Shannon & The Clams, an American garage rock band that emerged from San Francisco’s celebrated Bay Area music scene in the early 2000s, was originally booked to play the canceled High Water Festival of 2020. They will finally have the chance to make good on that promise April 24 at Riverfront Park.
Bandleader and bassist Shannon Shaw was at California College of Arts in Oakland when she started playing bass, mostly on her own and sometimes at open mic nights.
Her classmate Cody Blanchard, now the band’s guitarist, wanted her to perform at his house party. And since Shaw was too embarrassed to play alone, she brought some friends from school along.
“I was thinking that Shannon & The Clams was going to be a one-off affair, you know, one and done, for the purposes of that party back in 2006,” Shaw told City Paper. “But over time the band has continued to develop and grow from that inauspicious debut.”
In addition to Shaw and Blanchard, the Clams also include drummer Nate Mahan and keyboardist Will Sprott.
Although this enigmatic indie ensemble is a modern phenomenon, it has a retro-vibe knack for making any given three-minute song in its repertoire feel like 1962. “It was all really natural the way it came together,” Shaw said. “We just tend to collectively gravitate towards a warm, old sound, the kind where people are like, emoting, using their voice as an instrument. Trust me, I never set out to specifically write a song that sounds old, but it just kind of happens.”
Sprott concurred: “It’s just what we do.”
The Clams did it again in a big way on the 2021 LP, Year of the Spider, which is arguably the act’s strongest and most intimate work to date.
“My contributions to the album are very personal,” Shaw said. “It’s an understatement to say that I had a rough couple of years leading up to the recording of Year of the Spider. There was just a lot of craziness in my life, including the fact that my dad was sick, and there were forest fires all over the place. It was a dark time to say the least. Oddly, listening to it now, the material feels like it was written during the pandemic because so many of the songs that made it onto the record mirror the things that were happening in the world in 2020 and 2021. But it actually predates all of that stuff.”
Even though the content confronts a fair amount of despair, Sprott couldn’t be happier with the results. “It’s the most sonically ambitious album that the Clams have ever produced,” he said. “And it reaches into some new corners that the band hadn’t touched before in terms of songwriting styles. Plus, it was a really fun record to make.”
With the road opening up again, the Clams have recently returned to touring hard, which is what lands them back in the Lowcountry for a High Water performance at 3 p.m., April 24, on the Edisto stage.
Beyond that, Shaw said that she is just happy to keep on keepin’ on.
“I measure success by asking myself whether or not I am happy and if the band’s music is still coming from a genuine place and, in turn, being well-received by our audience,” she said. “So as far as that goes, we’ve been very successful in that we’ve been able to stay true to ourselves and to make a living at doing the thing we love most.”
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