Ben managed to catch up with Kieran and the rest of the Leeds frog-rock six-piece Shaku, who cultivate a jazz-rock infused sound that turns into high energy and polished live performances. Having been around since 2017, they have developed their music with a steady number of gigs and live videos to demonstrate their assured and distinctive sound. Last month they released their new song '(J)As Per Usual' with success, which was recorded at Open Source Arts in Leeds. Here's the video for you:
Shaku are Noiak Bedirian (guitar and vocals), Rob McNicholas (guitar), Jack Hespe (drums), Jasper Green (keys), Kieran Halpin (bass guitar), and Ben Caton (saxophone and flute).
How did you all meet?
KH – We met through being at college and working on Noiak’s album together, which then evolved into a band through wanting to play the songs live.
Are there any shared influences between the band that have helped to develop your frog-rock style?
KH – We are all fans of 60s and 70s progressive era, though our personal favourites vary. Ben and Noiak have huge Zappa collections, Jasper and I are big Parliament/Funkadelic fans. We’re all also fans of the Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull blues rock vibe, but we are all also big fans of the Canterbury sound and other genre breaking stuff like The Pretty Things and later Beatles recordings. Combine all of this with a slightly more modern approach and you’ll find us somewhere in the middle.
How is it being a part of the Leeds music scene, and particularly the vibrant jazz scene that's progressing well?
KH – For me there’s a fantastic feeling that everyone is adding something to a huge melting pot of not only musical talent, but great events, inclusive venues and pop-up spaces, radio shows, record labels, promoters, the list goes on - there is so much being put into Leeds. I feel it’s an honour to be a part of something so big but also that there is so much still to discover, and it will always feel like we have only just scratched the surface. There’s a great atmosphere of inclusivity - anyone is welcome and there’s always an audience.
Any favourite venues/events/performances you have particularly enjoyed playing so far?
KH – We love playing live, so I could tell you amazing things about every show we have done because it has always been an absolute blast. When we were at the Nice People launch at Hyde Park Book Club in February, the vibe was off the hook for all the bands so that was definitely a group highlight. We’ve also been lucky enough to play at Band on the Wall alongside Mamilah and Slow Loris, as well as supporting Henge at Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield. Both of these gigs are down in our best-of.
When are you recording any tracks and releasing them?
KH – July baby! We hope to release the tracks by the end of the year.
Are there any particular themes or specific creative process going behind these recordings?
KH – Live and loud. We consider ourselves a live band first and foremost, so capturing that energy is of the upmost importance. We want to do as much as possible in one take. And to tape 78 RPM vinyl only ... okay maybe not that far!
In your Tight Lines Session performing the song 'Option B', frontman Noiak presents a monologue about a yacht and his stage presence is almost reminiscent of Frank Zappa in the kind of comedic lyricism you hear in some of his tracks - is this kind of alternative and experimental spoken word and use of lyrics something to expect from your future releases?
KH – We love to twist what we experience into stories in our own satirical way. ‘Option B’ is the name of an actual yacht Noiak saw in Greece; then he spun this whole yarn of greed, revenge and Argento witches around it. Absurdist stuff like that is the most fun to write. We want to write a song about a stuntman whose motorcycle turns on its owner … but more of that later.
Is your preparation for a live performance different to your recordings in terms of how you organise a live set to be?
KH – Definitely, we tailor our set to each show we play and do our best to bring new things to the table each time. I’ve been really enjoying our acoustic shows at the moment, and our next one is headlining the Headingley Music Festival at the beginning of July.
Have you felt your musical output has evolved much since the band started?
KH – It feels like it, in a way that we are not afraid to revisit songs and rewrite them. Looking back on how we used to play a couple of the songs we play now and they are vastly different. And we would never have thought that we would be playing tunes like ‘You Can’t Kill Me’ by Gong in our sets.
From the 'Still Hung Up' video you released last year, you collaborated with other Leeds musicians - is this something you intend to keep doing?
KH – For sure, we actually have something in the pipeline, which is very exciting at the moment, but we’ll let the suspense for that one brew a while longer yet.
Where do you hope to see Shaku in 2 years’ time?
KH – Tour of Mars and Venus. Honestly, it’s hard to say but if we had managed a gig in France by then I would be over the moon.
Are any of you involved in other music projects at the moment?
KH – Noiak plays drums in various projects around Leeds, and also does vinyl DJ sets. Rob plays with Wise Willis and a few more bands around Leeds with that incredible guitar sound he’s got. Jasper plays with B-ahwe and occasionally for Têtes de Pois too. Jack plays drums with Sam Wylde, and Ben is currently recording his solo EP with fellow Leeds musicians. I play with The Worriers as well, and am currently trying to shoehorn my way into a very exciting collaborative band called Pet Sick, who are definitely worth watching out for. I’d also like to shout out our very good friend Theo Black, we’ve always supported each other in our musical endeavours. Also, Beluga, Book, Skwid Ink, Joshua ZERO, Jasmine, InFade, Yaatri ... you’re going to have to stop me or I could go on forever about great local bands!
When are your next gigs?
KH – Our next gigs are in and around Leeds, including our first show in Huddersfield!
May 26th – World Island Headrow House Takeover
May 31st – Sifaka Sessions @ HPBC
June 6th – Salèmango Festival @ HPBC
June 7th – Shaku @ Small Seeds, Huddersfield
July 6th – Headingley Music Festival @ HEART
Lastly, if the band could choose any person to join the band (in whatever capacity you want) who would it be?
KH – Just to have a jam with Angelo Moore would be my dream. BC – Get Haruomi Hosono or Ryuichi Sakamoto to produce a song for us.
All – I think we can all agree that Jack Black would be a great addition to the band, or Andy Samberg.