Will (II)

Post Mortem: Shi++y/Awesome’s Final Bow

The Interview

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.

Will Muir

The Interview

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]

Travis (V)
Travis (V) — Shi++y/Awesome, New Year’s Eve at O P O L I S (2013)

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.

Will (III) (Tambourine)
Will (III) (Tambourine) — Shi++y/Awesome, New Year’s Eve at O P O L I S (2013)

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,

Willand 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?

WillPrince, 1999.

DerekMichael Jackson’s Bad.

TravisI remem­ber buy­ing lots of stuff on my own; off the top of my head: Beach Boys and Beatles tapes, and late 80s “hair-​metal” stuff.

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.

Derek (II)
Derek (II) — Shi++y/Awesome, New Year’s Eve at O P O L I S (2013)

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, Okay …

MPBAnyone else?

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.

Joey (I)
Joey (I) — Shi++y/Awesome, New Year’s Eve at O P O L I S (2013)

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.

Shi++y/Awesome (II)
Shi++y/Awesome (II) — The Mercury Photo Bureau Interview

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.

WillI’m actu­ally work­ing on a project, sort of a twee Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura feel, with peo­ple [who] I don’t want to men­tion yet. And a Cramps trib­ute band; that’s com­ing up.

MPBWhat’s cur­rently play­ing on your iPods or turnta­bles?

TravisI’ve been excited that in the last week, I’ve brought home two Janet Jackson LPs, and I’ve been lis­ten­ing to the new Washed Out record a lot.

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. […]

DerekI lis­tened to Weekend’s new album; it’s really good. Uh, Cold Cave’s Cherish the Light Years. Some Danny Brown: XXX.

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.

MPBWhy not?

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.

MPBLast thoughts?

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.

TravisI have 2; the Lightning Bolt show, and the O P O L I S show where we got to play with [The] Olivia Tremor Control.

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.

— Chris J. Zähller

Shi++y/Awesome (I)
Shi++y/Awesome (I) — The Mercury Photo Bureau Interview

New Year’s Eve at O P O L I S (Gallery)

New Year’s Eve at OPOLIS (Gallery)

Final Rehearsal (Gallery)

Final Rehearsal (Gallery)

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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