Shiny Toy Guns are an L.A. quarter who have been gaining steam playing sold out crowds here and abroad as well as at some top notch exclusive get-togethers (more on that later). Their alive style of new wave/guitar/pop/electronica creates dense textures both musically and vocally. Thanks to melodious male/female leads sung by Chad Petree and Carah Faye and complex song structures, Shiny Toy Guns are able to tackle issues of gender and fear in fresh ways testing at times and reassuring at others along the journey. This is not your typical synth-pop band.
Glide had a chance to talk with band founder and bassist/keyboardist Jeremy Dawson who mentioned STG wants to “make people excited, and do something impacting and massive!” Fans in the know will say they are well on their way with their first studio release We Are Pilots; below Jeremy discusses everything you wanted to know about Kanye West’s birthday party and more.
Shiny Toy Guns have a ton of tour-dates lined up, is your push more on the road, or is there a studio side that you want to delve into more?
Well right now the record has a lot of momentum, it’s still moving, as soon as the record is nearing it’s time, that’s when we move into the next album.
OK so you worked with these songs for a while, do you have a batch of new tunes ready to go?
There are some skeletons, we have about four or five ideas that our guitar player has made, but we haven’t sat down and fully dove into the writing thing yet completely, where we are cutting vocals and stuff, that will probably come a little later.
It is Version 3 of this album (We Are Pilots) can you talk a little bit about that, is it simply a chance to re-record in a bigger studio or are there different themes you want to convey with the original songs?
It’s real simple, when we use to travel around in a van we had a demo and we decided to make it more professional looking instead of writing on it with a sharpie, so we manufactured about 1,000 units of our demo. We played a bunch of shows and then we got tired of certain songs and the order they were in and the art work…and we had written some new songs, so we made another version of the demo and made more copies of that. Then we borrowed some money, used credit cards and went to New York and re-cut the whole album and that is Version 3 the record we used to get a record deal with.
There’s an early 80’s New Wave flair on most of the tracks, shiny pop with dark lyrics behind it, I know you covered Depeche Mode, are there other bands from that era that you gravitate towards?
Not really, we aren’t 80’s kids, we are 90’s kids. Basically we use technology and synthesizers and new forms of creating and sequencing music and we are a very melodic band too, we are into using vocals and melodies. Coincidently, 20 years ago people used technology with rock and pop music and the vocals and melodies were a lot better. People might say we sound like New Order but we don’t sound anything like them we just happen to use the same technology and sing and use melodies instead of just being angry. We are more into vocals and lyric structure and trying the best we can to make something that is cool and unique.
It’s funny that you mention you are child of the 90’s because when I hear “Rainy Monday” it sounds written for a John Hughes soundtrack, I can almost see Molly Ringwald pouting in the rain on a suburban street, and you seemed to pinpoint that era.
(Laughs) Yeah it was a similar time I think, I think it was more of a reflective time like now, but we grew up on Lightning Seeds, Lush, Jesus Jones, EMF, Charlatans UK, Ministry, KMFDM. Stuff like that.
You mentioned the artwork earlier on the album and I think it has a distinct Pink Floyd feel to it…
Oh we are PYSCHO Pink Floyd fans…
Oh yeah even though it may not audio-wise appear to be Floyd-y they have a massive influence on us…Their a really big deal.
That’s cool, the song “When They Came For Us” when I first heard it I thought it had a Flaming Lips feel to it, and I see a lot of Floyd in them.
Hmm maybe a little bit. Well they live like 20 minutes away from one of our studios, half of us are from Oklahoma.
Oh I thought you guys were an L.A. band?
Well our guitar player still lives in Oklahoma, and I’m from Oklahoma moved to L.A. in 2000. Whenever we play in Oklahoma the Lips come out, we are actually playing with them in four days in Tulsa.
I can see some of the same drama and melodies but in different musical venues between Shiny Toy Guns and the Lips.
When they put out The Soft Bulletin they were completely locked in and there is nothing else like them.
One of the things I wanted to bring up is that there seems to be a lot of identity and sexuality issues with your lyrics, and with having the female and male leads do you play with those issues consciously?
Yeah that is very deliberate and purposeful, if you write a song or a lyric and it is interpreted and expressed by a male it will go as far as a male can take and if it is interpreted and expressed by a female it will go as far as a female can take it, and if you have both in the same song with the same lyric or the same line, you don’t allow any space of question or lack of understanding because both of them are projecting that in a sexual sense. You have the ying and the yang, you have the black and the white, it’s all covered. Both sides of the situation that the lyrics are discussing have an equal voice to what the songs about.
So you write with that in mind.
Absolutely, the songs gravitate towards that as well, that’s just how we write.
I noticed you have a lot of songs that are on television or are in video games, is that something you guys are striving for with radio not being what it was?
No all this stuff has come to us and our publishing company or through our myspace, and people will say they really like this song and it would fit with this thing they are doing, and we have done a lot of it. It’s odd, the amount of stuff we’ve done has exceeded bands that have a massive radio hit and I can’t explain why.
Sure, it is just one of those things with Wilco putting out a message to its fans explaining the Volkswagen commercials, is it still an image of selling out?
Well, Volkswagen is a cool car company (Laughs) I didn’t know Wilco fans were so aggressive and reactionary to something like that. I mean if they did something for a little Plain-Jane hatchback to make a quick 80 grand I could see why there would be a repercussive fan situation with that, but at the same time if your not selling a million albums and you don’t have a top ten hit, that’s how bands eat, cause bands sure don’t make money on the road.
You mentioned myspace, did that open more doors for you?
With the internet in general, I mean we are speaking on digital phones, into digital recorders, it’s just technology, the world today lives in the wires, why can’t music live in the wires? You can be indie as hell, grow a mullet, wear size 0 jeans but if you don’t live in the wires, you’re not moving anywhere. Your going to stay in the garage, you can print flyers till your blue in the face but no one will know who you are, the world lives in the wires, it is an internet based world, and we knew that going in. I mean we realized we didn’t need to be big in L.A. we didn’t need to play the L.A. club scene we just needed to get good and write songs and stay on the wires. We are as big in Halifax Nova Scotia as Sydney Australia as we are in L.A., you can do that in 5 minutes on the internet.
Good point, I had one more question….Kanye West’s birthday party?!?!
Can you describe that?
Yeah it was the big 3-0 for him, we were playing a gig in South Carolina it was us and Plain White Tee’s, I can’t remember if there was anyone else, anyway his manager called our manager and he said that Kanye was looking at our myspace and he asked how soon we could fly in to play his birthday party.
Where was it?
The Louis Vuitton store in Manhattan, NYC Yeah it was the whole store, they moved the 3 million dollar handbags and we set up a sound system and lights and threw him a party, we played a couple songs for him. We are a band he likes, and we got to meet Mariah Carey, Pharrell, and it was a different angle into the music business that we weren’t use to. If you look at what he does, he is the future of urban music and urban culture. He is such a broad thinker and moves what he thinks is good into urban music or hip hop and R&B, adding shades of color and keeping it from stagnating, cause if it stagnates it could bring an entire generation down. He is one of those people who refuses to be like everyone else. Outkast is another example, but you can just see (with Kanye) he is a mover and a shaker.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
We are sure talking about it…amongst ourselves. I have some ideas for sure, that would be a lot of fun and we would make some interesting music.