Identical twin sisters Laurie and Katelyn Shook are doing their part to give indie-folk a makeover. As the two frontwomen of the five-piece Shook Twins, they play music that, while rooted in folk traditions, is augmented with samples, looping and beatboxing, as well as a rhythm section that gives the music real heft.
"We're definitely drawn to the drop," laughs Laurie Shook. "Katelyn and I have always liked heavy music."
And while the two sisters play a wide range of acoustic and electric stringed instruments, their group also makes effective use of electronic drum patches courtesy of an '80s-era Roland TR-808.
But at the core of all this are the sisters' near-identical voices. Laurie recalls an early experience back in the twins' hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho: "I remember the first time we were in choir, we were in fifth grade, and we both tried out for a solo. But our music teacher couldn't decide between the two of us, so she had us sing it together in unison. And we just sounded like one person."
To date, the Shook Twins have released four albums and a digital EP; all of which have been self-released. But as the group's popularity has grown, the advantages of signing with a label are becoming clearer. "It's about the deal," Shook says. "If it seems like it's going to benefit us and our lives, we're interested."
Kind words from high-profile fans haven't hurt. New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman cut straight to the heart of the group's essence when he wrote, "I love the harmonies of the Shook Twins, the dreamlike songs that seem somehow permeated by the American Folk tradition, without actually being part of it. They make music that twines through your soul the way vines cover an abandoned shack in the woods."
Along the way, the group has also become darlings of the jam-band scene. Laurie is pleased about that, but she admits that it's a bit perplexing. "Some of our songs have moments where we do a little bit of jamming," she says, "but it's not like we take it for 64 bars." Then again, she adds, "We're not not a jam band. I don't really know what we are!"
In any case, the twins have come to view festival gigs as a kind of family reunion. "All these bands get booked together, and we've developed awesome friendships with a lot of them," says Laurie. "People have their faces melted off by all the jam and funk. And then we folk their faces back on."