Magic and Goodness

Shook Twins do some growing up, celebrate good fortune


The story goes that Katelyn and Laurie Shook were in Seattle watching a friend's band when they saw a man holding a big golden egg. When they asked him about it, he said someone else told him to sign the egg and pass it on.

"The guy never told us that it was magical, but we always felt like it was," said Katelyn.

As it turns out, they might have been right. The 29-year-old twins discovered that the egg--which shows up in quite a few of their promotional photos, takes center stage at their concerts and serves as a percussion instrument--was one of 40 created by Seattle performance artist Lucia Neare for an event held on May 1, 2008 (you can see pictures of the eggs on Neare and her fellow performers gave the eggs away to children in the audience, telling them that the eggs could grant wishes.

"Since we know it has magic in it, we tell people to make a wish on it," Katelyn said. "People have written us, saying, 'I made a wish on the egg and it came true!'"

A certain magic seems to have graced the Shook twins' career so far. Since emerging from Sandpoint, this self-proclaimed "quirky folk band"--which blends folk melodies, angelic harmonies and literate lyrics with subtle looping and beat-boxing--has earned rave reviews and played with esteemed acts like Ryan Adams, Michelle Shocked and The Head and the Heart. The Shooks' third studio album, tentatively titled What We Do, was recently recorded and mastered, and they'll headline the Egyptian Theatre on Friday, Sept. 20.

Although they sang in choir and their father sings and plays guitar, music didn't play an especially large role in the sisters' early years.

"I remember just riding my bike when I was 7 or 8 or so all day long, down to the beach and everything. ... We just rallied around all the time," Katelyn said.

As the Shooks got older, their musical talent became apparent. In high school, Laurie learned beat-boxing from a member of a visiting a capella group called The Standards.

"There was a big performance ... in the gym that night, and they called her up and she beat-boxed in front of the whole school," Katelyn said. "And she was just exhilarated and [has been] hooked ever since."

Meanwhile, young love prompted Katelyn to take up the guitar.

"It was a boy I had a crush on [who] eventually became my boyfriend," she explained. "He started teaching us guitar, and I wanted to get better so I could be his girlfriend."

That relationship led to the Shooks' first gig. Taking a year off from their studies at the University of Idaho, the sisters followed their then-boyfriends out to Virginia. A restaurant gig earned them $300, which encouraged the twins to focus more on music.

"After we graduated in 2006, we started doing a weekly gig at this winery in Sandpoint and started realizing, 'Oh man, we could totally make a living at this. Let's just do this for a little while,'" Katelyn said.

Even before they had made that decision, they had scored a career highlight. In 2005, the Shook Twins opened for Ryan Adams at the Festival at Sandpoint. The set didn't go entirely well, Katelyn remembered--their equipment broke down midway through--but "it just really worked out great because Ryan Adams really sucked that night and made us look a lot better. ... The next day, his band quit and then he went to rehab." (Katelyn added that she and Laurie are still huge Ryan Adams fans.)

Other well-respected acts drifted into the Shook Twins' orbit over the next few years. After moving to Portland in 2009, the group--whose lineup now includes bassist Kyle Volkman, guitarist Niko Daoussis, fiddle player Anna Tivel and drummer Russ Kleiner--built up a large following within about a year. The Shooks have performed with respected Portland writer-musician Nick Jaina and, more recently, sang harmonies for Minneapolis, Minn.-based songwriter Mason Jennings.

"We've met a lot of really cool people [in Portland]," Katelyn said. "The whole music scene there is just so supportive and so wonderful. There's so much room for growth. It's surprising because it's kind of a smaller city and there's a lot of bands."

The latest big name to connect with the Shooks is Ryan Hadlock, who produced What We Do at his family's Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville, Wash. James Brown, Eric Clapton and Soundgarden have all recorded there. Hadlock himself has produced albums by The Moondoggies, The Lumineers (whom the Shooks hosted at a house show in their Portland basement in 2010) and Stephen Malkmus.

Although the Shooks enjoyed recording their first two albums with producer Brody Bergholz in Santa Cruz, Calif., they felt that a change was in order.

"We definitely needed to go somewhere closer to get [the full band] on the record, too," Katelyn said, "and we just wanted to check out a new producer and see what they could bring to the team."

She and Laurie are bringing something new to this record. "There's some dark, eerie songs. There's songs about death. ... We've just grown up and realized, 'Oh, the world's not totally [light and fluffy]," she said.

"Some buddies and family members [died] that weren't supposed to at that time in their lives," Katelyn explained, "and that's really changed my whole perspective on things."

Still, she recognizes that she and her sister's lives are "pretty damn blessed."

"We have a really good attitude and a really good energy around us, and we attract good energy toward us. So it's kind of easy to keep track of that good stuff because we're just always in it," she said.

The Shook Twins hope to release What We Do this winter. Hadlock and the Shooks' manager, Phil Einsohn, will work together to determine the best method for distributing the album. In the meantime, the Shooks are looking forward to playing the Egyptian.

"I'm so pumped," Katelyn said. "I love that venue."

And when the Shook Twins take the stage, the golden egg should be front and center. In Katelyn's words, "It's kind of like our physical manifestation of magic and goodness."