Ian because I know, no doubt in his mind, he would kill me. He’s a very smart, bright, weird man, very efficient, and he’s always thinking about survival. So he’s always in a waterproof hiking short with inside slippers and extremely comfortable sandals that you can run really fast in if you need to or wade into a stream to catch a salmon or…they’re probably fireproof.

What questions do you want to ask the next band?

What’s your horniest childhood memory?
If you could have one lusty affair with one of SXSW’S top performing acts, who would you fuck?
If you could make a dream band at SXSW of anybody who’s playing here, who would be a part of it?

Colleen Green

After our chat with Shannon and her clam, we found ourselves leaning against a doorway with the soft-spoken, mild-mannered Colleen Green, who proved unsinkable in the face of the sea creatures’ sexy questions. Green described her new record, Sock It to Me, as “basement pop” – the first she hasn’t recorded in her bedroom – and let us into her laidback approach to life. Diarrhea Planet, you are loved.

So at this point, you’ve gotten a good amount of attention, especially with your last record. Do you feel successful, and what does that mean to you?

Um yeah, I feel successful now just because I’m doing what I really like to do, and I feel like I can’t do anything else. And people are acknowledging my music now and seeming to really like it and I’m playing cool shows that I feel honored to be a part of. So yeah, that’s more success than I ever really assumed I would have playing music, so I feel lucky.

If you could go back five years, how would where you expected to be now compare to where you actually are?

I don’t know. I never really, like, assumed anything for my future. I was just kind of, and still am, living my life and taking each day as it comes. That sounds really corny but yeah, kind of just like rolling with the punches, going with the flow…as it were. [Laughs]

Is that how you approach making music, or is it more hard work?

I work on my music pretty hard. I put my whole brain and my whole heart into my music when I am writing and recording it and it’s often a very emotional process, I guess. I feel like I always put a lot of myself into it and I always stress out about it really hard. I just want everything to be really perfect. And I book all my own tours and stuff which is not, like, a strenuous job, but it’s tedious.

Does that kind of work ethic come naturally to you?

I’m naturally extremely lazy. [We all high-five.] I try to do only as much work as I need to but in terms of the song-writing process, I just can’t help it. I just have to do it.

What’s your horniest childhood memory?

Hmm, I don’t know. I feel like there’re a lot of them. Well, probably when I learned how to masturbate. I was really young and I didn’t understand really what it was, obviously, so I was like, “Oh, that’s pretty awesome.”

Do you remember what inspired that discovery?

I think I was just lying on the couch or something and like, you know…

…“Let’s see what’s going on down there?” [All laugh] If you could have one lusty affair with one of SXSW’S top performing acts, who would you fuck?

Damn!!! Um wait ok, if I could have a lusty affair with one of the top performing— I don’t even know who’s playing here!

Well any band you can think of is probably playing here. I think I have a crush on everyone here…or it’s just the sun.

I don’t know, I was standing over there earlier watching everyone walk by and checking out guys. I was underwhelmed. But there weren’t too many guys that were passing by, in their defense. Okay, I’m just going to say that I have a crush on Emmett in Diarrhea Planet.

If you could make a dream band at SXSW of anybody who’s playing here, who would you have be a part of it?

Casey from Diarrhea Planet on drums, and Sandy from SISU playing guitar and singing with me. And…that’s it! A 3-piece.

What questions do you want to ask the next band?

Have you ever thought about having sex with your band members?
Have you ever shit and puked at the same time?
What’s your pube situation like? I want the whole story – color, trim…everything.

Levek

Parked outside his gig at the Grackle, Levek’s David Levesque blew us away with his ability to turn the mundane into interesting, and his quiet, thoughtful manner eased the ache in our burned-out bodies. We chatted about the bright side of the South By madness: hanging with friends and the trouble they get you in…especially when your friend is Flying Lotus.

What’s one of your favorite just-hanging-out moments you’ve had at SXSW this year?

Oh, geez, so many! I had a fun time getting kicked out of a FlyLo showcase. I forget what the showcase was called — it was at this like club or something. I got kicked out for certain reasons because FlyLo was asking me to give him something and, uh, you know I gave it to him, and when I turned around he was, like, already doing this thing, and then I had it in my hand, and next thing I know I’m out on the street. But then I made friends with the security guard, and I told him the story, and he’s just laughing his ass off. He just brought me back upstairs and was like, “Enjoy the rest of the show, man.”

Nice, I love the connect-with-security-guards moments.

Oh yeah, we were in line for, like, two or three hours, and we were right in front of him that whole time, talking to him for three hours. He better let me back in! [Laughs] He was really rad, though. He has his own radio show here in Austin. He’s a general badass.

Well I really liked the censored version of that story a lot, good job. You’ll have to whisper the real version in my ear sometime.

Well you can just fill in the blank with something green.

It’s like dirty MadLibs. My mind was going to the worst place…I was thinking blowjobs there for a second.

[Laughs] “And then I turned around with his dick in my hand and the security guard got real mad!” [Laughs]

On that note…have you ever thought about having sex with your band members?

Well, one of them is my girlfriend, so there you go! I’ve thought about, you know, having a giant thing happening with everybody, but that’s just a wet dream.

That’s the record – the result is the record.

Yeah, collaboration on the record, collaboration in bed. Helps the chemistry all around.

Have you ever shit and puked at the same time?

At the same time? I don’t really puke that much. I try not to. I’m going to say no because I don’t puke very much. But I have done the second thing, and I do that all of the time.

What’s your pube situation like?

Oh, it’s all around the same. Same shit. Same as the curtains. Same all over, maybe a little blonde, but that’s the only thing.

What questions do you want to ask the next band?

Have you ever had a sexual fantasy about your band mate’s mom?
What’s the worst shoe decision you’ve ever made?
What’s the most disturbing video you’ve ever seen on the internet?

Follow the chain until it breaks with Sam Flax, Burnt Ones and Warm Soda in our third and final installment on Wednesday.

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