· By John Frazier
Get To Know Shy, Low
Richmond, VA's Shy, Low has us brimming with excitement. Not only do they play incredible songs that elicit wave after wave of powerful emotion, but they are also some of the finest gentlemen you'll ever meet. They were kind enough to sit down and talk about how the band came to be, what they were trying to achieve with their new release Binary Opposition, and what we can expect from them in the future. Get to know the guys in Shy, Low in our exclusive Q&A and then stream their new song "Presence" and pre-order Binary Opposition on limited edition colored vinyl.
Who are you and what do you do in the band?
Ian: I'm Ian! I play bass guitar.
Sean: I’m Sean, and I play the drums.
Zak: I’m Zak, and I play guitar in the group and occasionally the glockenspiel (for real).
Gregg: I’m Gregg, and I play the pedals, occasionally guitar.
How do you guys know each other?
Gregg: I met Sean in sixth grade through a mutual friend who wanted to start a band. We clicked immediately and continued playing music together, or at least what we thought cool emo bands were supposed to sound like in sixth grade. Zak and I have been really good friends since 7th grade when we met and played in a band together.
Ian: We’ve all been playing music and seeing shows together since middle school. I actually met Gregg at one of my first shows (Pennyrock ’03 represent) and I used to pick on Sean in Middle school. I’m not proud of it. It all worked out in the end though.
Sean: Yeah, Ian and I were not friends in middle school at all. However, in high school we started hanging out again, and after the demise of both of our high school indie rock bands, I invited Ian over to jam with Gregg and I for what would first become VESSEL and evolve into Shy, Low. But yeah, Gregg was one of the first people I met after I moved to Richmond from the Amish country in Pennsylvania. Been friends ever since. I first met Zak sometime in 2009 when we were in search of a new guitarist to fill the spot of Mark, the initial guitarist of VESSEL when he left to go to school.
When did you decide to start making music together?
Sean: Gregg had this funny problem when he was young. He would start one band, decide he wanted to play a different genre, and then start another. Sometimes he decided he wanted to play a different instrument, so he’d start yet another band. I had been in at least five bands with Gregg before Shy, Low. However, once VESSEL came around, he settled down, and has really devoted himself to Shy, Low.
Ian: It just feels really natural to play with these guys considering we’ve gone through such musical growth together over the years.
How has the band changed since you started playing together?
Ian: Since VESSEL, we’ve changed a lot. Mostly, everyone’s just grown up a lot. Everyday we’re still learning the ropes, you know?
Gregg: We’ve started as a heavier band with screaming vocals. After two years of that, we were writing music that was focusing more and more on drawn out instrumentals, and our vocalist decided to part ways with no hard feelings. We lost our old guitarist, Mark, as well due to school. That’s when Zak joined the band after I called him up and asked if he wanted to jam. We have all grown to become smarter musicians, and essentially continue to create more options to work with. A mix of emotions pours out into our living room where we practice, translated into a musical form. I love it.
What are you trying to achieve with your music?
Gregg: Essentially, just our diverse mix of emotions. Pretty much my previous answer.
Ian: For me, before anything, the music is a creative outlet. Beyond that, I want to take Shy, Low as far as we can. I don’t have any specific expectations when making the music. I just try to take it day by day.
Sean: I simply want to make music that is honest to myself and the other guys in my band. If that takes us somewhere, that’s awesome. But I won’t compromise my own musical interests and the collective desires of the other guys in my band simply to “make it” or whatever the kids say nowadays.
What do the songs personally mean to you?
Ian: The songs we write have diverse personal meaning to all of us. For me, the songs reflect the times we wrote them. I look at them as a way to reconnect with past feelings about dwelling. Songs have a start and songs have a finish.
Shawn: I think Ian’s right. I could go through each individual track and tell you what that song might mean to me, but I don’t have an overall general answer.
What is the band's song writing process like?
Ian: Slow. We typically start with a basic idea and work out from there.
Gregg: The writing process can be extensive and flow very well. It depends on our moods and circumstances at the given time that we decide to write. A lot of times Zak will come up with an idea and we will run with it, throwing in our own concepts and changing things up to get a good feel. Sometimes tempers rise if we hit a brick wall or can’t agree where to take a song, but we have learned to cope. It’s four brothers all trying to create the best thing possible; inevitably disagreements will arise.
Sean: They play pretty stuff, and then I hit my drums too hard.
What can people expect from a live show?
Gregg: We try to play the best performance possible. High energy and loud. We like loud amps and cabs.
Sean: Sometimes, Ian will trip and almost fall into my drum set, but he’ll catch himself on my ride cymbal and get back up like it ain’t no thang. Then he’ll almost do it again. It’s a pretty cool stage move, you know?
What are your goals as a band?
Gregg: To make honest, emotive music, and get as far as we can.
Where do you see the musical direction of the band heading?
Gregg: The new material we have begun writing is very different from Binary Opposition. We like what we’re pushing out, but we are running into writing blocks for various reasons, because some parts are so different than anything we’ve ever written. Regardless, I am very excited to be writing another record and I can’t wait to hear the final outcome.
Sean: We are heading toward a much more dynamic sound while maintaining some of the minimalistic concepts present in many of our songs. It’s definitely new for us, and as Gregg said, we are often hitting walls. But it’s coming together, and I think it’s going to be great.
Any final words?
Zak: We would just like to thank everyone who has ever listened to our music or helped us in any way. We, as four simple dudes from Richmond, Virginia, never expected to journey this far. It is truly one of the best experiences we have ever had.
Shy, Low's Binary Opposition is available for pre-order now on limited edition 12" colored vinyl here. The release will be available at all digital retailers on June 25th.