Talk Thursday to Me – Chris Kupersmith

Today we talk to Chris Kupersmith about the new The ShackUps record, the band’s beginning as a Personal Growth project and his involvement in Hoosier Music Corporation.

Chris Kupersmith: Hey fella

Postcard Editor: Hey yourself fellow fella – how’s things?

CK: Great, just got back from camping. How are you?

PE: Oh nice, did you hear about the election results while camping or did you not find out until you came back to civilization?

CK: Jane told me about them before we left, but it was cool to celebrate out there even though I couldn’t get internet to watch the speeches, which were great.

PE: I agree, the speeches were pretty great. Ok, let’s talk music.

CK: Ok.

PE: The ShackUps dropped the single “Null and Void” off the upcoming album a few weeks ago with a Halloween themed video that was great. When you wrote and recorded the song were you thinking of it as a sort of creepy dark song or did you realize it would work in that context when you started thinking of making a video for it?

CK: More the second. I crowdsourced a bunch of the lyrics for that song by asking FB to describe what anxiety felt like. So the song is about being anxious and trying to run away from it. Then I saw a Sammy Terry video and decided I wanted to work it in somehow, and then Halloween. Me and Josh decided to try to do a video per month no matter how shitty.

PE: Your commitment to shitty content is inspiring.

CK: Thank you. That made me tear up a little.

PE: That’s a cool way to write lyrics – sort of Warhol-esque. Have you used that technique before?

CK: I really haven’t used it. Just got a wild hair. It was interesting. People used pretty similar metaphors.

PE: How do you usually write? Do you keep a notebook with lyrics and song ideas and work it that way or is it more in the moment as you’re working out the music with the band? Improvising until you land on something that clicks.

CK: Pretty much all of the songs start with me and an acoustic guitar. Most of the time I sing nonsense lyrics, which I think is a pretty common approach? Sometimes I keep some of the nonsense lyrics. Usually I go into this cache of notes on my phone and look for some phrase or idea that might work.

PE: I think that is a pretty common technique – start with the vocal melody and then find words that fit that/make sense. So if you’re dropping a video every month with the first one already out does this mean the album release is coming up soon?

CK: I guess? This is probably not very sexy talk for a music blog, but I struggle with the point of putting out an album? Not for everybody, just for a band of old dudes. Putting it out on bandcamp only seems like such a letdown after all the work and love put into the recordings. But making a physical copy seems more and more absurd because my closet is already full of all the other records I’ve made. So we’re pretty much paralyzed. Any advice? I love making music and recording it, but then…

PE: Release it exclusively via TikTok? I think that’s what the kids want?

CK: Lol. Can you help me with tiktok? I don’t want China stealing the ShackUps data.

PE: Sorry, I told myself I wouldn’t download any new social media apps after Instagram. (I’ve just been hurt so many times before).

CK: I totally understand. I’m sorry for that.

PE: I completely understand your hesitation, with Beltalowda we were very proud of it and wanted it to get out but as a band whose members live in different countries and will probably never play even a local show putting out a physical release seemed dumb. We made 100 CD’s mostly to send to places that still require CD’s for reviews/airplay just because why not, and then wound up selling a few via Bandcamp. Although most of our Bandcamp love was in the form of digital downloads, which is still great. Happy people are hearing it.

CK: I think that’s a good approach. Josh really wants to do vinyl again, but I said not unless we can record over the last ShackUps record.

PE: Lol.

CK: So yeah we’ll “release it” in the next few weeks I think.

PE: Nice. I really dig the advanced copy of the album. You guys have this sort of timeless quality to your music that feels a bit like 80’s left of the dial early alternative/college rock but also with a healthy dose of americana and heartland roots rock to it. When you and Josh and Rusty were starting the band did you have a sound in mind or did that just evolve?

CK: Definitely evolved. Josh, Rusty, and I started the band as a covers-only band that we jokingly called Personal Growth. We had no intention of playing out. The idea was that each of us wanted to get better st something. Josh and Rusty at singing. Me at guitar. We decided we would only learn songs from 1977-1983 but genre didn’t matter. So we were learning Gram Parson but also lots of 80s left-of-the dial. When I introduced originals to the band it was really interesting and cool to see the covers inform the way we developed the songs. We warmed up every practice playing covers then moved into originals. Jeff Grant plays lead guitar on this album btw.

PE: Yes – I was going to ask about that. I just talked to Jeff about the Full Sun ep he put out this summer and he mentioned he’s in the ShackUps now. When did he come in and how has he changed the dynamic?

CK: He came in maybe two years ago. We wanted a lead player. Honestly I think he really brought the rock. There can be something so amazing about drummers playing guitar. He enhances the rhythm of the band and adds great melody and energy. Lon Paul from Sardina and Marmoset was also one of those drummer/ guitar players.

PE: How did you guys record the album? Did you have it done pre-pandemic or did you have to get creative?

CK: We were close to done, but the pandemic definitely made it hard to finish. I had to let go of getting Kate Long on a couple of the songs which sucks a lot. I finished some vocals at Noisy Chairs studio with Greg Moore. Jeff did some tambo at home. But yeah luckily we were close to done.

PE: I wanted to ask about the song “Walk the Alley” – it has such a different vibe than the rest of the album. Like a heavy Lou Reed thing going on. How did that come about?

CK: It’s a very old song. Like maybe 15 years old. One of those that I’ve been so precious about that I never got it onto a record. This band had the right feel for it. It’s funny you bring it up because there was one specific practice when I said that I want it to feel more like–I didn’t say Lou Reed–but that kind of thing, and Jeff said “then you should strum it more like this” and then it turned into what it is now.

PE: I know this is a weird question with the state of everything right now, but what’s next for the band? You have the album coming out and the videos, are you still writing songs for the group or are you waiting until you can get back in the same room with the guys? Or are you doing that already in full hazmat suits?

CK: One of my favorite things about the ShackUps is that we go through distinctly different phases. We didn’t play for several months. Then we decided to start playing around a campfire for the time being. So Rusty plays a small keyboard, Josh plays banjo, I play acoustic guitar. Jeff quit because he’s better than being in a cover band.  We are working up a bunch of new originals in that format. We do wear hazmat suits still.

“Public School” is off The ShackUps first album, but this video is too cute to not share.

CK: I also need to tell you about Hoosier Music Corporation sometime. 

PE: You can tell me about HMC now if you want. It is, after all, an interview.

CK: Wait do you already know what it is?

PE: No, I have no idea.

CK: I thought maybe I’d told you. Anyway, I’m telling you as a fellow musician as much as anything else. HMC is this organization that started a year ago. I am the liaison between HMC and the people. Each month HMC sends a songwriting theme to the group, which is now over 60 people. Then reminder/ moral support emails through the month. Then at the end we put out a comp on Bandcamp. Amy Dunn makes the art. All songs that were submitted go on the comp. So there have been between 5-16 tunes. It’s probably my favorite creative thing in my life right now. I’m glad to put you on the list if it is of interest. About 4-5 emails per month. NBD either way.

PE: Sure – sign me up. I’ve been looking for an outlet for my rap skills.

CK: Yeah baby. We’ve been looking for a white rapper from southern Indiana.

PE: I think that’s a good note to end on. Congrats on the new album, it’s great. Thanks for chatting.

CK: For sure. Thanks for thinking of us and doing it. Very cool of you.

You can pick up The ShackUps first album “Shack It Up” via Let’s Pretend Records and can find out about when the new album “Radio Shack” will be released by subscribing to the band’s YouTube channel here.

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