Shovel is an underground rock band comprising many things -- the transgressive squall of late-'80s pigfuck (Butthole Surfers, the Touch and Go Records brigade), the anthemic stomp of early Mudhoney and Nirvana, and bathed in a drop or two of Kat Bjelland's sweat. However, if the frequent use of terms like "sassy" and "feisty" by Shovel's perfectly named singer and guitarist Dusty Rose are indicative of anything, the music she and also-perfectly named drummer Ward Reeder is as muscular as the aforementioned acts, but a lot more fun.
Shovel started playing in 2012, when "Jackie [Cruz] from Man Hands and I used to play in a band called the Pods," Rose says. "We decided that we wanted to do some different stuff. Somebody told me they knew a rad drummer, and it was Ward. He came and jammed with me at my old house. My friend Dana -- from JJCnV -- played guitar with us in the beginning. After she left, Ward and I decided to just continue on as a two-piece. We meshed really well and could play off of each other -- get a cool energy going."
After a year of increasingly focused and intense performances, the band (along with its erstwhile second guitarist) recorded a self-titled cassette that harnessed the fury of Shovel's live sound with a display of songcraft and interlay sometimes lost to the primitive sound systems of the underground venues Shovel frequents. When speaking of the cassette, the self-effacing Rose sells it short, but that's likely because "it's been awhile since we recorded an album, so we want to get started on a new one, which is a better representation of what we are now," she says.
"We just like grimy, heavy music with good energy. I want to make a really great record . . . I feel that our first album doesn't really represent what we sound like now. The new songs are heavier and more thought-out. The lyrics are a little more abstract and the parts are more structured, but it's still wild . . . The words are what I want to say to people but I don't say to people -- but it's still sassy and smart-aleck-y."
And that's a great excuse, if one was needed, to go catch Shovel in its most natural element, which is in the flesh. For just two people, even after more than a decade of primitive rock 'n' roll duos found in every corner of the pop music world, it's still shocking how much racket Reeder and Rose get out of their instruments. Shovel sounds like a smiling razor blade.
"Look, we're goofballs, and I want everyone to get along in life and be nice, but onstage is, like, a time to release aggression. There's a kind of feistiness happening, and I like that. Nothing's cooler than being a chick wearing a dress but is screaming louder than all the dudes," Rose says before laughing her way through her conclusion about the experience of seeing her band live:
"Expect things to be broken, things to be silly, things to be grimy, things to be sweaty, and things to be foxy."
Shovel is scheduled to play Tempe Tavern on Friday, August 15. Mannequin Pussy and Man Hands are also scheduled to perform.
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