On Saturday, September 13, 2014, the guitarist and vocalist half of Shark Valley Sisters, Rob Elba, cryptically posted the following status on his Facebook page: "Shark Valley Sisters recording today at the legendary Shack Studios with the semi-legendary Ferny Coipel. The plan is to release whatever we come up with on Bandcamp tonight."
The resulting work he created with his partner in this musical enterprise -- the formidable drummer Fausto Figueredo -- is a three-song Internet release called Shabbos at the Shack. It is the second album by this heavy alt punk duo after its 2013 debut The Prince and the Punk. The set is a natural step forward from Elba's Holy Terrors material and Figueredo's body of work with Load -- an evolution, but not a reinvention, which is marvelous for fans of SVS.
The tracks are heavy punk magic. Figueredo and Elba sound powerful, confident, and tight, as if they had been playing together for decades not just 15 or so months. Shabbos was recorded, engineered, and produced by Coipel at the Hialeah musical hot bed known as the Shack North.
The EP opens with the punked-up cover of Humbert's "Sir Winston," which is re-hatched as an uptempo, energetic, in-your-mug romp that echoes the original only in the psychedelic effects added to the vocals. A musical nod to the session engineer's band, the track blisters along at just over two minutes. "I love what they did, and feel honored that they chose any Humbert song at all," exclaims Coipel.
"The Ballad of Badfinger," about the tragically storied band, is also one of the SVS' live staples, beginning with a drum-guitar call and response. Featuring sweet-sounding vocal harmonies sung by Coipel, the song lyrically recalls some of the finer moments of the Holy Terrors' early 1990s period. It packs a hefty amount of punch into 2:18, highlighted by Elba singing, "when I first learned the truth of how the story ends/Ham would never be allowed to love and trust again."
"God's Own Drug Addict" is another rollicking shorty, clocking in at a very Ramones-like minute and a half. The tune wastes no time working itself up to a heavy grind and a classic Elba sing/shout, balanced by a soothingly melodic instrumental interlude.
About the on-a-whim, cram session and quick turnaround, Elba says, "We just thought it would be a cool idea. Sometimes when you're recording you can get so bogged down in little details trying to make everything perfect, and this forced us to just go for it and not over-think things." He wasn't sure they could pull it off, but after all went well, he highly recommends the no-nitpicking format.
"I learned a lot from Fausto during this experience," Elba continues, "Recording with him is a trip. His philosophy is that you're recording that day's version of a song. Instead of trying to make it perfect, he's all about capturing a performance. So we set up in the same room and recorded the drums and my guitar live, mostly in one or two takes. Then we just added a few more guitars and some vocals and were done.
"It's a really fast, no-nonsense way to record, and since I was never a big fan of the process, it's perfect for me."
Shabbos is remarkable for other reasons, not just cause it features a cover of the Humbert track from 2003's Plant the Trees Closer Together. When asked why the two included this song, Elba explains, "I always loved it, and Humbert never really played it live because it's basically just a Ferny song with keyboard and clarinet. But I thought it would be really cool to rock it out with guitars and drums. I messaged Ferny and asked him for the lyrics, but I didn't tell him why.
"Fausto and I figured it out and opened up with it as a surprise for Tony Landa (Humbert co-founder and bassist) for his birthday party/show at Churchill's Pub. Ferny said we should come to the Shack one day to record it, and the seed was planted."
Another departure for SVS is that Shabbos features the presence of bass guitar parts, until now absent from anything SVS-related. "For the Rat (Bastard, producer of their previous release) sessions, we didn't use any bass," Elba offers, "For this release, I played bass on the three songs. I actually played the bass parts twice -- once on my guitar through an octave pedal and once on an actual bass guitar (Ferny's idea)."
If we didn't know any better, we'd think Elba and Figueredo were biased against having bass players associated with SVS. "Nothing against bass players," laughs Elba, "From the beginning, Fausto and I decided SVS would just be the two of us. We have played with a bunch of "guest" musicians, including Russell Mofsky, Juan Montoya, Landa, Tony Rocha, Barry Stock, Dan Ciritelli, and more, but at the end of the day, the band is Fausto and me."
Next up for these two South Florida leading musical lights is Vera, something the SVS have been working on for a while. The plan is to start recording at Rat Bastard's Dan Hosker Studio when the producer and noise man returns from Europe. Elba says, "It's kind of a concept piece based on the life of a nun named Vera. No shit."