Categorized | Arts & Culture

Best You’ve Never Heard: Sh! The Octopus

It’s not too often that one comes across a band who’s trying to silence you in the first part of their name. It’s also not too often that the same band has problems distinguishing themselves from another band because of similar titles.(THIS SENTENCE DOESNT MAKE SENSE–WHAT IS SHE TRYING TO SAY?) But such is the case for the up and coming, Detroit-based, classical alternative group Sh! The Octopus.REWORK LEAD
“We get asked that all the time,” frontman Randy Bishop replied with a chuckle when inquired about the origins of the name. “It actually came from an old movie; I have the DVD version of it. It’s a bad movie, but I was just really intrigued with it.” The movie matched the title of the band (“Sh! The Octopus”) and was released in 1937 with a small budget under the direction of William C. McGann.
To go along with the unique name their uniquely-titled debut album, released independently in mid-July 2007, was entitled The Carrot Chase. The actual recording time took a total of seven months, but when releasing independently there are extra factors involved. In terms of track life and length, there is a good amount of variation. Some songs were recorded three months before the album dropped, and others had been around since 2003.
One track that stands out on The Carrot Chase is “Apology,” which boasts harmonizing vocals and foot-tapping drum beats. The melody repeatedly switches from slower to faster and back again. Another notable record (DOES SHE MEAN TRACL?) is “Flaking Friends,” which has similar guitar style and vocals with a stronger drum track and a more constant fast beat.
(TRANSITION–THIS SOUNDS LIKE A LIST OF SONGS)“My Kicks” is also worth a listen – especially if you like shoes. The drums do most of the work in this song, and the vocals are shared by guitarist and vocalist Bishop and pianist and vocalist Christine Baxter. Bishop and Baxter also blend their voices together on “Come on Down,” incorporating more exotic sounds with softer guitar hues and little drumming. All four tracks can be previewed on the band’s MySpace page, www.myspace.com/shtheoctopus.
(TRANSITION OR CUT)“The Brunt of Our Jokes” incorporates the melody of “Come on Down” with the addition of Joel Pearson’s percussions. It has a beat on the fast side with soft vocals that still hit on every slam of the cymbal.
Although Bishop originally began his project as a one-man show in July 2003, he eventually recruited the help of bassist Chris Sesta in spring 2006, guitarist Andy Stachowiak and drummer Pearson in late 2005, and Baxter in early 2007, to make an alternative classical quintet. While Sesta, Stachowiak, and Pearson have all been members for at least a year, Baxter joined the line-up just months before The Carrot Chase was released.
“Just about everything was actually already done for the album when I came in,” Baxter said.
None of the members are novices at their craft either. Baxter has a classical music background and has been playing guitar for several years, Bishop and Stachowiak havebeen playing the guitar for more than a decade; Pearson has been paying the drums for eight years; Sesta has been playing bass since he was 17.
“I’ve only been playing piano since I was 21, but I can’t remember ever not singing,” Baxter said. “I have a degree in music education also, so I had to study voice and piano.”
Even though Baxter came into the line-up a little later than the guys, her talent is not underestimated and Sh! The Octopus still makes a pretty close (THIS SOUNDS LIKE SHE’S QUESTIONING IT), family-like band. “We’ve probably gotten along better than any other band – or even group of friends – actually has. We’re all really hard-working,” Bishop said.
Baxter also had to go on tour with the band right away after her addition. It was a quick process, but traveling for the band is something everyone enjoys. “We actually have an ‘Alphabet Game’ where we look for road signs,” Baxter said.
“When we were on tour it was just a lot of fun, joking around, playing shows every night, the people,” Pearson said.
DONT HAVE TWO QUOTES IN A ROW “There are a lot of sing-a-longs in the car,” Baxter said. “Joel drove the entire time and would not let anyone else drive.”
The band operates their touring and recording well, considering they are not signed to any record label. “Promoting can be a little frustrating,” Bishop said, “but an offer probably wouldn’t have helped that much anyway. But we wouldn’t turn down a record company’s offer now.”
The band takes the front seat with the group members, but all do things on the side as well. Sesta attends Wayne State University, where he will eventually get a teaching degree in special education. Baxter, on top of being a mother, teaches music to children grades K-5 in Alma, Michigan and also plans to attend classes toward a masters degree in the coming spring school semester.
Although she has pride in her work, Baxter does not think her music is appropriate for everyone. “I get a little worried because some of the lyrics are a little questionable for their age,” Baxter said about her children listening to her lyrics. The content on “The Carrot Chase” does tend to get a little on the mature side.
Despite their time going to other aspects of their lives, music is still number one. “The best part to me is when I take a song, write it on a quick think, show it to these other four people and they make it into something that I completely did not expect. That’s hands down the best part,” Bishop said.
“I think we like being able to experience music in a different way,” Baxter said. “I’m teaching music during the day and I’m rocking out some nights. It’s a really great outlet — a different outlet — for expressing myself.”

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