This Chambersburg band featured in Rolling Stone
Magazine speaks exclusively with The Dickinsonian
and WDCV about its music and growing fame.
The Shackletons are: Mark Redding (vocals), Eric Fisak and Dan Schuchman (guitars), Justin McDaniel (bass), and Sean Hallock (drums). Dan could not make our interview due to illness.
Tell the readers of The Dickinsonian a fun fact about The Shackletons:
Mark: Eric is awesome playing on stage. He’s ambidextrous and he taught himself how to play. He is naturally right-handed but he also taught himself how to play left-handed guitar. He decided to record our whole CD left-handed and he had never played lefthanded guitar in the band before that.
Eric: Actually half the album I play guitar left-handed and half I play right-handed because there were guitars in the studio that I thought would sound better in other tracks. Some people learn languages. I thought I would teach myself to be ambidextrous.
Eric, do you have two separate guitars when you play shows?
It’s not one of those things where it’s like “Hey guys, look what I can do!” and then switch guitars. But if I break a string I’ll switch.
Mark: Sean, our drummer, is in 11th grade.
He’s homeschooling on the road and does work on his laptop. That’s an interesting fact because we’re going to find out if it [homeschooling] works.
So you haven’t always been home schooled?
Sean: I switched to homeschooling when we went to record in Los Angeles. The whole year I was in public school and it was really hard keeping up with the work and doing gigs and things like that.When we flew to LA to record I realized I would be gone for a month or so out of school. I just dropped out for a couple weeks and when I got back home I signed up for internet classes. I’ve been taking them a little over a year now.
Eric: When we got offered the contract we were in New York. He called his parents and said,“Hey mom, I got a record contract!”.
Later on that day she started looking for internet classes.
Eric: The irony is both his parents are teachers in a public school.
Sean:My mom was cool with it but my dad was like “Now why do you want to do homeschool? What don’t you like about public school?” It didn’t go over to badly though.
Is it weird being in a band with so many people who are older?
Sean: Not really. I act my age and everyone else acts my age too.
Is that a sly insult right there? (laughs).Tell us about your songwriting process.
Sean: It is really socialized. Everyone writes their own parts. I write 1/5 of all the songs, Mark writes all the words. Occasionally we will give each other insight like, “Hey you wanna try this and see what it sounds like?” Or “Sean do a beat that sounds like this.”Usually I wait until something is going a certain direction until I can play off of someone. That tends to solidify the song. Sometimes we play off of what Mark is speaking or singing.
Eric: One of the advantages to doing the whole thing where everyone writes their own part is that it makes it unique because we all have different musical backgrounds and different tastes. It becomes a thing of its own.We all do things that are different, and it makes it special.
Mark: There’s a lot of conflict and tension, but there’s resolution when the song’s written. There’s tension with five different tense people putting in their voice and then it becomes a song.
So it’s all worth it in the end?
Mark: Yeah.Well it’s not like we fight.We all come from five different musical backgrounds. Five different ingredients. Instead of everyone being a piece of chicken, it’s like Sean is paprika, Eric’s basil, and Justin’s the Kool-Aid.
Well I’m glad that paprika, basil and Kool- Aid can go together. Your record label Loveless is based in Seattle. How did this work out since your band is based in Chambersburg?
Eric:Well we found out that we were being played on a radio station in Seattle (KEXP). It is apparently the biggest independent station in the country. We played CMJ (College Music Journal) festival in New York. KEXP was there broadcasting live from New York.
We had a freakishly good set on the radio. Everyone that worked for KEXP absolutely loved us. Mark hands our CD to some guy in the studio from Domino Records and he goes “if you sign uswewillmake you rich.” Somebody fromKEXP said, “Wait, you guys aren’t signed?” He talks to John Richards who is DJ for the stationwho happens to be Co-owner of Loveless. He makes a phone call and we got an offer for a record contract.
So with all the West Coast label stuff going on, I assuming you guys are pretty active in the West Coast?
Mark:Well we played there twice in Seattle this past year.We will be heading out in April to play on the West Coast.
And then you guys are doing [Texas music festival] South By Southwest, right?
Mark:Yes, we will be there in March.
Will this your first time down South?
Mark:Yes, our first time South of DC.
Are you nervous about playing in an unfamiliar area?
Mark: I just hope that my voice and my body lasts and that I can get a good night sleep. I get involved when I play, it’s very physical. And Sean is pretty active on that drum kit. I hope our hotel is quiet so we can sleep. Sometimes we play two shows a day. I’m not worried about playing the shows, but I’m worried about losing my voice.
Eric: One concern I’ve always had is financial. We are on an independent label and we haven’t made it yet.A lot of it is up in the air. I’m the only married guy in the band and I have a mortgage. I don’t want to lose my house but we try to do what we can.
So, we’ve seen your articles in Spin and Rolling Stone. Did this publicity give you different exposure? And how did you discover that you were in both publications?
Eric: I usually get an email saying “guess what guys, we’re in Spin!” It’s pretty cool and it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised. It’s given us exposure but I don’t know how much it’s sticking in terms of CD sales or hype. I guess this will be revealed during the tour.
Mark: When we were first written up in Rolling Stone online, some guy messaged us on My Space and I asked him how he heard about us and he said “I read about you on Rolling Stone”. I said nah, it must be Spin. It was a real surprise that the guy from Rolling Stone reviewed us with Bow Wow and Wu- Tang. That was a real surprise and thrill because it was a great little review on the song “The Breaks” and the whole record.
Sean: They put us under “breaking artist” and that was surprised me.
Mark: It was exciting. Then the writer for Rolling Stone went to see us in New York.His fiancée is a fan which is really cool.We gave him a trophy and we put his name on it and on the back it said “Thanks, The Shackletons.”