That really is the spirit of this band; it’s like,Well, f*ck; let’s just do it this way; and who cares what other people […] think is the way you’re supposed to do something.It’s really just been about having fun.
Local garage-rockers Shi++ty/Awesome formed on a whim in 2009, when Guestroom Records co-owner Travis Searle and manager Will Muir got together with employees Derek Lemke and Joey Powell with the idea of a band that would only ever
play in the alley behind the store — or any alley, anywhere — or house shows. They’ve since become local favorites, so metro music fans were saddened by the announcement last week that they would be playing their final show at this weekend’s O P O L I S birthday bash.
The reason for the breakup was explained in a post on the Guestroom Records Facebook page. The business is opening a new store in Louisville, Kentucky, and closing the Bricktown, Oklahoma City location. Searle will move to Louisville to manage the new store, with Muir coming down to Norman to fill the vacancy created by the move.
Shi++ty/Awesome play their final show this at O P O L I S, 113 N Crawford Avenue in Norman, as part of the O P O L I S XI birthday celebration. The two-day event features sixteen bands, with free admission thanks the support of Fowler VW.
Shi++ty/Awesome dropped by the bureau for drinks and conversation , after their final rehearsal on .
Mercury Photo BureauPlease introduce yourselves, describe your rôle in the band, and give me a short bio.
Travis SearleTravis Searle; I play drums for Shi++ty/Awesome. Owner of Guestroom records and Norman … scenester? Soon to be moving to Louisville, Kentucky. [I’m] originally from Oklahoma City; [I] moved to Norman in 1999; went to school and … opened a record store in 2003, and it’s been … downhill from there. [laughter]
Will MuirWill Muir, and I play guitar and sing in Shi++ty/Awesome, and, I guess, musically, I’ve done a few tribute bands. I did a Smiths tribute band, and Derek and I did a New Order tribute band together. I’ve lived in Norman for half my life, and that’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere. I moved here my second freshman year of college.
Derek LemkeDerek Lemke; I play guitar for Shi++ty/Awesome; I’m the sexy one. [laughter] I was born in Norman, but I grew up in Noble, and I’ve been back in Norman since I was … eighteen? nineteen?
WillOh, and not here is Joey Powell; he is our manager, and he’s the responsible one. [laughter] I’m just kidding; he is being responsible tonight. He’s working. And he plays bass and sings.
TravisOriginally the keyboard player. We started out as a 3-piece, and we wouldn’t let Joey in the band […] for the first month or so, and then decided it would be okay if he played keyboard.
MPBWas Joey already a bass player? or did he learn bass for the band?
TravisNo; he has been playing bass for half his life.
MPBSo, why did you want him to play keyboard?
TravisUh, we just thought it would be funny. We didn’t even want a bass player; we wanted [the sound] to be very tinny.
MPBThe band’s origin, basically as a joke, has been well-documented. How did you come up with the name?
Travis[Looking at Derek and Will] Is the story I’m thinking of about the name —
WillIt was all you.
Travis— it was […] at the beginning of […] garage rock’s resurgence, and we realized how much we liked bands that were, you know, kinda sh*tty bands, but you could still go out and have an awesome time, and it felt like a party; and, at the time, there wasn’t anything like that in Norman.
Will— and it was also pre-Guestroom Records Records — pre- the label; and we had talked about calling the label “Sh*tty/Awesome,” and having that as the descriptor for the music. But we dropped that, because we did know that wasn’t the best, uh, business decision. But, we felt like it described our band. It was better than Eric Clapton’s Dead Babies.
MPBDo you have any regrets over the name’s scatological character? Has it ever caused you problems with promoters or news media?
TravisYou know, we never really tried; we never really cared —
WillWe have had some labels tell us it was a terrible name. But, they also loved the music.
TravisI don’t think there have ever been any serious regrets; there are times where we look back on it and go,
G*ddammit; if we would have had something that was … generic, and whatever, the “somethings,” “The Toothbrushes,” or “The Pillows” or something like that, that maybe we could have had more of an impact outside of this scene; but also, maybe not? At least, this way, people saw the name and paid attention to it almost … almost immediately, because it was like,
Let’s see what kind of crap these *ssholes play, —
Will— and it’s funny […], but, it also — we haven’t been sticklers about,
Don’t call us anything else, so people on the radio have called us about five or six different names. “S/A” is the one we tend to go by; “Shirty/Awesome” is one …
MPBWhat was the first music you remember buying with your own money?
DerekMichael Jackson’s Bad.
MPBWhen was the first time you asked your parents to buy you a music recording?
TravisI remember having to have my mom buy Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, [but that was because I was underage]. But I already had over 200 CDs, albums, cassettes at that point.
WillIt was the single for One Night in Bangkok from the musical Chess. I remember asking my mom to buy that for me. I still have that single.
MPBAny other early musical memories? Maybe something that inspired you to make music?
TravisI don’t know how it went down for me; my parents weren’t very into music. I can remember going to see lots of bad family theater stuff in Branson; uh, a lot of that. And — yeah; I don’t know; I was always kind of just fascinated by […] the media […]; the way that records felt in my hand and digging through piles of what people thought was junk to find gold. That was part of the reason that I started a record store, that I had a ridiculous[ly large] collection of music by the time I was 20. I’m still that way.
I can’t think of any specific — I saw some band that called themselves the Beach Boys at Frontier City in 1990, but if it had any members of the original Beach Boys, I couldn’t tell. I think Mike Love might have been in the band. I remember some band that called themselves the Monkees, and didn’t have Davy Jones, and I was like,
WillWhy do you play guitar, Derek?
DerekSo I can get chicks.
MPBDoes it work?
DerekNot really. Um; I don’t know; I just remember listening to my dad’s records when I was — Tom Petty; I remember Damn the Torpedoes and, like, Black Sabbath, We Sold Our Soul for Rock ’n’ Roll. I just really liked music, and I asked for a guitar [when] I was six.
It was a crappy acoustic Harmony. I took lessons for […] six months, and the teacher was trying to teach me blues, when I wanted to play rock ’n’ roll. [I] didn’t quite get that concept, that young. I wanted to play Eruption when I was six. [laughter] Then I quit.
WillMy guitar teacher, the first song he tried to teach me was Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love, and I didn’t know what it was, because I […] really didn’t care about Van Halen, and he didn’t play it; it was a weird lesson; he’s like,
Here; here’s the tabs for this. I’m gonna teach you to play this song. And he, like, never played the song for me, because it was like, pre- — I guess my teacher after that guy had tapes, but, uh, that guy didn’t have sh*t in his room [to play a recording of the song].
I used to listen to — my parents loved music; they’re super into music. My mom […] painted her room purple and had a black light and listened to Janice Joplin. My dad played guitar, so music was always in our house. And they bought and bought records all the time; they had, like, I don’t know — a couple hundred records? — and some 8-tracks!
MPBYou’ve cited musical influences and styles in other interviews, but here are some things I think I hear: 70s punk, 60s garage, 80s garage revival, the Cramps, the Ramones, Phil Spector. Care to add anything?
WillYeah, I love “girl groups.” Yeah, when we first started, that “tinny” sound we wanted, and that really lo-fi [sound] was — the sh*tty first recordings from [Detroit punk band] Tyvek were a major thing, were the thing that all three of us want to sound like. And they were sh*tty/awesome. We saw Tyvek at O P O L I S and that was the beginning; that was the true genesis of the band.
TravisI remember talking to [frontman Kevin Boyer] at a show in Lawrence, Kansas, and confessing drunkenly that we had started a band that was […] a direct rip-off of Tyvek, and he was really happy about that, and then [he] blushed and said,
That’s funny, because our band was supposed to be a direct ripoff of the Motards. — er, not the Motards; the Mummies!
MPBYou’ve released more than one version of several songs: Say So, Hang Up, Shreds, Birthday Suit, and Bear with Chainsaw Hands (Billy Crystal Meth). Why did you remake those songs?
TravisThe [songs] from the [self-titled] cassette release — it was […] so that we could have something to sell at a table. I mean, we only manufactured 50 copies of them, so we knew they were never going to make it into anyone’s hands.
WillAlso, we wanted wanted you to be able to listen [to each of the releases] and not be like,
Oh, this was recorded here, and this was recorded in another place. It was for continuity. But it’s cool; because you can […] hear the evolution of our sound.
MPBYour cassette single, a 7″ EP, and an album was recorded at three different locations, with three different producers and recording engineers, but they all have a consistently lo-fi sound. The vocals are buried pretty deep in the mix; I had trouble understanding the lyrics when I listened on my computer speakers. What’s your thinking on the lo-fi æsthetic?
WillWe never wanted it to sound too good.
TravisWe’ve also got a reputation as the most efficient band, for both our shows: our load-on, load-off; and for recording. Everybody we’ve worked with, it’s like,
Man, ya’ll are in-and-out!
MPBI read that you recorded your full-length in just four hours.
WillWe recorded our full-length in four hours.
DerekIt was like, seventeen songs in four hours?
WillIt was us, and Chris [Harris at Hook Echo Sound], and the leftovers from a keg from my birthday party.
MPBI love the Go-Gos parody cover on the Hang Up EP; it’s absolutely brilliant. How did that come about?
WillWell, we took our clothes off and put some towels on. [laughter] That was Travis’s idea.
DerekIt was Travis.
Travis[The photographer] was Christian Pitt. Yeah; she did it all.
MPBExcept for Travis, I think you all have previous or concurrent musical projects. Could you tell me about that, including Joey, since he’s not here?
TravisJoey’s in two bands right now, neither of which have played a show yet.
WillBut they’ve got a show — Tumbling Nebulæ has a show scheduled September 14th at the O P O L I S with a couple of other bands.
He’s also in a band with the Copperheads — Andy Escobar and Dane Kitchens. They’re calling themselves the Shutdown Shutouts.
DerekI play guitar for Depth & Current. That’s the main one. I’ve been talking to a few other people about doing some stuff, but nothing’s […] set in stone.
TravisHas the Gross Beast been slayed?
DerekI guess I did play in Gross Beast for two shows.
MPBWhat’s currently playing on your iPods or turntables?
Will[laughing] You’re listening to Janet Jackson?
TravisYeah; I bought her first two albums; they sound a lot like [Michael Jackson’s] Off the Wall.
The last record I listened to on my turntable was yesterday, and it was a Folkways collection of French Provençal — kind of precursor to Joan Baez, but in the French countryside. I also listened to a Black Sabbath record. […]
WillUh, I am really hot for this band that I just discovered, even though they released their record in 2003, called Ashrae Fax. Mexican Summer just reissued their debut album — their only album, I guess. I’ve been really hot on that. And I was listening to this Italian guy, Pino d’Angiò; he’s like, this Italian crooner. And some Diana Dors and Buffy Sainte-Marie. […] The new Zola Jesus is on [my playlist] too. I’ve listened to that a lot.
MPBI’d like you each to redeem a song: name a song that doesn’t get much respect, but that you really love, and tell me what makes it so great.
TravisI keep having conversations about the first Def Leppard record. Def Leppard; I know. Total bullsh*t later on; but, man! On through the Night; whoo! That record is new wave, British heavy-metal perfectness.
MPBIs there one track that stands out for you?
TravisNo; I’m not very good at paying attention to the names of songs at this point. I just listen to albums start-to-finish. […]
WillKlaus Nomi is a go-to for me, [who] drives people crazy. I love his rendition of You Don’t Own Me; I think it’s amazing. I love that song, first of all; but his singing is — I don’t know; it’s, like, kind of angelic to me. And … it puts me in a happy place; it’s a visceral thing. And it’s sad; he’s really sad. He — he is — he’s a male girl group […].
DerekI listen to a lot of sh*tty, over-produced pop, like Taylor Swift. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together is pretty solid. I mean, it’s just a great pop song. It’s got hooks; production’s amazing on it. A lot of people don’t expect that from me.
Derek’cause I play in Shi++ty/Awesome.
MPBWell, that’s the obvious reason.
WillBecause he’s a vampire. [laughter]
MPBWhat’s in the future for Shi++ty/Awesome? Can we expect a reunion show?
TravisUh, it could happen. We’re calling this the last show and I think we’re —.
WillWe are not averse to playing together again. And for us, it’s really easy. We hadn’t practiced or played together […] for at least four months. And we got back together […] and we had practice a couple of weeks ago, and — it’s funny, because when we were playing more, sometimes, we would have to have a few warmup songs […]. But, we got together and we just played the set. And we nailed it.
MPBYou sounded tight last night when I came over to the record store [to photograph the rehearsal].
WillWe’ll try to f*ck it up a little, my friend. [laughter]
TravisYeah; put seven drinks in each of them and we’ll see. [laughter continues]
WillThat’s pretty good, too; because we were all hungover — I dunno; I was pretty hungover.
TravisI thinks Shi++ty/Awesome, at this point — it’s been kind of interesting the last couple of weeks, especially last night, to go,
Aw, sh*t; this may be the last practice we ever have. Um, yeah. Derek and Joey […] are currently in other bands; for me, personally, it’s the first band I’ve ever been in. I almost learned how to play an instrument, just to be in this band. And so I’m at the point where I’m starting to think,
Oh, man; this might be the last live show I ever play,, and it’s a little […] scary […]. I think Will might be having a tiny bit of that, because he’s not already in another band, and the process of starting another band […] is a little daunting.
WillI’m just gonna take my karaoke tracks and do solo karaoke.
WillWe’ve played with a lot of really good bands.
TravisWe’ve gotten a lot of — I don’t want to say, special treatment, but, because we were friends with the O P O L I S, we got to do a lot of stuff that other bands might not —.
WillWell, not just the O P O L I S; we’re friends with a lot of people who book a lot of shows. And … we’ve been very fortunate to play with some of our favorite bands.
MPBIs there one that stands out, that you’ll take to your grave the fact that you got to play with them?
WillI would say Nobody.
Will[That] was amazing. [Also]; I really liked playing with Bleached.
TravisThe house show that we played at SXSW and there were only 10 people in the audience, and it was Black Joe Lewis and his band.
WillI looked up, and Black Joe Lewis was there! ’cause I kind of zone-out when I’m playing. [laughter] And then I looked and f*ckin’ Black Joe Lewis is groovin’ out to — and like, for the whole thing; he only left when we had, like, two songs left; he had to go get ready [for his set]. But he totally f*ckin’ rocked-out to our band! That was cool as sh*t.
TravisWe definitely got to play some fun shows.