Alejandro Rose-Garcia may be a stranger to many Austinites, but Shakey Graves certainly isn’t.
Over the last 11 years, Shakey Graves’ homegrown eclectic sound and his signature kick drum have made their way from Texas to the rest of the world, but his journey’s far from over.
With the release of his newest album, Can’t Wake Up, Shakey’s officially outgrown his suspenders days as a one-man outfit. The last glimpse of his solo fireside sound has dipped past the horizon, and we’re left with a whole new technicolor landscape.
Rose-Garcia owns a label that few here in Austin really do: a true Austinite. It’s no exaggeration to say that Shakey’s been entrenched in the arts from birth. He was born in his parents’ Clarksville home on June 4th, 1987; his father managed a theater, and his mother pursued directing and writing. He had a natural stage presence as a child, and made appearances in Spy Kids 3, Material Girls, and had a run as the Swede on Friday Night Lights.
Working on a project for Lifetime in Louisiana in 2008, Rose-Garcia began shopping some songs he’d tested on the music scenes out in LA and New York, which he’d found too intimidating. He started small, recording 2011’s Roll the Bones on his own in his room, and his one-man-band persona had come to life: Texas gentleman, Shakey Graves.
For many early fans, this is the sound that’s most nostalgic; it’s dark, Southern, and mythic, complementing Rose-Garcia’s raw vocals and folky feel. It sounds like how a Texas summer night feels.
And the War Came added fuel to the fire as Rose-Garcia’s first collection with significant national radio play. It’s a cinematic-sounding album, with sampled interview audio in a hodgepodge collage that feels just as sentimental but much more mature than his earlier efforts. The sheer size of the sound is bigger, mostly due to the addition of multi-instrumentalists Patrick O’Connor and Chris Boosahda. The three-piece band performed with ex-Paper Bird member Esmé Patterson (featured in three duets on And the War Came)on Conan a week after the album dropped, then The Late Show With David Letterman, then Late Night with Seth Meyers. That was that: “Dearly Departed” would be how most of the world outside Austin met Shakey for the first time.
The New Shakey
Shortly after releasing an album comprised of old EPs and songs (not to be missed: “Doe, Jane,” “Pay the Road,” and “Love, Patiently) that didn’t quite make previous album cuts, Rose-Garcia dropped Can’t Wake Up with a warning: this wasn’t a carbon copy of “Dearly Departed.” It wasn’t even close. Gone is the Shakey in a cowboy hat in suspenders. This version is edgy, punk, even. Indie to the core. “Kids These Days” has direct citations to 90s-era atmospheric indie, mixing fuzzy distortion with dense lyrics.
“For everybody that’s just discovered me wearing a cowboy hat from six years ago, it may be a bit of a bummer. That’s fine. Some part of me feels compelled to poke the bear about why people have such issues with growth or change because everything is changing so obviously around us.” – Alejandro Rose-Garcia
Perhaps the most obvious change is that Shakey isn’t trying to be a persona anymore. He’s having fun; he’s settled into himself. The “Kids These Days” nods to familiar archetypes from Shakey’s past (and some not-so-familiar, like an 80s hair band *shrug*) but it’s clear Rose-Garcia’s not ashamed or embarrassed of how he climbed to fame. He’s just having a blast now that he’s here.