Shaking Judy is a one-of-a-kind Montreal-based alternative progressive rock band, whose EP entitled "Songs for Apollo" caught our attention recently for its unique sound and crafty musicianship. We had the chance to set up an interview with lead guitarist/singer Rob Hutcheson.
- Hi Rob. Could you introduce Shaking Judy to our readers?
Sure thing. We've got Jer Turowetz on drums, Mike Shetzer on bass, Joe Allen on guitar, and I sing lead and play guitar. Joe and I share duties for lead guitar, and everyone sings—often all at the same time. We're like the Beach Boys of hard rock.
- You knew this question was coming… What is the significance of the band's name?
That's a good question! We used to practice in the basement of Jer's parent's house, and when the music got too loud, his mom (Judy Turowetz) would come running down the stairs screaming that the whole house was shaking. Instead of saying "are we jamming tonight" we started saying "are we shaking Judy tonight." The name just stuck with us.
- Which bands would you say are your major influences?
Each of us grew up listening to many very different types of music, which probably shows in the different elements of our sound. To narrow it down, we're probably mostly influenced by a combination of '90s alternative rock, classic rock, and progressive/experimental rock.
- Tell us about your creative process, how songs come to life with you guys.
Usually, I'll come in to practice with the skeleton of a song—basically the guitar chords and vocal melody. Then we'll throw ideas around, and everyone will contribute their own part. Once everyone has put their spin on it, the final product is usually way better and way more interesting than I imagined it could be.
- Your EP "Songs for Apollo" holds 5 songs, all in a different style. Can you tell us a bit about the recording sessions? How was it to put your songs "in the box"?
Recording was an amazing experience for us. We worked really hard during the day, and then at night we'd sit back with a case of beer listening to the playback. We never really thought we we're setting the songs in stone, so to speak. Instead, we merely took a snapshot of the songs in the state they existed at that point in time. We play those songs differently every night on stage, and I think that keeps them fresh and interesting for the audience and for us.
- Which one of the songs is most representative of Shaking Judy in your opinion, and which one is most representative of the sound you want to pursue in the near future?
The last song, Cave In, is probably the most representative of the band since each member contributed a lot to that one. It's also the heaviest and most ambitious, and we've been continuing in that vein with most songs written since the release of the EP.
- We love the artwork on this record. Is there a meaning attached to it?
Thanks! Aside from being the name of the studio, Apollo is the God of light and music, so we thought it would be cool to have some sort of light motif on the cover of the album. The metaphor of light also runs throughout the 5 songs on the album. In the early stages of the band, we used to play acoustic guitar at beach parties in the Quebec Laurentian mountains. This picture is actually a blurred shot of a campfire at one of those parties, taken by Jer and later touched up using Photoshop by a friend of ours.
- 2005 was a big year for you guys. During that time, you won a couple of significant prizes in Montreal, right?
We won a couple of prizes, but I don't know how significant they actually were! We won both the Paul Edwards Battle of the Bands and the McGill University PGSS Battle. The prize money from those contests allowed us to record our CD, which was really cool.
- Which song do you enjoy most when performing on stage?
Definitely our new song "Thanatophobe." It's the heaviest song we've ever done, and it's got a badass middle section in which we all get to improvise over an extended jam.
- Let's just imagine… If you could tour with any one band, which one would you pick?
Let's see… There are so many great bands out there. We saw Muse play live in Montreal last summer and they totally blew us away, so I'll say Muse.
- While we are at it, the one place you dream of playing your songs?
I could aim ridiculously high and say something like Madison Square Garden, but instead I'll be more realistic. I've seen almost all of my favorite bands at Metropolis in Montreal, and I'd love to play there.
- Do you have any upcoming touring plans?
For now, we're concentrating on writing new songs, but we've also got some ideas for a small tour of Quebec and Ontario in the near future
- There have been rumors about the band making a video. Is that true and can you give us an update on that? Would it be a new song as well?
That's right. We got a grant through VideoFACT, a foundation to assist Canadian artists, and shot our first video about 3 weeks ago. The video is for On the Run, which is the 3rd song on our EP. We had a blast in Hamilton, Ontario, working with the crew from a production company called Fenian Films. We're all actors in the video, and we have a live performance scene as well. I got to drive around in an old-school 1950's yellow cab, Joe got to lounge around in a motel room with a hot model all day, and Jer and Mike were literally "On the Run" sweating their asses off the entire shoot!
- The big question: When can we look forward to a full-length album from Shaking Judy?
We've got almost enough new material to record a full-length, so that shouldn't be too far away. We're just shopping around in hopes that a label will want to pick us up, while getting a few more shows under our belts.
- How do you envision the future of the band? What can we expect from Shaking Judy?
We're just taking it as it comes. When we started we never really thought it would go anywhere, so all this talk about videos and record deals can be overwhelming at times. It has been an amazing experience overall, though, and I'm confident that as long as we keep making the music we want to make and we're still having fun doing it then we can't go wrong. I'm looking forward to creating as much as possible, while reaching out to more and more people.
Song by song
- We have a specific section of our website where we post views or explanations of an album from the point of the view of the band. Can you describe either what each song for 'Song for Apollo' means to you or what it is supposed to evoke in a few words?
01. Change of Heart
The first song is Change of Heart, a heavy rocker that draws from Hutcheson's own experience and those around him. With a theme of lack of direction and uncertainty in one's life path, the song explodes into existence, recedes into the middle section where conflicting voices take over, and then the listener is hit with one last chorus as the song comes to an end.
Next is Somehow, a song that demonstrates the bands ability to write catchy, radio friendly tunes, with the attractive elements of three-way vocal harmonies and a classic rock-inspired guitar solo. The songs major key makes for a refreshing contrast compared to Change of Hearts more somber minor intervals.
03. On the Run
Track 3 is On the Run, an emotionally charged song about a friend who runs away from fears and problems instead of facing them head-on, only to find more of the same. The intro is enhanced by an electronic drum sample, and the guitars play downstroked rhythms in the style of modern day bands such as The Strokes and Queens of the Stoneage.
04. Ocean Song
A fan-favorite is track number 4, Ocean Song. The song is in a ¾ waltz time signature that evokes a 50s style surf-rock quality that is appropriate for the title of the song. The story is one of a lovesick traveler that must leave his loved one, but promises to return one day. The instrumentation and energy of the band successfully transforms a once-acoustic song into a powerful ballad that demands the attention of the listener.
05. Cave In
To conclude the CD, the band chose to record their most ambitious and epic song. Cave In captures the bands best studio performances all in one technical yet catchy piece. Turowetz delivers a stellar drum performance throughout, with syncopated rhythms that play with the listener's conception of meter without distracting from the drive of the song. Shetzer plays bass in the pocket and fills up the sound, transforming the piece with aggressive and punchy flourishes. Allen lays down a memorable guitar riff in the chorus, which is later harmonized by Hutcheson in the extended outro of the song. The culmination of all of the insanity is relieved with a bloodcurdling scream and thunderous crash, and the disc is over.
- Thanks for your time! We wish you all the best. Any last words you want to put out there?
Thanks so much for having me on Metalstorm!