Jon Drake & The Shakes
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Jon Drake & The Shakes

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Amanda Mooney, a digital kid who spends far too much time in social networks and is addicted to finding fresh talent emerging somewhere between Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, Lookbook and MySpace. In her weekly column, "Wwwe Could Be Next," Mooney chats with one of these young creatives, to share their work, perspective and advice.

A few months ago, a friend invited me out to see his buddies play in their new band, Jon Drake & The Shakes. I was warned that they had only played/rehearsed six times as a group before the gig and despite the expert precision of their ironic facial hair, could be little rough around the edges. I was surprised, relieved and instantly addicted when they started playing. I’ve really never been to a show like that and instantly felt that despite the loads of music we have available to us, these guys needed to record an album because they were so genuinely fresh and smart as a band.

After the gig, I’ve followed their work via MySpace and grabbed Jon Drake & The Shakes guitar/piano/organ player/master of ironic facial hair, Joe Mietus, for a quick chat about the band, their pending album and sweet tea-based cocktail recipes. Joe, by the way, also writes by far the most interesting Yelp reviews on the Web.

Hey Joe -- so, Jon Drake & The Shakes…. how would you describe your style?
Jon Drake & The Shakes are a sonic carnival. Trumpet, trombone, tuba, violin, cello, mandolin, double bass, piano, Wurlitzer, organ, glockenspiel, guitars both acoustic and electric, drums, harmonica, 8-part harmonies, cheers, fights, gambling, gallons of wine, most of a 36" disco ball, a bi-monthly bearding contest, and soon: records.

Ha, and you play guitar and piano/organ in the group? How would you describe your personal style like? How long have you been playing?
I started to teach myself piano my freshman year of college while hanging out in the music department practice rooms between classes which was around the same time I started to take guitar somewhat seriously.

A majority of the band is a group of rapscallions from the music conservatory at the University of Cincinnati and as such my style has changed completely in order to accompany a string and brass section. Before I joined this group of musical miscreants I was really into experimenting with electronic music: sampling, looping, obnoxious synth sounds, etc. but somewhere along the way I found myself using a slide, playing country riffs, and getting more use out of my tremolo arm than I ever had before.

Tell us about everyone else in the group. Any fun stories?
As the statute of limitations hasn’t passed for the better stories, to avoid incarceration we’re going to have to plead the fifth. Seen as a wise investment in the band’s future, half of what we make at shows is sent to the band’s bail bondsman as insurance for what will likely be an interesting few months ahead.

However, we would like to mention that we’re working on the Official Shakes Southern Libation List. A sweet tea-based assemblage of cocktails established off the flagship concoction, “The Declaration of Ulysses” -- the recipe of which I will kindly provide your readers. Please note: As this drink is still in the prototype phase, The Shakes cannot be held responsible for anything that may come from tossing a few of these down your gullet. This is a drink known to impregnate the dreams of the weak with notions of simpler times in which it was perfectly acceptable to punch a stranger in the face and steal his horse and/or wife.

“The Declaration of Ulysses”
2 parts Peach Schnapps
1 part Sweet Tea
Stir with knife. Serve in tin can. Tastes best while shouting, “I do declare!” and patting one’s brow with a handkerchief.

So aside from the pending introduction of The Declaration of Ulysses to local pubs, what's the best thing about playing in Chicago?
Generally larger venues than can be found in Khmelnytsky, Ukraine.

Very true, sir. And you're currently unsigned but from what I can tell, you're starting to get a pretty loyal following. How have you been using the web to make connections with labels and grow your audience?
The tin can and string set up we had worked for a bit, but the digital age in which we live could not be denied. After discovering the Internet couldn’t be accessed by duck taping an Andy Griffith-style rotary phone to an IBM Selectric, somehow we figured out how to make one of these: www.myspace.com/jondrake. Since then it’s been a pretty good way to let people know about gigs and until the EP release in July, is the only way to hear our tunes short of coming to a show.

If we want to catch your shows, what are a few upcoming gigs you guys have?
We’ll be lying low for a bit recording and mixing, but you can come see the fruits of our labor at our record release show July 14th at the Double Door.

Definitely something to look forward to. Leave us with some links. Who are some of your other favorite bands on MyS - 2009 Paper Publishing Company


Eight-member folk-pop ensemble Jon Drake and the Shakes, which comes equipped with strings (violin, cello) and horns (trombone, trumpet) in addition to the usuals, is the kind of charming band you sort of want to keep as a secret for yourself. You also want to recommend it—and its mood-improving EP “Side A”—to everyone you know.

The band, which sounds like it should be performing while marching down the street, has only been together about a year, after Drake posted an ad to Craigslist looking for musicians who could help fill out his songs. “I was like, wait a second,” Drake says. “I hear strings here. I hear horns here. I need some people who can actually play.”

From his place in Logan Square, the 28-year-old singer/acoustic guitarist/harmonica player talked about squeezing onto a small stage and why the band smells better than a carnival.

Your press photo shows the band and its gear on the CTA. Have you actually done that?

We all hopped on the bus with all of our instruments in tow and traveled across town to play a show. It was pretty hilarious. … Everyone on the bus was asking us, “You guys in a band?” Of course, yeah. We got drums and guitars and horns and stuff. We would play them a song, but we’d probably get kicked off the bus ‘cause it’s, you know, not legal.


It’s possible you’re not in a band and just robbed a music store.

That’s quite possible. But I think, you know, we’re good-looking cats and we dress well, so I don’t think we fit the profile. … You know, actually, that’s quite an idea for a heist. Just hop on the bus. No one’s going to question it; they’ll just assume that we’re a band hiding in plain sight.


With such a big band you must crash into each other on small stages.

Drew [Westergreen], our violin player, is always off to the right of me, and her bow comes flying at my face. There was one show where she almost went right into my eye, and I saw it about an inch away and I scooted over a couple of feet. [Laughs] Have you ever been to Quenchers? It’s a very small stage, and we can barely fit on it. We’re pretty much shoulder to shoulder. Eight people with a horn section and string section. Surprisingly no accidents.


Did your whole life flash before your eyes during that incident?

Oh, lord. No, it was just lucky and I realized that it could be hazardous without proper stage plotting and the club putting us where we ask them to put us.


Your bio calls you a “sonic carnival.” What does that mean to you?

It’s a carnival of sounds. You go to a carnival and you’ve got animals and candy and games and rides, and we’ve got all these different sounds that are undeniably eclectic and therefore we have a very original lineup. So it is kind of like a carnival.


When some people think about carnivals, they just think about not-great smells and other not-great things on the ground.

[Laughs] Well, that depends on the club. We’ve played some smaller clubs when we were first starting that, yeah, they had a very distinct odor. Which was pretty much, “We know where we are. We’re on the ground level. We’re just starting out.” But now we’re getting into Schubas and we’re headlining Double Door and we’ll probably be playing Lincoln Hall shortly so … it smells good.


So, to clarify: “A sonic carnival without the smell.”

Without the smell, yeah. [Laughs] Without the cotton candy and beer on the ground.


What’s something from an actual carnival you’d like to incorporate into shows?

We could have carnival games or … what’s that ride, the whirly ride? Oh man, it’s been so long. Do you remember that movie with the kids who made the spaceship out of the carnival ride? It was like early ’80s, a really cheesy movie. The tilt-a-whirl! If we could have a stage built with a tilt-a-whirl surrounding it, that would be fantastic. Especially if it worked. … We could enter the show on that little dragon carnival ride, that little mini-roller coaster for the kids.


Have you ever gotten sick on a carnival ride before?

Oh God, yeah! [Laughs]


You didn’t even have to think about it.

There was that one where it would spin around and you would basically get stuck to the wall. I got some funnel cake and a big slurping type of drink when I was probably 10 or 11. And I got on that ride, got off, promptly threw up all over my dad, if I remember correctly. It was a long time ago.


Estimate the chances people will get sick riding the Jon Drake sonic carnival.

We’re user friendly. We won’t make anyone sick.

Matt Pais is the Metromix music and movies producer. mpais@tribune.com - Metromix/Red Eye Chicago


"...Jon Drake & the Shakes took the stage. They had so much happening... There were definitely some crazy instruments including a violin, cello, mandolin, double bass, and glockenspiel. When watching the band perform, it was amazing to watch how each of the members fed off of each other. They were having so much fun that it spread throughout the entire venue. I have seen many bands perform with more than 5 members, and it’s really hard to pull it off. These guys worked in sync to create a well-tuned sound. It was definitely appropriate that they closed out the set, as their sound will put anyone in a good mood. Their folky sound is complimented by the distinctive vocals of John Drake." - Chicago.com


"An eight piece collective that sounds of a like mind on their four
song demo debut, Jon Drake & The Shakes featuring everything from
mandolin to trombone all but played with a sweet urgency... Looking forward to hearing more from these guys, showing great promise with their four song debut." -Richard Milne of WXRT - WXRT


Discography

"Elizabeth Johnston" -Single Released 7.14.09; currently streaming internationally online-

Featured on WXRT's Local Anesthetic with Richard Milne, Sept 6, 2009
Featured on WXRT FM/or streaming xrt.com, Chicago on Local Anesthetic Capsule Sept.29 and Oct 1 2009
"Jon Drake & The Shakes: Side A"
-Debut EP released 7.14.09

Photos

Bio

"Eight-member folk-pop ensemble Jon Drake & The Shakes, which comes equipped with strings (violin, cello) and horns (trombone, trumpet) in addition to the usuals, is the kind of charming band you sort of want to keep as a secret for yourself. You also want to recommend it—and its mood-improving EP “Side A”—to everyone you know."
-Matt Pais, Metromix

"An eight piece collective that sounds of a like mind on their four
song demo debut, Jon Drake & The Shakes featuring everything from
mandolin to trombone all but played with a sweet urgency... Looking
forward to hearing more from these guys, showing great promise with
their four song debut." -Richard Milne of WXRT

"When watching the band perform, it was amazing to watch how each of
the members fed off of each other. They were having so much fun that
it spread throughout the entire venue... their sound will put anyone
in a good mood." -Chicago.com

Jon Drake & The Shakes have accepted invitations to: The Taste of Chicago, The Double Door, Schuba's, The Empty Bottle, Martyr's, The Elbo Room, The Beat Kitchen, Quenchers, Morseland, The Whistler, Ronny's, and many more.

Jon Drake & The Shakes are a Chicago born eight piece band with twice as many instruments. An energetic show that's definitely worth talking about.

Want our EP for free?
http://www.thepastelsuit.com/blog/2010/3/5/jon-drake-the-shakes-side-a-free-ep.html

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/pages/Jon-Drake-and-The-Shakes/50763588030?ref=ts