The Shook Ones Dish on Influences, Shows and Often Being Compared to Lifetime
Although the Shook Ones already accomplished their mission of being compared to some of their influences (such as Jersey’s Lifetime), the Seattle hardcore band has no intentions of stopping anytime soon. Despite the members defining themselves as a “part-time” band, the guys have managed to gather a loyal gathering of fans. The band is heading to Europe in just a few weeks for a tour, but not for too long. According to guitarist Kelly Aiken, the guys can’t stay on the road as long as they used to due to other bands and commitments, but their passion for playing keeps them going. Check out what Aiken filled us in on in a recent interview.
Introduction by: Melanie Wolfson, Interview by: Karen Mitchell
Since this is your first interview with Define the Meaning can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Kelly Aiken, and I am the less goofy (and skillful) guitar player.
You mentioned in previous interviews that when the band formed you
wanted to sound like Lifetime. What influence did Lifetime have on
you? And what is it about that band that you guys love so much?
Well, I have lifetime lyrics tattooed on me (as does Scotty) so that’s
always been a pretty important band to me. I first heard that band
when I was 17 and immediately connected, and it’s been a torrid love
affair ever since then. Initially, it was the lyrics that got me –
obviously there’s some teenage lovesickness going on there, and Ari
always had a gift for delivering some pretty essentially sad bastard
vibes without being pathetic. As time has gone on, I can appreciate
more aspects – the genius bass tone, the sweet tempo changes, the
ragingly melodic guitar lines. It’s a complete package and ‘Jersey’s
Best Dancers’ is still top 5 for me, has been since I heard it 10
years ago. I actually wasn’t in Shook Ones when the band started, but
I always wanted to be in a band that had a Lifetime-vibe, and was a
huge fan of the band from the start – when I heard they needed a
guitar player, I figured out all the demo songs on my own just in
case. At this point, we’ve had the pleasure to play with and befriend
some of those dudes, so it’s very fulfilling on a personal level. I
know we all still look to Dan Yemin as a prime example of how to grow
up and continue to keep your shit together while doing the whole punk
Do you ever get tired of being compared to them?
Nah, who gets bummed about being compared to one of their favorite
bands? Obviously we like to think we’re doing a little bit more than
just ripping off Lifetime/Kid Dynamite, and hopefully folks take the
time to notice what else we’re trying to do, but getting the same
compliment over and over doesn’t make it any less complimentary.
Have you considered having Ari Katz do back up vocals on an album or 7”?
How do you know we haven’t already done it?
How did you fall in love with hardcore?
When I was 13, I was playing computer games with my friend Justin
Bernier in his basement. I was already into your standard adolescent
punk fare like Bad Religion, NOFX, and the like. But then he played
Minor Threat and I looked at the back of the discography CD, and I was
like ‘how do they have this many songs on one cd?!’. Then he played
it, and that was that.
I also grew up in Washington State but was never able to become apart
of the hardcore scene, as I was young. What was being apart of
Washington’s punk/hardcore scene like? Have you played any shows in
Federal Way? (This is where I used to live). What venues/VFW Halls
would you recommend going to?
The northwest has a relatively small/close-knit hardcore scene, filled
with lots of rad people and rad bands. It’s always been a real
positive place, and although we may not have the greatest success in
the area, people have always been real supportive so it’s a good place
to come up. I don’t think we’ve ever played in Federal Way, but we
play Tacoma regularly and they’re pretty close, right? West Seattle
American Legion Hall is by far the best VFW hall-type joint area, and
pretty much hosts better shows than any of the ‘legit’ venues in the
area. When we’re trying to pick a place to do a show, that’s always my
Also, what types of shows do you enjoy playing the most? (Basements,
vfw’s, clubs) Speaking of basement shows I believe I met you guys in
South Jersey about a year ago or so.
I always have and always will love basement shows. More relaxed, more
fun, more ‘intimate’. I know sometimes we all get a little bratty
about people bumping into our instruments/gear, but then we realize
that it’s cause kids are into us and having fun, and we chill out.
South Jersey basement show… man, I am so old and can’t remember
anything. I remember our first New Brunswick Basement Show, were you
You guys have been apart of Rev’s history. What is it like to be a
band on their roster?
We all shit bricks when we first got t-shirts with the Rev Star on the
back. Obviously, they’re pretty much the most legendary label in
hardcore, so getting to be a part of that was a big deal for us,
especially as a relatively unknown band. Since Bob Shedd left we
haven’t really been a part of what they’re doing, but it’ll always be
cool to say we were on the same label as all those crucial bands.
You recently released “The Unquotable A.M.H,” talk about the meaning
behind a few of the tracks and the artwork.
I am the worst person to answer this question, but I’ll try. As far as
the meaning, I think Scott tackles a lot of the same issues he
consistently address: growing up, the nature of relationships (friends,
family, significant others), and some of the more personal aspects of
politics (civil rights, making ends meet, etc). As a listener, these
are some of my favorite Shooks lyrics – a lot more abstract imagery
than some of the earlier stuff, which I dig. Scotty’s an exceptional
lyricist and it’s cool to see him expand his palette. As for the
artwork, all credit for that goes to artistic genius and friend, Juan
from Comadre (also exceptional front man). We sent him the songs and
the lyrics, and it all came from him. Obviously I’m a bit biased, but
that’s some of the raddest album artwork I’ve seen in a long time, and
definitely the best artwork on any of our records.
Each time a band records a new record they say it’s their best record
yet to come. Would you say the same about “The Unquotable A.M.H?”
Oh yeah. It’s kind of inherent in making a record, cause if you
thought it was weaker than your older shit, why would you even do it?
But in our case, this one has a lot to do with the recording process –
we had the good fortune to record with our good friend Jackson Long
just down the road from where we live. Jackson has always been a close
friend and an exceptional engineer, so getting the luxury of 2 weeks
with him was just about everything we could ask for – it was more
relaxed and communicative than before, so that allowed us to really
get everything exactly how we wanted it. I think it’s the most
accurate representation of what we wanted the songs to sound like that
we’ve ever put out.
What plans do you guys have in order to promote the new album?
We’re all older dudes with other bands/commitments, so Shook Ones
isn’t and won’t be a full-time touring band. We still like to get out
there and play, but it’s more of a special occassion type deal these
days. We just got back from Europe a couple months ago and are heading
to the east coast for the first time in a long while to do a post-Fest
tour. After that, we’ll be doing sporadic short trips and hopefully
get out to some of the farther away spots that we miss so dearly (i.e.
Japan), but we’re not road-warriors anymore.
Are you guys still doing Shook Ones as a part time band? Will you ever
go full time?
Kind of already answered this, but yes, part time. We’re all pretty
spread out, geographically, and we’ve got so much else going on in our
lives these days that the chances of us doing this full time are
pretty slim. It’s the nature of growing up – people drift, interests
develop, and some of those things you are able to blow off in your
youth get to the point where you can’t ignore them anymore (rent,
relationships, health insurance). It’s not a good thing or a bad
thing, it’s just how it is. There’s an expectation in punk/hardcore
that bands should be sacrificing and touring constantly, and hopefully
people don’t respect us less because we don’t choose that route. It’s
not like we’re choosing 6-figure jobs as investment bankers (though
that’s fine, too) – we still love what we do, we’ve just got other
shit going on, too.
Any other words or shout outs?
We put out a song online to benefit the opposition/efforts to repeal
Prop 8 in California. In addition to thinking it’s one of our best
songs, all the money from it goes to a very awesome and very real
cause, so people should check it out. It’s called ‘Breakfast for
Dinner’ and googling it should yield plenty of results.
Shook Ones – Middle Name Is Justice
Shook Ones – For Collards
Shook Ones – Bird On Ice
Shook Ones – Silverfish
Shook Ones – Equal Opportunity Insults
Shook Ones – For Flannel
Shook Ones – Who Told Omar
Shook Ones – Double Knot That
Shook Ones -T. Monk
Shook Ones – They’re Very Yes
Shook Ones – Tip The Weatherman