Photos by Jon Fett
Sometimes life can be a perplexing game. Just when you think you’ve got it all worked out and things seem to be happening in all the right ways and for all the right reasons, life pulls your pants down in the middle of the high school cafeteria. Yep, life is there to remind you that just because you think all is well doesn’t mean all is well. Wickerwolves’ drummer Kiah Gerig found that out after nearly three years with the band he called home when the band suddenly disbanded after finishing their newest record.
One door closes, another opens. Life, you tricky so and so.
Gerig starts jamming with Pink Balloon Band singer/guitarist Ian Skeans and a new thing is born: Shade. Stylistically Shade takes a little from Skeans’ catchy PBB guitar pop and Gerig’s Wickerwolves’ aggressive hardcore tendencies, slow churns them both into a bubbling crude of doom and sludge, and it comes out as this sub-octave grind with still a hint of light over it all. The results of all this sludgy riffing, and and slow churning noise making is an EP on the way and quite a following in the Fort Wayne area. In between a busy schedule and noise making, Ian sat down with me to talk about Shade and how him and Kiah got together.
J. Hubner: Hi Ian. Okay, so let’s talk Shade. How did this project come about?
Ian Skeans: This project started when I was scrolling through social media and had noticed that Kiah Gerig had been posting a lot of stuff along the lines of “Start a band with me”, “Let me play drums for your band”, etc. I was a huge fan of his work and didn’t even really have a style or genre in mind but threw out an idea of doing a two piece band with him and (surprisingly to me) he was into it.
J. Hubner: I see. So was Kiah in between bands?
Ian Skeans: Pretty much, I think. His band of a long time, Wickerwolves, had disbanded at that point. I’m not sure if they were officially broken up or just trying to figure out what they wanted to do at that point.
J. Hubner: So you said you weren’t even sure of what kind of sound you wanted to go for with this new project with Kiah. How were those first couple practices, and how did you two end up with such an aggressive sound? Not that aggressive is bad.
Ian Skeans: The first couple of practices were a little odd, at least for me, haha. I had an idea of what I wanted to use in terms of gear to fill out the sonic space as a two-piece but I didn’t really know what we’d come up with in terms of genre. I had a few riffs in mind to try out and once I started playing them on a baritone it really gave everything a fullness that I hadn’t been able to play around with before.
J. Hubner: So the baritone helped steer the direction a bit.
Ian Skeans: For me it did. I’d had it for a while and really wanted to use it in a band setting. They can cover a lot of range, stylistically, and sound really full on their own. Plus it forced me to think a little differently in terms of writing which is always a good thing.
J. Hubner: Let’s have a gear geek moment because I’m a gear geek. haha Can you give me a little run down of your set up? What are you running the baritone through live? Is it the same setup as what you used in the studio?
Ian Skeans: I love geeking out on gear! For the live rig I split the baritone at the tuner, with one signal running through a series of guitar pedals/noise makers into a 2×12 guitar rig. The other signal passes through a series of pedals into a bass rig. Within that chain I’ve got a fuzz/octave down combination of pedals I can kick in to bring gobs of sludge and low end into the mix. Ran completely clean the dual amp rig sounds big and full but once you start layering in the effects it fills the room with a lot of sound.
My goal is I don’t ever want people to say it sounds thin because of it’s a two piece, or that it’d be better if we had a bassist. So far, it feels like it’s been pretty successful.
J. Hubner: From what I’ve heard you definitely have the low end covered. It seems to be a nice mix.
Ian Skeans: Thank you! As far as in the studio we used the same rigs but I tracked them individually instead of together to allow better control over the mixing stage.
J. Hubner: How long have you and Kiah been honing the Shade sound? Did you two start playing together not long after the PBB album came out?
Ian Skeans: I don’t remember the exact date. I think it was last fall so probably a couple months after that came out. We managed to churn out a few songs that sounded consistent with each other but I feel like now it’s got a sound I strive for when we write which is a great feeling.
J. Hubner: I’m curious what the first live gig was like. With such a more unique set up I wonder if there were any glitches, or if it all went off without a hitch.
Ian Skeans: I remember being extremely nervous about everything in the rig behaving like it was supposed to. Somehow my main lead came unplugged from the tuner on the last song which is the dumbest possibly hiccup you could have. I guess I still get kinda nervous about everything working before shows(laughs).
J. Hubner: The minute you stop worrying or no longer have that tinge of nervousness, that’s when things truly go downhill.
Ian Skeans: I’d like to think so(laughs). Keeps me on my toes.
J. Hubner: Let’s talk about the EP you two recorded back in February. Where did you record at? How did the recording process go?
Ian Skeans: We recorded with my good friend, Caleb Lewis, in Marion, IN. He’s an incredibly talented audio engineer who is far better at what he does than his humble attitude would let you believe. It was one of the smoothest weekends of tracking I’ve experienced. All the music was completed in two days and I tracked vocals later and bounced them back to him for mixing. He really understood my vision for making this thing sound live and raw.
No replacement samples on the drums, gobs of room ambience, and knowing how to make it sounds like the waves upon waves of sonic sludge are gonna destroy your speakers at different parts. I love what he was able to do with it.
J. Hubner: That sounds great. Were there any bands you looked to for inspiration in the writing/recording process? Shade definitely hits some doom/sludge sonics, but the vocals keep the sound from getting too dour.
Ian Skeans: My musical taste is all over the map. I’d been listening to a lot of doom metal/desert rock type stuff, darker post rock, etc but deep down I’m still a sucker for catchy guitar riffs. I feel like this is just a combination of all of those things with me whining over top of them(laughs).
J. Hubner: (Laughs)So the EP is finished. What are the release plans?
Ian Skeans: I’m sure we’ll set up a release show of some sort once we decide what physical format to release it in. We want to make sure it’s worth people’s wait and something we can be proud of for a long time.
J. Hubner: Are you guys still mixing/mastering?
Ian Skeans: No, it’s completely done at this point. I’ve got the final masters sitting on my computer gathering digital dust(laughs).
J. Hubner: Digital dust is terrible for digital allergies.
Ian Skeans: My cough sounds like a dial up modem.
J. Hubner: “You’ve got phlegm. You’ve got phlegm.” Some late 90s AOL humor for everyone that remembers what AOL is.
So last weekend Shade had the honor of playing on Record Store Day 2016 at Neat Neat Neat Records. How did that gig go? Between Morrison and Bob at Wooden Nickel it’s pretty much a nonstop music day.
Ian Skeans: It was really awesome. Morrison runs an awesome shop there and it was a real treat. It seemed like the store had been busy at all day, not just an early morning crowd trying to get first dibs on this year’s releases which was super cool to see. I’m not sure if people really knew what to expect from us, and it probably wasn’t for everyone, but there were a good number of people who seemed to genuinely dig it which was really cool. Playing to a random crowd on a billing with a lot of talented bands who’s styles are all over the map is a little intimidating but I had a great time and would do it again in a heartbeat.
J. Hubner: Yeah, there was quite a variety on the bill that day. You two were in good company for sure. Are there any upcoming shows Shade has on the books?
Ian Skeans: A couple local shows. One at Bob Vila’s on 4/21 and then at Skeletunes on 4/26. We’ll have event details posted up on our Facebook page.
J. Hubner: What’s the rest of 2016 look like for Shade?
Ian Skeans: Definitely getting out and playing to folks who’ve never heard us or met us. Continue writing new material and watching the project develop and mature. It’s been a blast so far and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
J. Hubner: Great. Thanks Ian.
Ian Skeans: Thank you!
Keep up with Shade and there whereabouts right here. Get out to see these guys play on 4/21 at Bob Vila’s and 4/26 at Skeletunes. Oh, and that EP? Well you can listen to it and download it for free right now. Where? Look below, pal.