This interview was first published on March 22, 2018
Sara Shook and her army of Disarmers made a huge impact with their critically acclaimed 2017 debut album Sidelong. Shook immediately got recognised for her uncompromisingly honest songwriting and strong, passionate voice. Rolling Stone called her “a natural-born punk in love with the brutal honesty of classic country” and No Depression honored her for “forgoing gender stereotypes, and offering her voice up as an unapologetic, take-me-as-I-am woman who won’t hold back.” Sidelong is made with a rowdy confidence superior to far more established acts, and Sarah Shook entered the spotlight as one of the most important new voices in new country music.
Like she’s been there all her life.
Now the North Carolina band are set to release their sophomore effort entitled Years. It’s being described as a move from getting people’s attention to commanding it, with sharpened songwriting, deepened sound and roll-up-your-sleeves attitude drawing inspiration from artists such as the Sex Pistols, Elliott Smith and Hank Williams.
We took the opportunity to chat with Sarah Shook about her coming album.
Hi Sarah! Congratulations with your new album on the way, we’re really looking forward to it. What do we get and what’s it about?
Thanks so much! Years will be out everywhere on Bloodshot Records on April 6th. We’re lookin’ at 10 new songs delivered with the same heart and punk resilience found on Sidelong.
So what was your initial idea for Years? Did you have a clear idea when you first started writing songs for them album?
I didn’t have a theme in mind on a conscious level, but in retrospect Years is a breakup album, written while still in the midst of the worst swings of the relationship with a few songs penned from my ex’s point of view. My songs are all based on personal experience, empathetic experience, and general impressions and observations about myself and others in my life.
Can you share some info about the recording process and working with this material in the studio?
We track everything live so the months leading up to the four day recording session were jam packed with rehearsals and pre-production fervor. There’s a special and intense connection within the band when the heat is really on and we’re all fully aware if even just one of us fucks up we have to start the entire song over. Tracking live captures that intensity and its sort of do or die sentiment.
What would be your preferred setting to ultimately enjoy the LP?
On a mountain in a hot tub with a handle of whiskey and my bandmates.
What can you tell about your background and your roots, and how do you think your upbringing has shaped your songwriting in any way?
Growing up poor has a way of making one tougher, smarter, and more resourceful, because you don’t have much of a choice. You can sink under the weight of poverty or blast out of it skyward like some kind of crazy phoenix.
I was homeschooled from 1st grade through 12th grade graduation and in a very sheltered environment you get to spend a lot of time alone with your thoughts; you tend to get to know yourself pretty well. Self awareness is a big deal.
How would you pair Years with a meal or beverage?
I don’t eat animals or animal products so I would have to go with some kind of killer vegan tacos I think. And definitely coffee, whiskey, beer, tequila, or Topo Chico, all acceptable beverage choices.
Comments on the political climate in the states these days, and does the current administration affects your songwriting in any way?
We’re in dire straits here in the states. A lot of issues are coming to a head and it seems like the two party system is imploding, people are angry on both sides and everybody needs to calm down, talk less, and listen more. We got a lot of work to do and we’re not gonna get much done when we’re treating legitimate issues (that have a palpable impact on real live actual human lives) like a pissing contest.
Which three albums would you bring and why (never mind the lack of electricity) if you were to spend a year on a deserted island?
Master Of My Make Believe by Santigold.
Passover by the Black Angels.
Nevermind The Bollocks by the Sex Pistols.
And finally, if your music was a physical object what would it be?
It would be a big ass flag with a tiger on it. To unite all the tiger hearts around the world.