Q&A: Kyle Krone of the Shys
Interview conducted by Jonathan Garrett
When I first met the Shys (then called The Gun Shys) in their practice space deep in the heart of Orange County, not all members were yet of legal drinking age. It was June of 2005, and the fledgling three-piece had a six-song EP and the kind of self-assuredness that only comes with youth and inexperience. After spending some time listening to them bash out songs old and new, I would later write: “It becomes clear over the course of the two-hour practice session that the six-song EP is intended more as a snapshot rather than any sort of definitive statement.” And despite the slings and arrows they have endured in the interim—the short-lived major label deal and the line-up changes—The Shys have never lost that ambition that initially marked them as ones to watch. I phoned up front man Kyle Krone to discuss the past, the present, and how on earth he plans on getting Twin Cities residents to turn out for The Shys on election night.
The Shys open for the Von Bondies at 8 p.m. tonight at the Turf Club.
City Pages: So it’s been a while since we last spoke. Catch me up on what’s happened to The Shys.
Kyle Krone: We did four tours after [Astoria] and one short stint in the UK. In 2007, we got back [to California] and started demoing new stuff. We built our own studio and then we took out another lease on a studio in LA, so we could do demos in our little studio and then go to the big studio to record. We played some of the stuff for the label to try to get some funding for a new record and it wasn’t working out. It’s kind of hard to put your finger on why.
CP: So what happened?
KK: We kept telling them that we were ready to make a new record and we were doing all these meetings, but they wouldn’t give us any money to go on the road and they wouldn’t give us any money to record, so we were like what are we going to do? That just kept going on for a while. Finally, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when our A&R guy left the label and went to work for Rick Rubin. Once he was gone, we were able to get out.
CP: Were you worried about being able to put out a new record at all?
KK: No. I called up our friend, John Mastro, immediately. He owns Aeronaut Records, and he’s always said he’d put out records for us anytime. (Ed. – Aeronaut released the Shys’ debut EP.) I called him up and was like, ‘hey, want to put out our new record?’ And he said absolutely. It was as quick as that. No contracts, no nothing.
CP: You have evolved quite a bit since the first EP. Is that a function of the different band members who have come and gone over the years?
KK: Yeah, I wrote the first EP and the first record, and then went in and recorded them with the band. On this new record, as time went on, the [other] guys had ideas and it was more of a collective thing. They would bring a tune in and everyone would put their stamp on it. There were still a lot of songs that I had written, but it was more of a collective effort this time.
CP: Has your taste changed?
KK: I get that [the EP and albums] are so different, but that doesn’t make me like anything that I loved when were doing our EP or first record any less than I do now. It’s not like I’ve abandoned some influences. A lot of it has to do with what collectively the band wants to do. As we’ve progressed, we’ve tried to find the natural sound we make [together] instead of just playing songs that I bring in.
KK: That’s just this record. We started recording this record in October of last year. What’s out there isn’t what the new stuff we’re writing sounds like now. I’m sure new people in the band have had something to do with the sound changing, but sometimes it’s more just a group of songs that sound like they work together and you just go with it. It’s something that happened naturally.
CP: Alex [Kweskin] (Ed. – one of the band’s founding members, its longtime keyboardist and former drummer) had significant input into this album. It seems weird that he would put all this time and effort in and then just walk. Was it a shock to everyone else in the band when he quit?
KK: It wasn’t a shock. Being in the band, especially nowadays, is not easy. It was more of a thing where he didn’t want the lifestyle anymore. I don’t think he really wanted to tour, and he was sick of being broke all the time. Guys like Chris and I love it so much. Al loves playing music and he loves being in the studio, but a lot of the things that come with it he’s not so crazy about.
CP: You’ll Never Understand This Band The Way I Do—I gotta ask—is the title directed one of the members of the band, your former A&R guy, or the record buyers?
KK: We knew [the title] would be misunderstood. A good friend of ours owns this restaurant that a couple of us used to work out. Before the album was out, my sister and brother in law went to the restaurant for lunch and they had the CD and gave it to him. I had no idea they had done that. So, a short time later, he calls me up and he says I’m listening to the best record I’ve heard in forever and so of course I asked him what it was. And he played me one of the tunes from the record right over the phone. He was like, ‘Come over here right now. I wanna talk to you.’ And once I got there, he started asking me about the song ‘She’s Already Gone.’ He asked me, “when did you write this?” The music was blaring and I’m trying to give him an answer and he says, “Just shut the fuck up. You’ll never understand this band the way that I do.” He’s just sitting there with his eyes closed, and I thought it was perfect. I still remember to this day having records that I really loved that other people didn’t get. So, it’s not like we’re telling the person buying the record that they’re not going to understand this. It’s more like if they have it and like it, they can say that to other people.
CP: I thought it was a kiss off to your label.
KK: Yeah, you could make that connection. It’s somewhat true because obviously they didn’t get it the way we were hoping they would.
CP: Well, your time on Sire couldn’t have been all bad. You got friendly with the Von Bondies because they were on your label.
KK: Yeah, I became friendly with Jason through that whole deal.
CP: You do realize you’re playing in St. Paul on election night, right?
KK: Yeah, that’s crazy.
CP: So how do you plan on competing with that?
KK: I don’t know. Maybe I’ll have to wear my Barack Obama t-shirt.