The Shook Twins, an up-and-coming Portland band, are coming through Central Oregon on their West Coast tour and bringing along their own style of folk music.
Identical twins Katelyn and Laurie Shook, originally from the Idaho panhandle, form the nucleus of the six-piece band. Electric guitarist Niko Daousiss and bassist Kyle Volkman round out the core quartet that usually takes the stage, while fiddle player Anna Tivel and drummer Russ Kleiner are a fundamental part of the group in the studio.
As the band has matured musically, their sound has blossomed into a more complex, progressive blend of folk.
"We've changed a lot over the years," says Katelyn. "After moving to Portland and being exposed to all these awesome indie-rock bands, we wanted to create more of that kind of sound."
Their first album,You Can Have The Rest, released in 2008, falls more in line with traditional string-driven bluegrass and folk, while their 2011 followup, Mirror, represents their crossing the threshold into what Katelyn proudly calls "quirky folk."
In their newest album, What We Do, the Shook Twins' quirkiness has evolved into a rich and enchanting sound. At the heart of this sound are the vocal harmonies of the twins themselves. Their innately congruent voices meld together like milk and honey, and they drizzle this sweet concoction over the imaginative plucking of an eclectic array of instruments.
This range of instruments stretches from the acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, banjo, and double bass to the violin, ukulele, glockenspiel, and various drums, including a studio kit and the magical, mystical golden egg. Laurie converted this curious piece of art into a functional instrument by filling it with corn kernels and sticking a contact mic to the outside. The Egg, which can be played as a hand-drum or as a giant, throwable shaker, is part of what distinguishes the Shook Twins as wholly unique.
Another signature element of their sound is the integration of electronics, such as a looping machine and a repurposed telephone microphone that gives Katelyn's voice a faraway-sounding texture.
"I think we're actually moving into that electronic vein even more lately," she says.
One of the most popular tracks from their recent album is entitled "Shake." Katelyn calls it their "futuristic, apocalyptic gospel swing ballad." The song tells the story of a farming couple, "a man of solid oak and his fine new bride," who live through a catastrophic earthquake, and while fictional, the lyrics are of topical interest to any residents of the Pacific Northwest. The earthquake is a reference to the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a seismologically-sensitive area stretching from Mendocino to Vancouver that scientists believe could be the site of a full-margin rupture, which would trigger an earthquake of devastating proportions, comparable to the one that shook the eastern coast of Japan in 2011.
A scary thought, indeed, but as Katelyn points out, "Ignorance is bliss, and if you think about this earthquake a lot, you'll just live in fear. It'll be crippling." So for now, she, Laurie, and the rest of the band are focusing on their music and they will be working on a new album over the winter.
The Shook Twins, featuring Niko on bass and their good friend John Craigie on electric guitar, are playing at the Belfry in Sisters on Friday, Nov. 6.
"They're both songwriters as well," says Katelyn of Niko and John, "so we'll be able to mix some of their songs into the set, which is always really fun for us." Craigie will also be opening up the show with a solo performance.
The Shook Twins
8 pm, Friday, Nov. 6
The Belfry, 302 E Main Ave., Sisters