Take me through the writing process and how these songs came to become a part of your repertoire.
Nik: The way we typically write songs is one of us brings an idea to the group that could be either really rough or a fully formed concept and then we collaborate on it together. The process can take a while since we’re an opinionated bunch, but we’re always proud of the end products. That’s how we wrote the Farmalade tracks, except for “Omajimawoma.” I wrote that tune for my old band, Raga, and carried it over to B Side because it’s so much fun to play. The song was inspired by my home-away-from-home, Charleston, SC, so it’s kind of sentimental to me. I’m really glad we put it on Farmalade.
Jasper: Most of the songs initially came together last spring. We developed them playing at various festivals and at shows in DC all summer. Once the fall came around, we felt they were finally ready to lay them down in the studio. Our producer, Rob Shaffer, challenged us to write a song just for the EP. That one turned out to be “Castle in the Sky,” which is one of my favorite tracks off the album.
Geoff: Yeah, we literally finished writing “Castle in the Sky” the same week that we recorded it. Watching that song come together was probably one of the most imaginative, emotionally profound creative experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Eventually, we brought in our friends Danny Davis and Mario D’Ambrosio from Yellow Dubmarine, with their friend Charlie on trombone, and they all put down a horn arrangement that really added a lot. That song has a lot of meaning for me personally as well.
Geoff: Our writing process is kind of like a mix between ping-pong, mock trial, and paintball. It works though. The end result just about always takes us by surprise, and I think the people who come to see us love that they never really know what to expect. We really like to keep things fresh, and as our live shows have grown and gotten more ambitious, our songwriting has done the exact same thing. DC is a very energetic and eclectic place, the music scene is all over the map, so we try to encapsulate that in the energetic and eclectic stuff that we do. I’m really excited about the batch of songs we’re working on for the next one too. We’ve started messing around with go-go swing, afrobeats, and all kinds of stuff.
Carter: Maybe it’s the influence of this town that we live in (DC), but we do everything democratically. It is not always the most efficient (or prettiest) path, but it is the way to making sure that everyone is equally-invested and equally-represented in every creative decision for the album. And that is really important to us. Everyone gets to say his piece and I think that that is vital for maintaining the creative force of the Shuffle.
Are there any particular songs off Farmalade that you’ve enjoyed playing live more than others? If so, how do you see these songs continuing to grow and evolve in a live atmosphere?
Nik: I love playing “Gauntlet” live. It’s got a dance-rock groove that gets the crowd moving, and then ends with some prog-riffage that seems to come out of nowhere. Got to keep the audience on their toes!
Jasper: “Omajimawoma” has always been a feel-good crowd favorite. It’s easy to sing along to and has a great vibe live. I use an electronic kick trigger and sampled kick sound for “Tiny Magnets,” which always cranks the subs and gets the dance floor bumping.
Geoff: Yeah, usually by the time we make it through the first chorus of “Omajimawoma,” people who have never heard the song are singing along. It’s awesome. “Tiny Magnets” is crazy as well. I always try to make sure I’m watching the crowd when Jasper drops in the e-kick. As soon as the venue’s subs start cranking, shit gets real. Usually one or two of us will stand out in the crowd area during sound check, have Jasper try out a few different e-kick sounds, and then we pick one that really makes the venue’s PA slam. I’d have to say Pretty Lights really inspired us to push the categorical limits of what a live band can do, in terms of sonic response that the audience isn’t necessarily expecting. He incorporates so many organic instruments, but his beats are really powerful, and we sometimes try to reach for that same kind of energy.
Carter: “Tiny Magnets” is so much fun for me to play. I get to hold down the whole thing with a solid bass groove and the two live bass drops (one is filled by a sitar solo on the album) are so awesome. Also, Jasper’s e-kick gets the crowd thumping. That song will become more and more fun to play as the sound systems that we get to play on get louder and louder. With any luck, the songs will keep growing with us. These songs are living entities and will keep growing. It would be amazing to see remixes of that one from EDM artists.
Any particular EDM artists come to mind?
Carter: My dream is for Thievery Corporation, Pretty Lights or The Glitch Mob to do a remix.
How would you describe your sound to someone who may be unfamiliar with your material?
Nik: Alt Funk Rock. We all have different influences and favorite genres, and our sound reflects that. Some key influences are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink Floyd, Incubus, Phish, Radiohead, Sublime and Muse. I personally come from a jam background, so I bring a bit of that to the table. I wouldn’t say we’re a jamband, though. Not because I think that’s a dirty word, but because we tend to write tightly-constructed, 4-5 minute songs. That being said, we’ve had some success appealing to the jam crowd because I think we share the same general attitude – ‘let’s all have fun and not take ourselves too seriously.’
Jasper: Funk/rock/reggae/fun. We play a wide variety of styles and grooves, which keeps things interesting for both the listener and us. People have told us we sound like everything from Sublime to Incubus to Muse and a “sensible Mars Volta.”
Geoff: When we started out, we were a folk band with like 10 members. In the summer of 2012, my friend Corinne invited me to put a band together for an awesome do-it-yourself concert series that she was producing. I basically called every musician I knew and said ‘let’s all do this together.’ It was a big step, my first time back on a stage in like eight years, but we all loved every minute of it. That show was on a Sunday. Carter moved to DC from Georgia on the previous Wednesday and somehow ended up at my house on Friday, through a friend of a friend, at which point I invited him to play bass in this monstrous 10 person folk collective thing. He said yes. Carter and Jasper totally anchored the show, we found Nik, and we started playing out right away. Inevitably, our sound got a lot more ambitious, funky, and energetic. We have always stayed with the crowds that started coming to see us, but in a sense I think we never really dropped our vocal-forward folk roots, so the result is a crazy hodgepodge. One time, a festival security guard told us after our set that there was a drunk guy trying to talk his way through the gate because he thought we were Incubus. We’ve also been described as ‘the closest thing to a jam band that could survive in DC.’ To people who are unfamiliar with our sound, I would say: don’t let me waste your time with words, but crack open some Farmalade and you’ll get a pretty good cross section of what we’re all about.
Carter: Prog Funk Rock with some dub/reggae thrown in. The new songs that we are coming out with really move more in the funk direction, but the laid back feel of the reggae is still in there in a few of them. “Sensible Mars Volta” is still my favorite. It is always flattering when people compare us to Incubus, Pink Floyd, The Police, Sublime, or Jamiroquai.
What’s next for the band?
Jasper: We are in the process of booking a number of music festivals for this summer, which we are really excited about playing.
Carter: Album 3 – B Side Shuffle IV (working title). We’re also in the process of booking a summer tour, so I hope to be sharing The Shuffle with listeners all over the country soon.
Geoff: We also have a huge gig coming up on 4/19 at the 9:30 Club with The Revivalists and Moon Taxi that we’re really looking forward to. Both of those bands are great and we’re really looking forward to being on the bill with them. We have some big plans for that show. We’re going to be playing locally and practicing as much as possible. 2014 is going to be a really big year for us and we’re ready to take it head on.