Brooklyn garage-rockers Sharkmuffin are hitting the road with their 14th drummer. It's Spinal Tap-ian. While constant change could be viewed as a bad thing — perhaps due to a lack of consistency — the two founding members of the group, Tarra Thiessen and Natalie Kirch, have made the best of it.
"Most of our drummers have been good friends of ours," bassist/singer Kirch says. "We did have a permanent drummer at one point — Janet (LaBelle) — and then she got injured. We had a rotation of drummers as we waited for her to recover. Janet now can't play the drums to the same extent that she did. She gave us the go-ahead to find someone else."
As the band hits the road in support of its debut, full-length album, Chartreuse (due Aug. 7), they're hitting the road with Sharif Mekawy (Looms) on the drums and Davey Jones — who is opening shows under the name Lost Boy ? — on guitar. It's the band's first foray into quartet-hood and they'll be stopping by the Milestone on July 30.
The album was recorded with the help of Patty Schemel, known for her work with the band Hole. When LaBelle suffered an arm injury, the right cards fell into place for Schemel to offer her services for the recording. The band had been scrambling when a friend of the sound engineer reached out to Schemel to gauge her interest. Before Sharkmuffin knew it, Schemel was sending them a message via their band e-mail.
"We recorded in Los Angeles and we're based in New York, so it was definitely a temporary thing," Kirch says of considering bringing Schemel on as a permanent band member. "It might have been a different story if we lived in the same place."
Of course, having a recognizable name on the album hasn't hurt interest in the band's music. Kirch acknowledges some people may not know who Schemel is by name alone but says her drumming speaks for itself on the album. Either way, Kirch is pleased with how Chartreuse turned out.
"I think it's an accurate representation of the band at least at this point in time," Kirch says. "I think there's some versatility and different types of songs on the album. Some are more punky, some are more melodic, some are more '60s girl group. I think there are some consistencies and differences with the album and our live show."
The album also isn't out yet — it's due on Aug. 7 — so the current tour serves as an introduction to the band's music. Having a few new members will only serve to bring a new energy to anyone who has seen them before or heard the band's music online.
"We've been playing with Sharif for a couple of months now," Kirch says. "Davey played a few shows as a guest guitarist for about half the set. We liked having him play with us, and since he was on the bill, we figured he could play the whole set."
Kirch and Thiessen are enjoying the new band dynamics. Having a second guitarist has not only brought a fatter sound to the group's psych-rock and punk-infused sounds, but has also freed up Thiessen to do a bit more exploring as a singer and lead guitarist.
It's the perfect time for Sharkmuffin to spread its wings, or fins, and discover a bit more about their sound and direction as a band. Aside from experimenting as a quartet, the band is also veering more into the psych and pop realm away from the straight-up punk of its earlier days. It also helps that Kirch, who is a kindergarten and pre-K teacher, is on sabbatical for the upcoming school year.
In the past, the band has only been able to tour in the summer or on spring break, so having the freedom to extend its current run into the fall and winter is an exciting idea.
"My schedule is the main one — from September to June I usually work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. which put a restriction on our touring schedule," Kirch says. "It can be exhausting when you're in a real active band and you work all day and go straight to the gig. Although I'll miss the kids, I won't miss the 6 a.m. wakeup."
With sharks and North Carolina going together this summer like peanut butter and jelly, I can't help but ask Kirch if it's a good time or bad to have "shark" in your band name.
"Well, it's right after Shark Week, and it's summertime, so it's definitely a good time," she says. "A few days ago, we were playing at a barbecue and some kids were there bouncing around. We're really loud, but they loved us. We're not scary sharks."