VAIL — After being pursued by American Idol to audition for the show, the Shook Twins — Katelyn and Laurie — recently penned an open letter to American Idol on Facebook, published July 9. The letter went viral (475 shares, more than 3,700 likes and nearly 350 comments), garnering the girls plenty of new fans, including some folks who’d never even heard their music but were ready to seek it out based on the letter alone.
“We explained to them what it means to be an independent musician and why we would NEVER want to audition separately to be the next solo American pop star, singing songs we didn’t write and riding success that is created by a separate entity,” Laurie Shook said.
In part, the letter said this:
“As many singers would love to audition to be the next American pop star, we respectfully decline your invitation. We are proud to be making a living off our art and being successful independent artists by our own design ... We feel that music is not meant to be a competition. It’s a platform to say something powerful and should be a way of bringing people together, not separating them. We feel that your vision is completely different. We would be going against everything that we stand for by auditioning for American Idol.”
“It sure felt good to put those words out there, and it was surprising to see how many people agree,” Laurie said.
And agree they did:
“Gee, stick to what I love with integrity and passion surrounded by the people I love or sell my soul for some pop-culture plastic-popularity and a lack of privacy? Decisions, decisions,” wrote one person on Facebook, Mary Kay Torres, with obvious sarcasm.
The Shook Twins (and yes, they are identical) return to Vail for a show at Shakedown Bar on Bridge Street Friday night.
The women, who turned the 30 on Wednesday, are excited to get back to Colorado.
“We love playing Colorado, especially Vail,” Laurie said. “We always feel so special while in a special place. We would love to go hike around and see some of the surrounding beauty hidden in the hills.”
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 nearly a decade ago, and the duo has since become a six-member band; 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. Laurie sings, plays banjo and beat boxes, while Katelyn sings and plays guitar and mandolin. Rounding out the group is Niko Daoussis on electric drums, electric guitar, bass and mandolin, Anna Tivel on fiddle and mandolin, Kyle Volkman on upright and electric bass and Russ Kleiner on drums.
Like most twins who have spent their lives together, and especially for these women, who are “barely ever apart,” 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.”
‘JUST DO IT OURSELVES’
In April the Portland, Oregon-based band released its latest full-length studio album, “What We Do,” produced by Grammy Award-nominated producer Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Elephant Revival).
“It was a pleasure working with Ryan Hadlock,” Laurie said. “It was very nice to be able to put our music in someone else’s hands, and be able to trust them. We had a few disagreements on production elements, but for the most part, we had the same vision for the music. It was so interesting to be involved in a really legit recording process.”
On an indie level, the album has been received very well, Laurie said, and is doing better than the band’s other albums.
“We put together a great team to help push the album, and we are seeing a huge leap in online sales, press and show sales,” she said. “We shopped the album around for an indie label, but nothing seemed to fit quite right, so we decided to just do it ourselves, like we are used to. We are fortunate that it’s possible for independent music to succeed in the current music world.”
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.
Most of all, their songs are their own. And they’ll continue to sing them together, and not from American Idol’s stage.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 970-748-2984 or @caramieschnell.