Tonight, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers launch their Spring tour at the Bloodshot Records Showcase at SXSW. It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Shook, and, with more touring and a record on the way, she won’t be slowing down anytime soon. She did spare a moment, though, to talk with me about her music, her activism, and the power of community.
It’s been less than a year since our last interview, but so much has happened with you and the band. There’s a been a lot of press and you signed with Bloodshot Records. How have things changed and how have they stayed the same?
We’re hitting the road harder than we ever have. With the release of “Sidelong” on April 28th we can expect some heavy touring especially in the first few months right after, and throughout the year as well. I run most of our social media accounts for the time being so my workload has also tripled if not quadrupled. This job never stops, the machine never stops moving. It’s a huge adjustment.
You’ve been recording and you’re about to tour on down to Austin for SXSW. How was this time in the studio different/better? What do you anticipate happening in Austin?
Hell yes, we just wrapped up four days in the studio tracking the next record which will also come out on Bloodshot Records sometime in the spring of 2018. I go back mid-April to wrap up my part and I can’t freakin’ wait. This was my third experience recording at Manifold Studios in Chatham County, NC, and was by far my favorite. Everyone was excited and feeling good but it was a sort of calm excitement that was sustainable and lasting. At four vocal tracks to go, my voice gave out and and it was really disappointing. But we all kept our heads on and kept things in perspective; the band absolutely crushed this record. Could not be prouder of my band. There were a few tough calls I had to make but I made them because I knew exactly what I wanted for the next album and was determined to get it all, every single drop of it. Learning when (and how) to say no is an incredibly useful tool in this industry.
I’m excited about Austin. I love new cities and new venues and being thrown into unfamiliar territory. As much as I wanna run around and party my face off I’m pretty sure it will be a fairly laid back deal for me in between shows. I’ve gotta keep my energy up at gigs and I have lots of free time to rest. I’m looking forward to it big time.
You have an activist presence on social media. Is this a role you’ve cultivated? Does your activism and your art always coincide? Or has it been in conflict?
I have very little time for activism this year and while I’m bummed to feel like I’m sitting on the sidelines when I really wanna be on the front lines, I believe in my band and I believe we’re making good decisions. I’m confident that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.
That said, while there’s a slim chance I’ll be attending rallies and protests the very least I can do is use my social media outlets to promote inclusivity and intersectionality in proactive, non-combative ways. That I can do.
Since we last spoke, some would argue American politics took a nosedive. Others would say that this is a real opportunity for radical change. Care to weigh in?
American politics are a joke. The two party system doesn’t work because it’s us vs. them, winner vs. loser, and it’s by nature it’s competitive instead of collaborative. Getting people to build community is key to us all getting through the next 4, 8, hell, 40 years alive and cared for. I believe community has always been and will always be more powerful, effective, and resilient, than any elected official in the history of this country or any other because community is built not on greed and fear but out of love and free will. I think there are some pretty damn hard times on the horizon for women and minority groups, keeping communication lines open and holding onto our unison and intersectional awareness is paramount.
What is your biggest hope for your music in 2017. For Southern women and trans and non-binary Southerners?
I’d like to see women continuing to work together to create spaces for women, trans folk, and non-binary southerners, to speak, perform, use their voices and their art in a welcoming and non-hostile environment.
I’m not involved with Manifest this year because band stuff is just too crazy, but I am really looking forward to seeing what Erika Libero does lineup wise. You wanna talk about a woman with her finger on the pulse? She knows her shit backwards and forwards and every which way.
Erika is coming with us as acting tour manager and she told me weeks ago she has some new stuff to play that’s “out there”. Really looking forward to spending a couple weeks on the road with the band, Erika, and Kathie Russell (our manager) will be flying out to attend a few shows.
Finally, any Southern folkx making music that we should know about?
My friend Sarah Schmader started a showcase called Saving Space here in the Triangle that only features women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community and travels from venue to venue. Definitely peep their fb page. They have an event coming up on March 15 at the Station in Carrboro, NC, with performances from Cosmic Punk, Soccer Tees, and Fish Dad.