by Cecil Disharoon
Shannon Tower’s vocal style is of the “real person you can talk to” style, unaffected and strong. Yes, that implies she sounds like a real person talking with YOU. A conversation needs two good listeners, and her receptivity and perception fuels the subject matter, while arranger Joe Day helps translate the band’s earnest efforts into a rich, listenable form.
“All five songs were written when I joined the band, although they are our most recent material, “Joe says. “ The writing credit is The Shannon Tower Band. Each player contributed his parts for his instrument, and Shannon wrote the basic lyrics/tune. As arranger, I came in and massaged the material, reshaping melody lines and smoothing out vocals. I come in as sort of a "cleaner" for these songs. Mainly what you hear is the sound of everyone doing his own thing, with me unsnapping a few of the Legos and clicking them into other places.”
Clicking into other places: that’s the transition in life with which, to me, this album is occupied. We are bound to that which we renounce, my friend Palamas says. Shannon Tower brings that point home, struggling with ideals and inner peace in a disrupting world that needs them.
Insistent clock- like beats introduce and pace “Make A Change,” where Shannon asks why so many people don’t try, when life is full of lessons. The need for constraint and necessity---to consider the uses of adversities—can be met with a smile when it’s understood. Melancholy violin strings rise between the phrases. The strings seem to represent the Love as it shimmers beneath careless actions and consequences. Her gut check comes with compassion, and in the end---figuratively, and literally in the song---recognizes that it’s you, the individual, who must hope to make that change: in the inner world, in the outer world.
It’s time to bring the rhythmic rock groove in “Quick Fix Solution” : the issue moving her is the drugs used to mask feelings without honest resolution of thought, with a wah-wah violin from Jeff Sullivan that could be the escapist chemical bliss or the determined spirit flaming. It’s that line between wrong and right---that’s the line she sees us reaching for. The busy drums high and low support a vocal crescendo: it’s STB escaping the lotus-eaters, and the temptation to join them.
Musically here, they strive, they seek, they groove---and not to yield.
The restless sea of drums, bass and violin continues the fight: carrying on the “Ulysses” theme, she sees a mortal body in the mirror, and considers experience on the map of her life in “Nothing New.” One rewarding aspect of STB is its dimensionality: the spatial relationship of the instruments, the mobility (the key theme among the tracks) of a tribal groove upon the body, and the listening experience there for your introspection. Like her hero Ani DeFranco, Shannon and the band are the thinking person’s dance, the car drive songs---whether you drive to earn your bread or to seek a newer world.
The degree of restlessness is so striking that the composed nature of the tracks is almost surprising and mature. “Tough” acknowledges the reach towards that: “inside I’m just a little girl,” she sings, “and I’m not all that tough.” The “la-de-da-dah” ‘s seem to belong to that little girl. Smooth use of dynamics supports the bittersweet feelings between the ego, the need for expansion, in the face of Love. Compassion for the hurt “when you look at me like that” gives voice to the acceptance, the apology, the choice of kindness. The lead guitar’s dual voices (stately leads provided by Grant Warrens) talk it out with vintage, anthem style.
Finally, yes---"Someday" is really sweet, man! I like the gospel-like chorus, the hope, the lovely guitar solo, the earthy voice, the chorused vocal accents that accompany Shannon through the song.. The drum comes in with that "moving on" vibe that takes us past the wistful. The beautiful vocals finally pay it off before the coda, don't they?
So you have a coherent, satisfying piece: about satisfaction, about growing, about moving on. When you need something to both address and lighten your bad mood, have no fear: climb the Shannon Tower. Conquer yourself!
Cecil “Lue Lyron” Disharoon of Integr8d Soul took a few minutes to take a peek under the hood of the band with Shannon herself.
1. When did your band's concept begin to take the shape it has now?
Shannon: It has been a process of about 8 years for us to be where we are now...with continuing to grow. The past year is when it has taken the shape you see now...but it truly has been a culmination of the 8 years of effort
2. You tend to write philosophically, as though from a Platonic place alongside the general flow of experiences. Do you write about things generally or were you inspired by a particular person?
Shannon: I generally write about things or situations that inspire me...whatever it may be.
3. How did you pull together your tours? Did you start with a particular opening and build from there?
Shannon: We are not currently touring but we are putting the wheels in motion. We have a friend in San Francisco who wants us to play there so we are thinking about doing a minor tour heading that way by booking shows in little towns.
4. Do you think STB’s heard more by individuals with headphones or in live shows? Do you think about the difference?
Shannon: That's a tough question to answer but with the easy access mp3's on the website...I would definitely have to assume it is through headphones....though the live show is where it is at.
5. What was a big barrier you had to break for yourself as a guitarist, and was there an insight that encouraged you to practice and do it?
Shannon: The biggest barrier I had as a guitarist was believing because I was self taught that I wasn't a true musician.
6. How did you decide which songs to record and release?
Shannon: When it came down to picking the songs we wanted to release on this new EP...we truly wanted 5 songs that would be different from each other that would represent who we are and display our abilities.
7. Did you start out playing at friends' houseparties? Did you start solo in coffee shops? It’s very “coffee shop” songwriting in the bohemian traditional sense.
Shannon: Definitely did our fair share of coffee shops...bar b q's and farmer markets. Basically wherever we could play.
8. Which song has changed the most from its inception?
Shannon: “War” is a song that started as a soft ballad that changed into one of the most rocking tunes we have. It changed the whole energy of the song completely. I have done this with a few songs actually. Sometimes when you start a song...you only have an idea of what it should be until the song tells you how it should really go.
9. What's your favorite moment you've had in concert?
Shannon: We did a concert for the AIDS walk a few years ago with 10,000 people. The sun was shining...just a slight breeze in the air...the crowd was completely energized and loving the music...the sound guy was amazing...we could hear every single detail...the whole show is one that will stand out to me as one of the best shows of my career forever.
10. Have any of your riffs come to you in dreams?
Shannon: I can't really say if I have had any riffs come to me in a dream but I have had dreams that I have written into songs.
11. When did S.T.B. become a serious professional focus, or did you always want to do something in entertainment and just started paying attention to this?
STB has always been a serious professional focus from the moment I posted the ad in the willamette weekly for a lead guitarist...I have always known since the age of 8 when I did my very first solo that I wanted to be a singer. It wasn't til I bought my first guitar and a book on how to play it that I started turning poems into songs. It has always been this huge part of me that I couldn't imagine my life without. Even if I wasn't doing the Shannon Tower Band....I would be doing something musically somewhere. It's in my blood and I truly believe I would have an easier time not breathing then not playing and singing:)
12. How often do you rehearse as a band?
In the beginning we did three nights every week for three hours a night for about 6 years and now we rehearse at least two nights a week for three hours a night...some weeks we do 3 or 4 depending on what is coming up. We try at least one Sunday a month to have a day of writing new songs and jamming ideas for at least six hours or so.
13. Do you have a story about a song that contained a conflict of direction before it meshed, and was the conflict between personnel or just in your own decisions?
Well that's kind of a funny story. I think sometimes when you are a songwriter and you are working with other musicians who are amazing there is always a chance of each of us having different ideas of how the song should go. I would say “Someday” was one of those songs where I had been playing and singing it a certain way for a while and Joe came up to me with some ideas he had. In the beginning it was hard to take the ideas into consideration but I am a true believer that we have a duty to play and sing the song to the best of it's ability and I won't let my ego stand in the way of that.
14. What kind of legacy do you want for STB?
I hope STB's legacy will be simple...we are musicians and artist who love what we do...who wants to educate the world while they dance...listen and feel the music. We only want what is best for everyone and we are good people.
15. Do you take a particular thing to shows for luck or focus?
When people say “good luck at your show tonite” I always say “I don't need luck...I just need my voice”:)
Look for Shannon Tower Band on Facebook for more details, and fire up their player, why don’t you?
C Lue Disharoon and Integr8dSoul are also on Facebook, with links to reverbnation, soundcloud, soundclicks, and more writing to co