Wooden Shjips. Photo by Andrew Paynter.
Wooden Shjips are on the move. As East Coast boys drawn to the West, these modern day explorers of sound started the Shjips as an experiment in “primitive and minimalist rock.”
Setting their controls for the heart of the sun, as it were, the Wooden Shjips jam their way through psychedelic, garage rock while nodding to influences of the ’60s and ’70s (think Velvet Underground meets Neil Young, electrified and stoned). Their music is fuzzy, droning, and carries with it a forward momentum that comes with the territory of exploratory, expansive soundscapes. Contemporary cosmic Kraut/West Coast burnout drone-rock at its finest—with one extra j to seal the deal.
Their newly released album, West, out now on Thrill Jockey Records, commemorates the long distance traveled from their experimental, D.I.Y. roots. West is their first full-length album recorded outside of the confines of their SF rehearsal studio. To celebrate, the Shjips are trekking all over the world to play it.
Coming out of the first European leg of the tour, Nash Whalen, the Shjips’ organist, caught up with the BOMBlog crew to chat about San Fransiscan culture and European tour mates. Their East Coast tour leg is next.
BOMBlog How did Wooden Shjips come about? Had you been playing together much before this particular group came about? Did Moon Duo come after or before Shijps?
Nash Whalen Wooden Shjips began about eight years ago when Ripley gathered a few friends, all non-musicians, to jam primitive, minimal rock and roll. Ripley and I were playing guitar and the others filled out the rhythm section. We tried working on songs, but the idea of playing shows or recording more than the practices was a little more than we could handle. In 2006, the current line-up formed when Omar and Dusty joined and I switched to organ. And our intention from the beginning was to make records and play shows. Moon Duo started after the Shjips.
BOMB I assume that you’re repping the bay, but what’s the story behind that shot of the Golden Gate on the album cover? Is it related to the album title at all? I guess the real question is, is this a concept album about the West? If the St. Louis Arch is the gateway to the West, then the Golden Gate is the exit, yeah?
NW The cover shot of is a cool photo of the Golden Gate Bridge taken by a local aerial photographer. Everyone knows we are from San Francisco and we wanted to acknowledge the city with the cover. It is a stretch to callWest a concept album, but generally the songs relate to the West and to the experiences to be found in its vast landscapes. I’ve never thought of the Golden Gate as an exit. Many people came to SF by boat through the Golden Gate, including the ’49ers, immigrants, and the soldiers returning from wars in the Pacific. It is as much a gateway as St. Louis.
BOMB What’s your favorite restaurant in SF/Bay Area? I tell everyone who asks to go to Turtle Tower in the Tenderloin.
NW I am always really happy when I eat at Memphis Minnie’s in the Lower Haight. Their smoked meats are amazing, but since the smoke flavors the air of the neighborhood all the time, it might just be that I am subconsciously drawn to them.
BOMB Should the Warriors keep Monte Ellis, or trade him to free up Steph Curry?
NW I think the only time any of us really pay attention to the Warriors is when they are in the playoffs. And with the lockout still happening it is hard to care about the NBA at all. But as the 2010 Giants proved with Cody Ross, the right trade can be magical.
These are videos from some of my favorite bands we played with in 2010.
Carlton Melton, “When You’re In”