The last time Shakey Graves was in town, at the Visulite Theatre in October, Alejandro Rose-Garcia basically played the part of a one-man band. He invited a few guests on stage to play with him throughout the night, but for the most part, it was a solo show.
These days, Shakey Graves is more of a band. Sure, there is a portion of the set when frontman singer/guitarist Rose-Garcia will play solo, but there's also a portion that's a duo, with drummer Chris Boosahda, and a trio, with the addition of guitarist Patrick O'Connor.
If you're going to his next show at the Neighborhood Theatre on June 11, it's best to expect the unexpected. The trio is still finding their stride and, well, some nights are better than others.
"Full stride is a whole different thing, but comfort zone is a good way to put it," Rose-Garcia says. "We've had three of our best shows recently, and one of our least favorite shows. I don't think the audience noticed, but it's a nice reminder that we're still figuring this all out."
As for the great show — Rose-Garcia would love to recreate that every night, even if there's a bit of snark involved. The band performed at a Shriner Temple in Boise, Idaho, a venue he says felt like a middle school dancehall complete with wood paneling on the walls.
"It was our ultimate show," Rose-Garcia says. "They had props, antique furniture and weird plants with lights in them. We used all that shit and decked out the stage. It looked like a psychopath's house. We had people sit on stage and opened bottles of wine. The crowd might not even be as amazed as we were. I think it's a goal to have a show like that every night. It felt intimate, endearing and even showy, and it sounded good. We were just playing because we wanted to — as if the audience wasn't there."
The relaxed atmosphere fueled the band for the duration of its set, enough that Rose-Garcia jokingly says he needs to "get a trailer and fill it with antique furniture and 48 plastic ficus trees." He knows that it's hard to force a setting though and you have to let things happen naturally.
"We could try it again and it could just be a huge wet fart," Rose-Garcia says with laugh. "We need to get those huge inflatable dancing dudes like you see on car lots — that would be great! If we can get those on each side of the stage and I can turn them on and off with a pedal switch. It's gonna be a low-budget, really drunk Flaming Lips show."
Rose-Garcia's quick wit and humor come through for the duration of our conversation. A scheduled 15 minute chat quickly turns into a 35-minute conversation as he shares his thoughts on acting — he's done it since age 6, was on Friday Night Lights, in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, etc. — his thoughts on actors who moonlight as musicians and the future of Shakey Graves.
He knows that he didn't have a huge acting career and wasn't a household name. His path was more likely to follow that of family friend John Hawkes. "I spent my whole childhood watching him die in every fucking movie," Rose-Garcia says. "The first time he didn't die was a few years ago, and he got nominated for an Oscar."
Rose-Garcia didn't just decide to leave acting and give music a try. He's played guitar since age 11 and started writing music as soon as he could go from an A-minor to a C chord. Being an actor gave him the time to work on songwriting and, right now, music is his sole focus. He's adjusting to his new love of being in a band.
"That's one of the main reasons that I called it Shakey Graves in the first place, instead of just my own name," Rose-Garcia says. "I'm still trying to find the boundaries of this. There are places that I want to go musically that maybe Shakey Graves doesn't. I can always step away if I have to, but I don't think I can ever stop being Shakey Graves at this point. Maybe there will be side projects."
He's aware that the evolution of his sound might turn off some of his fans, but it's just part of the band's evolution. He's always wanted to perform with other musicians. While there's a comfort level to solo performing, adding a drummer and guitarist has enabled him to add depth to the band's sound.
"Having other people that can swoop in so you can turn it up and crush stuff and then having an acoustic song — that's the kind of show that I want to see," he says. "Patrick can throw in a wah wah to juxtapose what I do. Me and this dude have been playing together since I first started in 2009. We used to dick around in his practice space and bring in 40s and smoke weed and stay up all night making horrible music and singing the Star Trek: The Next Generation theme all night. We'd say, 'One day, man, we're gonna be in a band.' That day is now."
Until now, his albums have leaned toward folk, but his live show has been leaning more toward what he calls psych-rock. He's torn on how to record the next record.
Part of him wants to leave live shows as live shows and do something different in the studio. Then there's the part of him that wants to "capture the crazy" of what the trio can accomplish.
"When three people get in a room and jam, magical things happen," Rose-Garcia says. "I want to lock us in a room, dose us with acid and see what the fuck happens. I'm not a folk purist. When I was 19, I was. I was into lo-fi and listening to obscure Alan Lomax recordings. Now, I love pop music and weird hokey bullshit. We've been listening to James Taylor's 'Your Smiling Face' for a week now. That should be the theme song to the worst TV show of all time. We want to play it before our shows now — 'We're about to come out, sit in chairs, drink wine and get ludicrous."
If you're going to catch his Charlotte show, be prepared for anything from 'Your Smiling Face' and ficus trees to a clusterfuck of quality performance that runs the gamut from sweet-sounding folk to sweat-soaked rock.
"I'm sure some people hate it," Rose-Garcia says of the people who are fans of the one-man band and don't like the trio's fuller sound. "I'm totally certain that people are in the crowd saying, 'What the fuck is going on?! I came here for adorable acoustic hobo music and this is not what I signed up for. I'm outta here. I'll go play my banjo in the parking lot.' Sorry, dude."