Shiloh is a four piece outfit that began making communal folk, which sounded like it was recorded entirely on front porches on summer evenings. They’ve since undergone several lineup changes, as well as a sonic shift towards Americana-infused indie rock. What follows is a brief conversation with singer/guitarist Alex Reindl, singer/guitarist Ryan Ensley, and bassist Mike Maynard. We talked about the stylistic shift the band has experienced, their disdain for studio recording and what they’re working on next. Don’t miss “Skin and Bones,” the single they recorded exclusively for LoudLoopPress.com by our own Damian Wiseman. It’s available for free download at the conclusion of this post and/or can be streamed in the Bandcamp sidebar to the right.
LLP: When I got this assignment to interview you, I went through your catalog and spent time with each record. I definitely noticed a stylistic shift, particularly between the first and second records. Was this a conscious choice?
Alex: The first album was different, it was a lot of acoustic guitars. There was a fiddle player, a cello player, there was banjo on a few songs. It was more folk. We really enjoy making that kind of music, but as the band got going it shifted. We really liked rock n’ roll too, so we kind of started electrifying it more. We started to change the songs, and the formation of the songs changed, because [former drummer] Calvin played more of a part in writing them and his drums influenced how we did certain things.
LLP: How’s that exactly?
Ryan: Calvin played in a doom metal band so his drum set, in and of itself, changed the way things would sound.
Alex: It was huge.
Ryan: It was enormous, it had this huge sound, and we had to make up for that by playing louder. That changed the whole sound really.
Alex: I think it was always a conscious choice to make each recording sound more like how we sounded live. Especially on Last Time For Everything, the last record, we really wanted to capture that, because we had actually gotten good at playing live. It used to be a pain in the ass, it used to be really hard. After every show I would go over in my head all the things that went wrong. That ended once it was [former bassist] Tommy, Ryan, Calvin and myself. We locked in a good live sound and started having really great shows that were really fun and exciting. We really wanted to capture that on this last record.
Ryan: Like, with the first record, yeah, we never sounded like that live, so we just kept trying to make records that sounded more like what we were as a live band.
LLP: There’s obviously a move away from a the homespun, folky sound of the first album.
Alex: It got heavier and heavier and more and more electric as the records went on. The last record has no acoustics guitars or piano or anything.
Mike: I feel like we’re going to head back to that. Not necessarily “folk” but like, softer.
Alex: I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be folk or softer, but it will feature more instruments.
Ryan: I’m not afraid of the acoustic guitar anymore. We would get press and people would use the term “anti-folk” and I always kind of resented that, and I just became terrified of the acoustic guitar. I just insisted that the last record not have a single acoustic guitar. We made all the guitars super fuzzy and very rock n’ roll and we have not had a single folk comparison since then. Now I feel like people know us as more of a rock n’ roll band.
LLP: So you’re working on new material then?
Ryan: Yeah, a double record. Or two records at the same time…
Alex: Twenty-five songs chronicling the dark heart of America [laughs].
Ryan: That sounds so pretentious [laughs].
LLP: I can leave that out if you want.
Ryan: Or just add in parentheses “laughs.” But yeah, we haven’t told anyone. Double record, I guess. It’s going to be recorded here at Young Camelot.
Alex: Some of it will be, I think we’re going to jump around.
Ryan: I think it’s going to have some of the vibe of the first record, where you feel like you might just be sitting in someone’s living room.
Mike: It’s pretty far off, we have what, twenty-three songs to learn?
Alex: We have a lot of work to do [laughs].
LLP: So this is not an imminent release?
Ryan: Well, I’m pushing it. I’m very rushed.
Alex: We might use the first couple songs from it as an EP, just to put something out there.
LLP: You recorded your second album in a studio, but you’ve since moved away from that, correct?
Alex: Yeah, on Mrs., we were in the studio, our band had basically quit, so it was only me and Ryan and Calvin. Me and Ryan were overdubbing all the guitars, and all the pianos and the bass.
Ryan: We wrote all of the bass parts in the studio because our bass player wouldn’t come to the studio. We don’t even play like half that record live ever, and we never will probably. We kind of threw it together as a studio project that cost way too much and stressed us out. [laughs]. I was pretty anxious and paranoid while trying to record it.
LLP: Why is that?
Ryan: I think Alex and I both just got way too freaked out about trying to create under pressure.
Alex: It just sucked because you had to book time and stuff. Ryan would book the times, and then it wouldn’t work out. I just remember being really uncomfortable in the studio a lot because we’d book times at like ten in the morning, and I’d have not gotten a lot of sleep the night before. I remember just going in there and feeling like shit. Luckily the engineer had a giant bottle of whiskey that I ended up consuming all of during the process recording that album [laughs]. It was too much money, and it just ended up not being that fun. I found myself having to force myself to be excited. I still like that record and there are things that I wish were different about it, but it ended up not being that bad.
Ryan: But then sometimes you run out of time and you can’t fix things. That record was mixed in like two days.
Alex: It was mixed in basically one day.
Ryan: And then the last one Michael (MacDonald) spent like, three months mixing it. We just put way more time into it [the second album]. Unless some label wants to pay us a thousand dollars to go and record, we’re definitely never going to do that again.
LLP: Finally, can you talk about “Skin and Bones,” the track you recorded for us?
Ryan: That’s the first song we did with our new drummer Brian. We wrote it not too long before we recorded it. It was weird because we had never written a song with him. Calvin quit like a month before we had to go into the studio. So we wrote it real fast with Brian. It feels really fresh and weird, for me at least. The recording of it was cool. It was easy, it was a cool experience recording with Brian for the first time.