Four plus years after they debuted the Hot Bananas EP, St. Paul's Shoveldance is getting set to release their first full-length: Second Banana in early summer.
Since 2006, founding brothers Travis and Evan Henspeter have played with a cast of musicians (including additional brothers Justin and Trent), before eventually rounding out the new line-up with Beau Jeffrey on bass and Trent Baarsul on guitar and keyboard. The members have played, or continue to play, with Pogmatone, PB and the Jam, Room 101, Five Foot Assassins, and the oldie cover band The Henspeter Theory. The Henspeters cut their teeth on punk in the mid-to-late 90s, but they've since branched into all realms of influence, pulling from classic pop, soul, and experimental styles.[jump]
Gimme Noise: It's been over four years since Hot Bananas. Why the delay?
Travis: Our original bass player left in 2006, not long after the release of Hot Bananas, and we sort of floundered for a bit while we looked for a replacement. We've always been a pretty tightly knit band, so it wasn't the kind of thing where we wanted to just put an ad out looking for a new bassist. I think this is a byproduct of having mostly played with either my brothers or people we grew up with over the years. It took a while for the right person to sort of show up, someone who could play well and had the right influences, but also a person who we could be comfortable with as a friend and collaborator. At the same time we were building a home studio and learning how to use it, recording tons of stuff. It took three years, but we think it was worth the wait.
How did the current line-up come together?
Trent moved to St. Paul from Portland, OR, around the time that our original bass player left--Trent actually moved into his room. Trent was answering a Craigslist ad looking for a new roommate, so we were really surprised and happy when we found out that he was also a ridiculously good musician. Trent started going to McNally Smith (formerly Music Tech), where he met Beau and they started playing together. When we approached Trent about playing in Shoveldance, he suggested that Beau join as well.
Has it changed the dynamics of the band?
We feel like we have a lot more options sound-wise now. Trent and Beau are two of the best and most versatile musicians I've ever played with, so we sort of feel like we're limited only by our creativity--it's a nice situation to have. On the other hand, those guys play a lot with their other bands, so it's a little more of a balancing act time-wise.
The website mentions two new records. Are they both recorded and coming out in 2011?
Well, we've just finished our first LP, which is called Second Banana. We actually recorded a double LP and our original intention was to release it like that--kind of make a statement. Eventually we decided that it would be cooler to break it up into two records that have a distinct theme or sound to them. Since we were recording on computers for the first time, we started incorporating a lot of electronic elements: synths, samplers, drum machines, that sort of thing. There was a group of songs that used these elements a lot, and those are the ones that are on the new record. The other group of songs is a bit more traditional, with more acoustic instruments and probably generally a bit more rock sounding. Those songs will go on the next record.
We're not sure when the second one will be coming out--there's still some polishing, mixing and mastering that needs to happen with that one, plus we want to let some time elapse between releases, so I'd predict that the second record will come out in early 2012.
Since you pull from so many styles, how do you bring everything together? Do you ever write a song and think it won't fit "the Shoveldance sound"?
I think the songwriting is the thing that ties the eclectic sounds together. Evan and I both write songs and our styles are different but complementary. We both write fairly pop-oriented stuff, so regardless of the aesthetics of a given song, there's always a strong pop structure to it. When we decide to do a song or not do it, it's generally based upon how much we like the song and how well we play it. It can sound completely different from the other songs, but if it sounds good, we keep it. In general we don't worry too much about having a coherent sound, we figure if the song is good, the stylistic packaging is a secondary consideration.