By Christine Leonard
CALGARY — The chimeric hybrid of a gritty garage band and a pool-grinding gang of Dogtown delinquents, Venice Beach combo The Shrine has become accustomed to piercing the rock/metal veil in the pursuit of pure musical pleasure. A prime example of teenage fervor channeled into a constructive outlet, guitarist Josh Landau, bassist Court Murphy and drummer Jeff Murray erected The Shrine in 2008 out of a desire to hear something that was missing on their local scene.
“I was actually just 18 when we started this band,” says Landau.
“From the first time we jammed I wanted to be a singer, but I had only played guitar and sung some backups. I remember, I was so frustrated at the time, because there was nothing going on in Venice or in L.A. that I was really stoked on seeing. So, we were trying to stir up some action, get something going, have a good time, have a party, say some things that were in my head and see if people reacted the way I did too.”
After four years spent shaking the San Andreas Fault with their unfettered ampage, the band was signed to Tee Pee Records where they flourished; releasing their impactful psych-punk debut LP, Primitive Blast, in 2012. Subsequent tours across Europe and North America saw them filling venues and forging friendships with tour mates including Fu Manchu, Graveyard, Red Fang and Earthless.
“One of the last times we toured Europe we were with our buddies, the great German band, Kadavar from Berlin. They are really fun to hang out with and a great band; definitely worth checking out. Our friends over there have saved our asses so many times. Like whenever we get lost or an amp breaks. Now we’re to the point where you could drop us in Australia, or drop us in Japan, or even in Canada now, and we would know somebody to call to get us out of trouble!”
Somehow managing to stay on the right side of the law, they dutifully returned to the studio to record a second full-length album, Bless Off, in 2014. That flip of the heavy metal bird was followed a year later by the politically-inclined release, Rare Breed. An amalgam of The Shrine’s bold but discriminating influences, Bless Off and its bellicose brother, Rare Breed, introduced a swarming international fanbase to The Shrine’s by-now-signature crossover style.
“It’s tough,” Landau acknowledges.
“We’re just a straight-up rock band, but we get lumped in with the stoner thing when really our influences are coming from everywhere. We like a lot of different stuff, but we’re really doing the straight-up California thing. We are just as inspired by The Doors and Dylan as by Black Sabbath or Hendrix. It was kind of an issue until we found a little psychedelic scene here in Venice. Back then we’d go downtown and play at a punk show and we’d be ‘the Led Zeppelin band,’ but then we’d go to a metal show and be ‘the hardcore punk band.’ People would come up to us after the show ‘Yeah, I got it. But I didn’t… I liked it…. I liked the energy. Are you guys a metal band?’ And we’re like, ‘Who fuckin’ cares?!’ But now, since we’ve toured so much, when we come home we have so many friends we can just play to our own little world. Hell, yeah! L.A.’s real good right now. We do all kinds of stuff you can’t tell your parents about!”
And what exactly does that unspeakable mischievousness entail? According to Landau, The Shrine’s natural curiosity extends well beyond the musical realm.
“We’ve been developing a whole new style, and kind of reinventing ourselves, and demoing new shit, and trying to see what we can come up with next. Seeing if we can come up with something we like even more than the shit we did before. It’s been fun and really good. For us it’s about writing riffs and writing new songs and playing them and running a skateboard company (Eliminator) and making cool shit. We do a lot of different merch and cool skateboard shit and enjoy getting off on surprising people with how far we can take the idea of ‘being a band.’ You know? We’ve got some Converse shoes and skate-wheels and played in some different weird places and are just seeing what we can get away with in that respect.
Landau continues, “The last time we did a proper show in L.A. we did it at a warehouse where we decorated a whole warehouse like the Rare Breed album vibe; kinda like the jungles of Vietnam! We took over our friend’s motorcycle garage and packed like 1,500 people into a free party that had a mix of everybody: skaters, bikers, weirdos, hippies, whatever.”
While their skateboard ethos admonishes them to constantly keep on pushing, the Sweathog-esque threesome has gleaned enough wisdom to know when to hold up and get down to the task at hand.
“Lately, we’re just jamming constantly and working on a new album,” he confirms.
“We’re going to try to get it out in the first half of next year, because we’ve got so many fuckin’ songs that we gotta get it out before we start losing them and moving on to other ones. Or, before we forget how to walk and all become mutants with our heads in the sand.”
There seems to be little danger of that. Leather jackets and surf culture don’t readily mix. But it’s good to know that Landau has a pair of deft conspirators at his side in Murphy and Murray.
“One of them is really good with a bow and arrow and the other one can drive really, really fast. You’ve gotta guess who.”
Better suited to getting behind the wheel than reinventing it, Landau and company have no Nostradamus-like predictions as to whether American music is on the cusp of a revolutionary renaissance. Sure, they’ve borrowed pages from the sacred texts of The Ramones to Black Flag, but in the end the graffiti on The Shrine’s walls has always been written in their own cipher.
“My buddy was just up in the Bay Area at a show and Jello Biafra was there. And my buddy was going ‘Well, hey – the best punk came out of the Reagan years.’ And Jello interrupted him and went, ‘That’s absolutely not true! The best punk came out of the ‘70s!’ and I thought that was fucking great!”
As for their role in the coming Rapture, The Shrine forewarns that the rocky road to man’s ruin will be one Helluva joyride.
“Actually, we’ve got a really epic surprise that we’re going to debut at this show in Canada that’s going to revolutionize stuff for us! But I can’t say it yet. Even crazier than a Theremin. You’ll know it instantly when you see the show!”
The Shrine is performing at Arlen’s Annual Birthday Bash with Woodhawk and Black Rat at the Palomino Smokehouse and Bar on Saturday, January 7 in Calgary.AB, Alberta, Palomino, The Shrine