Interview with vocalist/guitarist Josh Laudau | by Brandon Ringo
Chances are, as a reader of this magazine, you’re more than likely a fan of at least one of the following genres: classic rock, hardcore, old school punk or thrash metal. If you enjoy any of those genres, The Shrine is going to be your new favorite band. The Shrine’s sound is best described as a beer-soaked, hash-scented trip through your older brother’s record collection. With the release of their incredible new album Bless Off, I got the opportunity to discuss the record with vocalist/guitarist Josh Laudau, in which he elaborated on their songwriting process, their inspirations and being as loud and as intense as possible.
Your last record Primitive Blast came out a little under two years ago. What has been going on with the band since the release of that album?
Writing and jamming. Everything comes together when you least expect it, so we try to do it all the time. We’ve been touring nonstop for almost two years now. (Europe with Fu Manchu, Graveyard American tour, SXSW, Dinosaur Jr. tour, back to Europe on our own, Red Fang U.S. Tour, Earthless Australian tour, Red Fang European tour). We’ve done some 7 inches more recently, one with our besties Dirty Fences and a collaboration with the skater Nuge’s company Vol. 4 with Sabbath/Flag covers. There’s a lot more going on, but since Primitive Blast we tried to keep shit climbing by writing this album. Try to find some pools to skate while we’re home for a week or two.
At what point did you guys begin the writing and recording process for Bless Off?
We’ve had the idea for having an album called Bless for a while. Pretty much as Primitive Blast was being released, even before it was out. Some songs came right after Primitive Blast came out and it was a more galloping early Metallica vibe for us at that time. Once we started to tour, late that summer, we started writing and rehearsing at sound checks and in European basements. Recording started in May before we went back to Europe on our own… When we got back to the studio in mid June we took the time to mix and write a few more tunes. One of the songs, “Tripping Corpse,” was written and recorded after the album already went off to mastering, but we dug it so much we had them add it in last minute.
Primitive Blast seemed to get a lot of love from both fans and the media when it was released. Did that great reception/buzz add any sort pressure or momentum when you began working on Bless Off?
No. Not really. We always have songs that we are working on that we know will be on the next record. There’s always a momentum, an invisible hand pushing us towards the next riff. We love Primitive Blast but always knew we could do it all better at some point.
Was there any difference in approach to the songwriting or sound on Bless Off compared to when you were working on Primitive Blast?
Yea the approach was to be stronger and tighter than we had ever been. For all three of us to hit the nail on the head as fucking hard as we could at the same time. To focus the power of the riffs by playing them together more closely than we cared to before, to eliminate any extra bullshit that was in the way.
Everything about your sound to me is very old school and has that perfect mix of classic rock and hardcore punk. When you initially started The Shrine, was your intent always to play this kind of fun, old school music or did it come about organically?
Our intent has always been to be as loud and as intense as we possible because playing music for us is a release. If we don’t jam or play a crazy show, or have a heavy skate session, or get our rocks off with our chicks, then everything is shit and you want to start blowing things up and starting fires. Our first recordings had a different groove to it all, and then we started to speed things up a lot around . Every song we’ve ever written has a different structure and a different tempo and beginnings and endings, but I guess people seem to not see that, they just see and hear a singularity, and that’s cool.
At this point, now that you’ve established your own sound and musical direction, do you still find that you draw influence and inspiration from certain bands when writing your songs or does that inspiration now come from other places for you?
You probably always draw inspiration from the bands you admire whether you realize it or not. We definitely do and always will draw from the sickest and heaviest in rock and roll and beyond. Our conscious influences are now writing about people we know and recent experiences with; cops, power, gangs, greed, the road, paranoia, and deadheads…
As far as the lyrics on Bless Off go, how much of your lyrics are based on events and people from your personal life versus those that are more like stories and characters?
Most of the lyrics are based on our personal lives. Everything else was written by Chuck Dukowski.
I’ve noticed on songs like “Destroyers,” On the Grind,” and “Hellride” that some of your lyrics seem to be somewhat of a mantra for the band. Is it your intent with some of your lyrics to make a personal statement or is there a different meaning there?
We write about what we experience on the road and fucked up relationships…but it’s also about being able to cut through the bullshit. Most of the songs aren’t necessarily autobiographical but a lot of it is about personal power and freedom, never letting anyone cut you down who shouldn’t.