The Shook Twins Like to Write Music With Five Cooks in the Kitchen

The Shook Twins face a crowd of thousands at Red Rocks.
The Shook Twins face a crowd of thousands at Red Rocks. Art Heffron

Ever since sisters Laurie and Katelyn Shook began making their quirky brand of magical-realist jam folk, their band, the Shook Twins, has been steadily climbing toward success. Just look at their trajectory in Colorado to see the trend.

“Man, I can remember the first time we toured here in 2007, and we played a burger place called the Thunderbird, and Pearl Street Pub in Boulder, and First Street Pub in Ned, where we met all the Elephants in Elephant Revival, and Bridget and Bonnie played our whole three-hour set with us, just figuring out the songs as we played them,” says Laurie.

Fast-forward to last summer, and Laurie, Katelyn and their band were looking out at a crowd of thousands at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The Shook Twins were opening for local crooner Gregory Alan Isakov and their own longtime musical idol, Ani DiFranco. That show has become “our reference point for happiness. It was the best night of our musical lives,” says Laurie.

Among the welcome surprises of the night: Many of their longtime fans journeyed from the West Coast to see them play at Red Rocks, and Isakov’s and DiFranco’s “amazing, respectful and devoted fans” showed up early and listened attentively to the Shook Twins set, a rare treat that opening acts learn not to expect.

“I remember standing on the empty stage that night just before we left, and knowing that I will never forget that moment, and feeling so grateful,” says Laurie.

click to enlarge The Shook Twins opening for Gregory Alan Isakov and Ani DiFranco at Red Rocks. - KIRSTEN COHEN
The Shook Twins opening for Gregory Alan Isakov and Ani DiFranco at Red Rocks.
Kirsten Cohen

Now the Shook Twins are an opening act, no more; when they come through Colorado on February 12, they’ll be headlining Denver’s Bluebird Theater.

“We are so stoked to finally play there,” says Laurie.

It will certainly be a welcome contrast from some of their more colorful tour stories.

“We showed up to play a bar in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and it was the smokiest, diviest, gnarliest venue we have ever been in. [Niko] Slice did something terrible in the women's bathroom [because the men's stall had no door] and broke the toilet with a line waiting outside, and then proceeded to confess his crime to all the women from stage. The owner was pissed. But we all played one of our best shows of the tour that night!” says Laurie.

The Shooks continue to play live with longtime member Slice, and have welcomed new members Josh Simon on bass and Barra Brown on drums. Laurie calls the band a "rad team” made up of good friends. While many bands draw a clear line between their time on tour and the more reflective time required for the songwriting process, the Shook Twins take a different approach. Often when they have a day off on the road, bandmembers rent a place to stay and write a song collaboratively.

“We write really well all together. We just say, ‘ something cool,’ and they do. It was surprisingly easy to write a song with five cooks in the kitchen,” says Laurie.

In August 2016, the musicians released “Call Me Out,” an electronically influenced single that was a departure from their previous roots-based style. Now they're looking forward to releasing the album that they're currently mixing.

“We got to record it while playing each song all together in the studio, which has been a dream of ours,” says Laurie. “Our other new songs definitely have some of that electronic vibe, but not as up-front. We’re excited about the blend that we created.”

One of the band’s most endearing qualities is the spirit of play the musicians bring on stage. Laurie and Katelyn have been known to carry (and occasionally play) a large golden shaker egg that looks like something a dinosaur might lay. Katelyn frequently sings into a telephone receiver retrofitted into a microphone. Laurie’s looped beatboxing lays the foundation for many of their songs. And they often coerce Josh and Barra, both flautists, to play a flute duet mid-show.

click to enlarge The Shook Twins make a pit stop at a laundromat on tour. - JESSIE MCCALL
The Shook Twins make a pit stop at a laundromat on tour.
Jessie McCall
“We have never wanted to take ourselves too seriously. It's way more fun for us to just be our dorky laughing selves while we are in front of people performing,” says Laurie.

That’s not to say that they aren’t serious about their goals. Beyond their Bluebird headliner, the Shook Twins have their sights set on getting a label deal, hearing their music in TV shows, and playing to sold-out crowds.

“We would just really appreciate more financial stability and less living in a van,” says Laurie. “Is that okay?”

As long as it comes with a healthy dose of their trademark whimsicality, their fans should have no problem agreeing that fame will suit them just fine.

Shook Twins will play at 8 p.m. on Sunday, February 12, at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, Denver.
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