Two years ago, standing outside a bar in Seattle, Laurie Shook met a man holding a giant plastic golden egg with a few signatures scribbled on it. He handed over the egg, saying only that at some point she should pass the egg along to a new owner. "It's like what you'd picture a dinosaur egg to be," said Katelyn Shook, Laurie's identical twin sister. The women soon incorporated the egg into their band, dubbed the Shook Twins, as a sort of quirky signature stage prop. The egg has its place on stage, generally sitting on a stand between the sisters. But the foot-and-a-half-tall orb has morphed into an actual instrument over the course of the past year. Laurie filled it with unpopped popcorn kernels and made it into a giant maraca."She even throws it up in the air and catches it," Katelyn said. 'We're hoping that word gets out enough that the lady who gave it to the guy will come up to us and say, 'Oh my God, I started that egg.'"Along with the egg, the twins play a slew of other instruments. Laurie sings, plays banjo and beat boxes, while Katelyn sings and plays guitar and mandolin. Rounding out the quartet is Niko Daoussis on bass and mandolin and Anna Tivel on fiddle. The band has performed on the Front Range during its Colorado tours for the past five years but hadn't ventured into the mountains much until last May. The group made its local debut at Campout for the Cause at State Bridge."It was so fun," Katelyn said. "We're really good friends with Elephant Revival, so they helped us get that gig."The band, which is based in Portland, Ore., returns to town today for a show at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek. "Every musical act claims to be unique, but these quirky, talented musicians deserve the designation," said Kris Sabel, executive director of the Vilar Center. "Their interpretation of folk will have our audience enthralled from start to finish; I can't wait to experience it myself."
The twins have been performing together since elementary school, when they started singing in the choir. It wasn't until college that the women "picked up instruments and started playing live a little bit with our own music," Katelyn said. That was eight or so years ago, and the duo has since become a quartet; they travel the country singing songs such as "Time to Swim," a haunting folk tune where the women's voices intertwine and overlap in stunning harmony.Like most twins who have spent their lives together, and especially for these women, who are "barely ever apart" even as they approach age 30, there's a strong, almost telepathic connection. "It's really cool to be able to communicate with a look and know what to do," Katelyn said. "Our bandmates have caught on, too, and can jump on the train with our looks. It's also detrimental because we're so alike; there's a lot of times where we mess up at the exact same time in the exact same song."Recently, the band members have focused on writing a new record. They plan to head into the studio in April to record. "We probably have seven songs finished, but we'd like to have some more," Katelyn said. "We're hunkering down this winter to get it done."Katelyn writes the majority of the lyrics for the songs, while Laurie focuses on the music component, adding harmonies or instruments. The result has been described as quirky, sometimes eerie, folk music. "Some of our songs are serious, some are haunting and eerie, and the other half are goofy and upbeat and funny," Katelyn said. The goal tonight will be to break down the wall between the audience and the musicians."Our main objective is to make everyone feel like we're a bunch of friends hanging out in the living room," Katelyn said. "We talk between songs quite a bit and hang out. I'm really excited to play the Vilar; I hear it's a great listening room."But is it a good venue to pay forward a big golden egg? Just when do the girls plan to relinquish the orb?"We will pass it on ... eventually," Katelyn said. "There's no rule for how long we're supposed to keep it. We might have Laurie put it in her will and pass it on when she's gone."