Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams on The Terminator and Billy Dean

Shannon and the Clams are set to perform at the Larimer Lounge tonight (Tuesday, September 29), with Bleak Plaza and Cool Ghouls. The Oakland-based band got together in 2009, when three friends attending the California College of the Arts decided to form a band. Though the group sounds like it could be from the '50s or '60s, the Clams also fit right in with the recent surge of garage punk, as the two share an affection for simple pop melodies and an exuberant live show. But there has always been something far more innocent and pure about the emotional chords that Shannon and the Clams have struck, from their earliest releases to their latest album, this year's Gone by Dawn

The band encourages an unabashed expression of the parts of ourselves that social convention often tells us we should be ashamed of. Singer Shannon Shaw says that she was a particularly emotional and sensitive child growing up, and that films she saw in elementary school in the early '90s made a big impact on her back then, particularly The Terminator and Flatliners, which Shaw saw on a family vacation. Her memory of those two movies was intertwined with her mom's obsession with the song “Somewhere In My Broken Heart,” a hit for country singer Billy Dean in 1991, originally written by Randy Travis for his 1989 album No Holdin' Back.

“We would listen to it on repeat on this vacation,” recalls Shaw. “It was killing my brothers, this sappy country song on repeat, but me and my mom loved it and sang it. We put on Flatliners and everyone fell asleep, and then I put on The Terminator. And I had that song stuck in my head. In Flatliners, all the characters have these horrible things hidden in their past. It blew my mind how mean [Kiefer Sutherland's character] as a child was to Billy Mahoney. I internalized that and associated my feelings of that with the experience watching The Terminator and that song. The whole weekend is cemented in my memory forever.”

For Shannon and the Clams, Shaw melded the raw emotional ferment of her childhood memories and her interest in dramatic music of all types with the heightened sense of feeling and sensitivity present in so many of those great '60s pop songs about teenage love, lust and turmoil. On record, this combination is incredibly effective. But live, Shaw will bowl you over with how she is able to draw you in and channel collective primal emotions with her raw yet always musical vocal delivery. And yet one influence on Shaw that isn't often mentioned or elaborated upon is her early, and still extant, affection for other forms of music not short on melodramatic presentation: heavy metal and '80s new wave.

“It's good to work out to,” says Shaw. “My oldest brother is thirteen years older than me, and he was into metal when I was a kid, so I heard Slayer, Megadeth and a lot of Metallica. Iron Maiden and Motorhead. We weren't allowed to listen to that stuff because we were Mormon, so I think I kind of idealized it and fetishized it in a way. My brother didn't have to go to church, but we had to. I also got really into new wave because it was all over the radio, like Ministry's first album, with Sympathy and Al Jourgensen singing with an English accent.”