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The Big Takeover Issue #94
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Thee More Shallows (Part 2 of 2)

1 July 2007

Photo by Ryan Kitson

Recently I spoke with chief songwriter/front-man DEE KESLER (right) and drummer/multi-instrumentalist BRIAN (CHAVO) FRASER (left) of San Francisco’s THEE MORE SHALLOWS, one of today’s brightest young bands.

Click here to read the first part of the interview.

Any live CDs or non-LP material coming out in the future?

KESLER: We’ve never talked about that. But we’re gonna try to finish our new record this year. We’ve talked about arranging it as a group so we’ll play it and rehearse it quite a bit so that the actual recording process would be much quicker. So that may be a more live sounding thing.

Two themes that I’ve observed in your work are animals and Dutch slavery.

KESLER: Yeah, pretty much!

History of Sport Fishing has fishing in the title and a rabbit on the cover. More Deep Cuts had alternate album covers – one with a dog and the other with two frogs. Then we have the Monkey vs Shark EP and a piranha on Cuts Plus Two. And now on Bad Breaks we see an eagle on the cover, have songs titled “Proud Turkeys,” and “Eagle Rock” and hear references to bears.

KESLER: I do the lyrics so….first of all, I apologize. I realize that animals are one of the most overworked kind of crutches in indie rock.

ROBYN HITCHCOCK also did a lot on animals though he seems most fascinated by insects.

KESLER: It’s a way of simultaneously externalizing and identifying with themes in your own life. You put them into animals, which distances them from yourself. If you watch the ways animals interact you can see their ulterior motives and the machinations of their interactions a lot clearer. I probably take aspects of my life and lives of people I know and put them in animal form as an allegory. It’s definitely a good device for human behavior. Parables obviously have done this for millennia so it’s nothing new.

Is there an animal you most identify with?

KESLER: I’m most proud of “Monkey Versus Shark” because the whole relationship between them is something I actually I fantasized or thought about as a child. There are sexual overtones in it but it was pre-sexual when I thought of it. You know how in grade school you had to say what animal you were most like? I always thought of myself as the monkey and I had a friend who was a shark. It feels very very personal to me.

It would have been great if “Monkey Versus Shark” was on the new album. It’s such a quality song that would have made the record a smidgen better I think.

KESLER: The first album was languid. That was before we were trying to make a living at it and weren’t fully aware of the pressures involved. You constantly are trying to do what you feel is beautiful and trying not to constantly keep people’s attention. And the albums as you can see get more constricted and faster. And the time in which they’re made gets faster. The first record reflects everything that I’ve ever thought as an artist. I played in bands for ten years before that but nothing was ever really released. So I’m drawing from all that material.

The second record is three years of material and the third record is one and half years of material. There is an underlying feeling of we need to get this out. It made sense as a piece to me but I know if you left me in my room for say another year it would have been a longer and possibly better album but all the external pressures would have been unbearable. And then we would’ve reached the point that no one cared anymore. Every band has increasing pressure as they go on to make stuff faster.

This album was done much faster than More Deep Cuts so it showed that you can work faster quite well.

KESLER: We don’t play music that’s ready to record. It has to be built. So it’s a constant struggle to have enough time to make things the way you want to make them and have it be seen or risk being forgotten about. Learning to work fast is a real skill. There were a lot of dead-ends on More Deep Cuts that didn’t necessarily add to the quality.

Where do things stand with your next album?

KESLER: I’ve got some songs and we’re hoping to finish it by December, which is a really big goal. But we have some time and money. So we’re gonna try to get it done.

Final thoughts?

KESLER: I love the magazine. I’ve been reading it for a couple years so it’s nice talking to you.

Thanks guys. Much appreciated.

Click here to read the first part of the interview.

  • Thee More Shallows’ MySpace page

  • My review of Book of Bad Breaks

  • My review of A History of Sport Fishing