Growth-evolution-change, it’s do or die. This is true (I believe) of all things that have life, whether it be song writing, love, bands, friendships. I’m not saying it’s easy. Usually, it’s quite the opposite, there’s a reason they say “growing pains”. Shiny & The Spoon’s new album, Box of Bullets, is the evidence of a band, songwriters and a love affair, growing very gracefully.
This is Shiny’s second full length album, tracked at Ultra Suede Studios, engineered by Brian Niesz. Produced by Jordan Neff and Brian Niesz. I sat down with Amber Nash and Jordan Neff, the band’s co-founders at MOTR Pub recently. Not only are Jordan and Amber the heart of the band, which was originally just the two of them, they also got engaged this past year, so they’ve got a heart for one another as well. This isn’t an easy dance, love is a verb, after all.
Shiny & The Spoon came about after Amber and Jordan met while working with Magnolia Mountain, Mark Utley’s ever-changing super group. Amber had picked up ukulele and had become a YouTube nerd, posting uke videos and becoming involved in a ukulele movement that is apparently happening on YouTube (I had no idea!). That gave her the bug to go public and start writing, singing and playing out. Jordan had been in some bands that started in church, Frantic Fish, being his first go. In college he did the open mic scene before connecting with MagMo and ultimately Miss Amber. The stars aligned, a chorus of angels sang “ahhhhhh” and the two clicked. Ultimately they began working on some music together and became Shiny and The Spoon.
Audiences quickly became enamored with the duo. Who doesn’t love sweet harmonies and ukeleles? They cut a cover of “Take On Me”, the 80s classic, and put it up on YouTube and it went viral. I just checked and it currently has 345,949 views. Sweet! But, after their self-titled 2009 EP and “Ferris Wheel” the first full length album released in 2011, it was time to grow as a band. Important to note, “Ferris Wheel” did have some drums, bass and other instruments, but the official change came about after the album. Amber said they were interested in a fuller sound and grew tired of the limits of acoustic, in both writing and in regards to venues to play. Pete Brown has joined the band playing bass and providing funny stories and anecdotes and Matt Frazier is the band’s drummer. Jordan said that Matt is a master at fitting his sound to the environment they are playing, which is ever-changing. Jordan has also begun adding telecaster to some songs (and quite well, I might add. His licks are very tasteful and really are one of my favorite aspects of this new album. He cut his teeth playing country guitar and you can certainly tell).
Having started off myself in an acoustic trio, I know how hard it can be for fans to make the transition. I asked Amber and Jordan about how this has gone and as I expected they definitely have some fans who resist the change but the band is really happy with the new songs. “ We want to grow as writers and not become a songwriting Walmart,” Amber quipped. Upon my first listen to the new album, it was very clear to me they have definitely done just that. Let me not mince words here, I LOVE this new album. I really liked Shiny’s earlier stuff, but this album is darker and richer and I think it would even be fair to say, shows more maturity and passion, than previous work. On top of that the production and sound of the album is really great. Vocals are clear and up front, but not taking up more sonic real estate than the bed of sounds created by the band. A perfect blend.
The opening track, “Someday Love”, immediately got my interest up and I knew it was going to be a good ride. There are several stand outs on the album, “Pieces” and “Needle” have great honky tonk bones. “April Showers” was one of my favorite tunes, written in a minor key with a great hook and play on words, “Sing a little darker. Dress a little louder. Play a little harder. Sing a little louder. Dress a little darker. Play a little harder.” Showers also takes a risk to do something very different and it really works. There are plenty of those harmonies we love from Shiny. “Explain” is really catchy with Jordan taking the lead and Amber joining him for the chorus. “Honey I’ve Flown” is an old timey waltz with a double vocal that is more in the style of the older works. Really a beautiful tune.
Love is a verb. Relationships and bands that can grow and change and last are not by accident. Oh, there’s certainly some luck or divine thing that brings the right person to you or the lyrics to a great song to your mind or that special riff to your hands, that’s pretty magical to be sure. But, I really think it’s how you go from there, from the moment of receiving the beloved wish, that makes all the difference. Box of Bullets is proof you can make it last by being open to the changes and giving your heart fully and end up even better for it!