Etao Shin

Interview: Etao Shin

Published on May 28th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams

Rocksucker digs the riotous archness/arch riotousness of Southampton three-piece Etao Shin – think a sort of cross between Pavement and Hefner, but more abstract than either – so we fired over some questions to front man Joe Kelly in order to mark the release of their splendid Eureka EP. First, though, check out this previous single…

How did you all meet, and how long has the band been going for? Who does what in the band?

The band started as a way to experiment with playing some songs I’d written. I started playing a few songs with our bassist Steve, then we asked our friend Dave to play drums and got together some string players for our first gig, about two years ago. I was playing several different instruments and Steve kept switching from bass to cello, and it proved a bit chaotic so I wrote some more songs for just the three-piece, which was a lot easier. The band is now me on guitar and vocals, Steve on bass and backing vocals and Ben on drums.

How would you describe your music, if pushed?

The dreaded question! It’s kind of poppy, kind of noisy, kind of conventional, kind of obscure. It’s not really just one thing either, I like to think our songs are quite diverse. I guess we’re quite weird, our music is definitely not for everyone. Someone once described us as “one of the most avant-garde bands I have ever seen”. I guess I would say it’s probably best to listen to it and decide for yourself though.

Where are you based, and what do you use to record with?

We’re based in Southampton. We recorded our first EP at The Ranch studios over a weekend, and Andy Harris of Haunted Stereo fame recorded our second EP with us at Ben’s house and the Quaker Meeting House in Southampton.

Are you signed to a label? If so, how did you come to their attention?

We are part of a Southampton based co-operative music label called Sotones. All the bands on the label help run the label, so we aren’t signed as such – we all help each other out with promotion and the admin side of being in a band. It’s a really nice community full of awesome musicians and friendly people, so we’re really glad to be involved.

Is there a full album in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it? (Feel free to be as abstract as you like!)

There is a vague plan for an album, but it’s still forming at the moment. The current plan is to release a single quite soon with a few remixes by some friends as B-sides, then to record all the songs we currently play but haven’t yet recorded, and release the result as a long EP by the end of the year. The album may have something to do with cryptic crosswords and dream journals and be quite a strange, complicated journey, but it will probably take a long time to write and record, so I wouldn’t expect that until at least next year…

Where can we hear your music online?

Both our EPs are up on Spotify, and you can hear a couple of tracks on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/etaoshin) and even Myspace, if anyone still uses that (www.myspace.com/etaoshin)!

Which have been your most exciting gigs and/or overall moments so far?

I think our gig on the 20th was possibly the best so far. We played at the Bargate in Southampton, an 800-year-old building which used to be part of the city walls and is now an art gallery. We had incredible support acts in Doug Hayman and Rozi Plain, and played a couple of songs with a string quartet, which was far less disastrous than our first gig!

Got any more coming up? (Gigs, that is…)

We’re going on tour around England with our friend and fellow Sotones act Anja McCloskey from 1st to 6th June, playing in Southampton, London, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham. We’re only playing in independent/charity bookshops, because we like the intimacy of the small venues and want to support the shops themselves. More details can be found on the Facebook event page: www.facebook.com/events/346244815433548/. We’re also playing Southampton’s finest music festival, EjectorSeat Arts Festival, on 25th August, which we are really looking forward to.

Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?

Yes, I recommend everyone listen to our support acts from Sunday, Rozi Plain and Doug Hayman. They are both incredible. We’re also very lucky to work with some amazing bands on Sotones – too many to list here, but check out www.sotones.co.uk and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Also, here are some bands/acts that I think should be more popular than they are: Simon Bookish, Boredoms, Max Tundra, Chris Schlarb and a.P.a.t.T.

Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?

What a question! I’m trying to go with people with varied back catalogues… I had to think about this for a while and I’m still not sure, but I’m going with: Erik Satie, Eels, PJ Harvey, Conlon Nancarrow and Cardiacs for fun times (narrowly beating ABBA).

Joe Kelly, thank you.

Eureka EP is out now on Sotones. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit www.facebook.com/etaoshin

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.