Maybe you know them better as two-thirds of The Beangrowers but this new sound from Alison Galea and Ian Schranz promises to be as awesome as the two musicians’ reputation requires. Enjoy this interview in the run-up to their first gig in Malta tomorrow.
If you were in a somewhat whimsical state of mind, you could say that The Shh were born out of a temporal/geographic schiism that hit Maltese surf trio The Beangrowers. But deadlines beckon, so I’ll give the whimsical a miss and just offer you the straight dope: running a band when its three members mostly live in three different countries sure ain’t easy. Which is why one fine day, The Beanies’s Alison Galea and Ian Schranz found themselves in Alison’s 23 square metre apartment in Paris writing a set of new songs. The size of the flat, as you will soon realise, is actually relevant.
“There really was no specific plan to create this band. I was living in Paris and at the time Ian was travelling regularly to Paris for work. Mark Sansone, the third Beanie, was in South America for six months. In his absence we wrote a bunch of songs just for the fun of it and recorded them mostly in my flat,” Alison tells me.
The whole thing developed into a song-writing competition between Alison and Ian, with the two taking five minutes in different parts of the flat and coming back with a melody or a song.
“Naturally, there were lots of ‘shh’s’ going on across the apartment and things got interesting,” Ian explains.
Both Ian and Alison felt that these new songs could not be used for The Beangrowers, particularly since Mark was not around. And thus, a new project was born. But how much do The Shh share with The Beanies, apart from the obvious? Alison says that they see this as a very different and separate project.
“Essentially it’s much more direct and the sound is more pop. However, when using the same singer at times it can naturally throw the listener to drawing a few similarities,” she says.
After listening to some of their tracks on Soundcloud, I realised that with The Shh, love with a twist seems to be an underlying theme. The million dollar question: what are the stories behind the songs and are we to take it that the tracks are in some way autobiographical? The answer to the latter, Ian tells me, is that they are.
“Love is always our central theme. I think at this point all our songs are autobiographical. However, the interesting part is since it was two people writing, it’s a mix of two experiences.”
And of course, with both Ian and Alison based in Paris, something from their surroundings just had to rub off. Alison points out that the location does make a difference, especially becuase the two musicians had to be very quiet in the apartment.
“Hence the songs are very gentle. To that, you have to add our daily dose of Parisian je ne sais qua.”
Although as I write this, the debut EP hasnot been officially launched yet, the online feedback has been extremely positive and the pair are looking forward to hitting Malta with what is likely to be their first public gig as The Shh. Any Paris performances in the works?
“Not yet, but there will be for sure. And we look forward to playing in our favourite haunts in Paris, of course,” Alison replies.
And finally, the obvious question: does this mean that The Beangrowers will be taking a break? The reply is a definite “no” from all concerned.
“The opposite, actually. The Beangrowers will still be writing more and playing more concerts. We just need to get organized again. Being in two, sometimes even three, different countries tends to wreak havoc on the schedule,” Ian concludes.
The Shh will be performing at the next Hairyamp event alongside local outfits The Clandestines and Skimmed on Friday May 4 at V-Gen in Paceville. For more information check out the events page on Facebook.
Ian Schranz – about world domination and Sicilian songs
Q. Ian, you are also involved in another two band projects: Beanies and Bark Bark Disco – how do you view the different “identities” of each individual one?
A. I take the simple point of view. The4 Beanies is a three part mix of songs written by Mark, Alison and myself. The Shh is a two part mix of songs written by Alison and myself while Bark Bark Disco is purely me.
Q. What are your ambitions for Bark Bark Disco?
A. After conquering the world, you mean? I thought I’d go to the next closest planet… Venus, Mars…whichever market takes off first, I’m quite easy going!
Q. You recently gave an online streamed performance – how was the experience and would you do it again?
A. It was good fun. More of an experiment to see if people would even be interested. Now I know it can be done, so I’ll put on my thinking hat and really make the most of these kinds of shows.
Q. Which bands/musicians influence you?
To keep it short and simple, the bands I’ve been going back to lately are Jonathan Richman, Jeffrey Lewis, The Unicorns and Fabrizio De Andre.
Q. What was the first CD/cassette tape you ever bought?
A. A mix cassette from Sicily of Italian Songs cartoons and I still have it. I bought it when I was three. I guess my brother bought it for me, but I remember finding it in a big box of second-hand cassettes and remembering I went crazy and really wanted it.
Your top three albums ever and why?
Q: This is not easy as it changes too often… So as at today I will say: In The Airplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel; It’s the Ones Who’ve Cracked That the Light Shines Through by Jeffrey Lewis; Purple Rain by Prince.
A song you hate and why?
There are very few things I hate.
A singer you’d like to duet with and why?
Maybe Kim Deal from the Breeders. It’s not going to happen.
Your go-to music when you’re happy?
Anything by Jonathan Richman, AC/DC… There are so many.
Lately, Noah & the Whale and Bon Iver. But I stopped that because it gets too depressing.
Last good concert/gig you attended was…
I’m very easy to please at concerts. But I loved watching Kontroll at VGen.
Which particular band would you like to see live and why?
Sigur Ros. Why? It’s Sigur Ros!
What inspires you?
Most things, really. Even the green grocer. But listening to music doesn’t inspire me in the same way. It just reminds me that I need to write much better songs.
What do we find on your MP3 player?
Far too much. Eight gigs of random rubbish and great stuff. But also, loads of blues from the 30s at the top of the playlist this week.
Did you ever get the “music is not a real career” talk when younger?
Always. But it isn’t a career, that bit is true. It’s something else.
Which of your own compositions is your favourite and why?
Stop Making My Life Hell. I’m not too sure why, maybe it’s because I just wrote half decent lyrics for once.
This interview was published on The TV Guide (Times of Malta).