Words: Yasi Salek
Photos: Kevin Klausen
I don’t know a lot about music, and I certainly am inept at describing it most of the time (I generally default to feelings instead of adjectives) but even I can say with 100% certainty that The Shrine shreds. The trio blends hardcore intensity with punk speeds and Sabbath-style psychedelic guitar stylings for a face-melting sound that is best listened to at very high volumes (and/or while very high). Also, they collectively have a lot of hair, which really adds to the whole thing. I caught up with two-thirds of the band, singer/guitarist Josh Landau and drummer Jeff Murray, at Eliminator HQ (aka Josh’s parents’ house) and talked influences, skateboarding, and Chuck Dukowski, amongst other things.
So Tell me how you guys all met.
Josh: Me and Court went to Santa Monica High School together, and Court was the metal head who was known for playing Pantera guitar solos, and I was like a punk kid with a shaved head in a band called Rabies. We had mutual friends, but he was metal and I was punk kid, and he was a senior and I was a freshman. We knew each other but never really hung out, and then four years later we were at a party, and somebody put on Thin Lizzy and we both flipped out. We both ran to the stereo, and we were like “Dude, nobody on the west side of LA listens to Thin Lizzy, let’s start a band.” We started jamming, just sitting around playing riffs, and we ended up meeting Jeff through a classified ad.
In what publication?
Josh: The publication known as Craigslist (laughs). And then all of our dreams came true and we lived happily ever after.
Who got more girls in high school, you or Court? Metal dude or punk kid?
Josh: I didn’t get any. Zero.
Jeff: Court had a lot of girlfriends in high school.
Josh: Yeah. He had a lot of jobs too. He worked a lot of odd jobs.
Do you think those two things were correlated? Him having jobs and him getting chicks?
Josh: It could have been, yeah. He was a money man.
Who got better grades?
Josh: I didn’t get good grades, but Court was like one F away from not graduating.
Jeff: I got all Ds and Cs. I guess I got the best grades.
You are the scholar of The Shrine. What did the band sound like when you first started?
Josh: Well, we were jamming a lot more. Four years ago it was a lot more Hendrix-influenced, like guitar obsession. All of our songs were way longer. It was kind of me writing the songs, coming out of listening to nothing but hardcore then getting into Sabbath and Hendrix. Somewhere halfway through our band, that phase kind of ended. I went back to listening to all my old records, and we kind of started mixing the sounds more, 70s rock, 60s guitar rock, and 80s punk. We used to play really slow, long jams, and then we’d have like one little fast part in the middle. And then one day we switched it. We made the whole song fast, with one tiny little slow part. We cut it down, and that became our format.
Jeff: There was a time right before we recorded Primitive Blast where we would write some slow songs, and we just played them fast for the recordings.
Josh: I think once we had one or two fast songs, and we were playing live, and we saw the reaction to them. That kind of made us want to play faster songs. People were getting off on it, and we were getting off on that.
Tell me about your first show ever.
Josh: First show ever was at Time Warp Guitar shop, live five blocks from my parents’ house, on Venice Blvd. And we kind of made up a band name, because we got a show offer. We’d been jamming for about four months, and I wasn’t planning on being the singer. I was just trying to get a band together. I was just the guitar player in my old band. But as soon as I got Court and Jeff, and we were all jamming as a three piece, making all this noise (I was at the peak of an amp obsession), I realized we could make enough noise just us three, and that I would just sing. Because getting another person and another schedule and another opinion would just be a fucking hassle. So the dude who runs the guitar shop Shane was like “I’m having a show here because I’m re-opening next door, and I’m looking for bands.” And we were like, “We’ll do it.” We came back here to make up a band name, and we were arguing about that sort of shit. We have this old Who poster that was my dad’s, from The Shrine Auditorium, and just the way it’s drawn, The Shrine kind of just looks like another band name. So we just went with that.
Jeff: We all dressed up like the Robin Trower Band, and went and played the show. It was actually really good.
Your dad seems pretty awesome, by the way, Josh. Especially since there are currently like twelve dirty band dudes just milling around his house.
Josh: Yeah this is Jeff Landau’s Eliminator hostel.
Jeff: He’s always been there for us, with recording and set-up stuff, and helping us get the sound guys to get the right sound at shows.
Josh: My dad is awesome. He’s been playing guitar since he was like seven. For me being fifteen and playing just straight up hardcore, my dad was always there to help get gear or help set-up show or whatever. But it was never like, “I’m a guitar player, you need to hear this.” It’s almost like my whole life; he stopped playing and listening to music. I didn’t hear The Beatles until I was like fifteen. He was never like “Here, you’re into music, this is The Rolling Stones, check them out.” He never pushed anything on me. But now I’ll be playing some Isley Brothers song, and he’ll run in and be like “Oh my God, that’s my favorite guitar solo!”
Jeff: He’s brought some pretty amazing musicians around too, to either jam with or just like talk to.
How did you guys meet Chuck Dukowski, and did you cry when it happened?
Josh: It was pretty surreal. I met him in high school, because his stepson Milo used to come to my old band’s shows. Once we got The Shrine together and played our first show at Time Warp, we asked him if he would play a show with us. And we played together, actually at Time Warp; it was our third or fourth show. I went up and asked him about this Minutemen song, “Little Man With a Gun In His Hand”, for some reason he has the writing credit on it, and he just went into this ten minute long story about the song. He kept telling me all these crazy little details about sitting in Germany with D. Boone and writing this song. He’s just the nicest fucking guy in the world. Right after we played, he was like “I would like to help you guys get your music released. I think you guys are amazing.” And I was just speechless. Since then I’ve recorded his band here in my garage, and we did a tour with him that was kind of disastrous and kind of amazing.
It was through the Midwest, like Indiana and Kansas City. Some promoter was like “Chuck, I want to bring your band out here, your family band the CD6. I’m a promoter I can get you all these shows and guarantees.” And Chuck was like “Cool, I want to bring The Shrine with me.” So the week before the tour, that guy pretty much just bails and is like “Oh, these shows got cancelled.” And it was just a disaster. But we were like fuck it; we’re going to go anyway. We’ve got some shows; we want to do this with Chuck. So we drive out to Kansas City and we play one or two shows for maybe thirty or forty people. The rest are just empty. Chuck is having to put his finger in promoters’ chests to get us paid. It was as bad as possible.
Jeff: That was one of those tours you just have to do to say you did it, and then move on from it and never do it again.
Josh: The best show on the tour was actually one that we booked while we were driving around in Nashville. It was completely last minute but it ended up being the only worthwhile show because we have some friends there. Chuck and his family actually flew home halfway through and left us. He was like “just take the rest of the money.”
Jeff: The drummer stayed with us, though.
Josh: We drove back across the country by ourselves. But Chuck was like “You know, I would be here with you guys if I could but I can’t do this to my family. But know that when Black Flag first starting touring with Dez (Cadena) we were playing to nobody just like that. And we just kept going.”
That’s nice to hear. You guys have toured a ton since then, what are your favorite cities to play?
Josh: Gothenburg. Sweden is awesome. Through going to Sweden, we ended up that Graveyard tour that we just did. Which was the craziest tour, we were just cruising around the country in their tour bus. Pizza places were like “we’re bringing Graveyard twelve pizzas. We’re bringing Graveyard three cases of our craft brew.” Those guys just have the key to every city.
Jeff: Actually, and I hate to say it, one of the best shows on that tour was probably Salt Lake City. Just in terms of the kids knowing the songs and stuff.
Josh: One of our best shows was in Warsaw, Poland with Fu Manchu. We were late because our van got broken into and a bunch of stuff got stolen and we had to go to the van rental company place. So we were late, and Fu Manchu was like “You guys blew it, we’re playing without you.” So we see this other little tiny bar across the street, and they were like “Sure just come downstairs and play after them.” So everyone from the show just goes over to this tiny little basement, and we end up having the best show.
Jeff: We had our roadies hold signs up in front of the Fu Manchu show saying “The Shrine is playing across the street.” And everybody shows up to this tiny show, with this one other band.
Josh: They ended up paying us more than we were getting on the Fu tour and everything. It ended up being the craziest show.
I really appreciate your guys’ ability to make lemonade out of lemons. If one of your songs could be made into a karaoke song, which one would you choose?
Josh: Maybe our new sing “Napalm.”
Jeff: It talks about pushing mongo.
Josh: It’s a pop classic.
You guys clearly have roots in the skateboarding community. Did you grow up skating?
Josh: Yeah, I grew up in Mar Vista and my little brother and I have been skating since I was ten and he was seven. We’ve been skating pools for years, hopping into backyard pools. That’s where we met so many people that to this day are our best friends. They have even come back to help our band so much, like people who help us book shows or are our friend who have made a bunch of videos for us, Six Stair. They made backyard pool skating films, and then they ended up making like Pearl Jam documentaries and documentaries about skateboarding in New York City. It’s done so much for our band. Usually playing skate parties is more retarded and awesome than playing regular shows.
What made you want to make The Shrine skateboards?
Jeff: Josh’s earlier band Rabies had skateboards too.
Josh: I have a company called Eliminator, and we’ve been making skateboards and putting out 7 inches and tapes since I was fifteen. And that’s just influenced by JFA and Black Flag, who made skateboards back in the day.
What’s coming up next for The Shrine?
We’ve been recording a ton. We recorded in Holland when we were there in abasement. We have these crazy 70s warped demos sounds where Court and I didn’t even use amps, that we’re going to use for a split with our buddy’s band Hot Lunch. It will be on our label TP Records, with Thrasher. Then we’ve been recording here at Eliminator in my living room, stuff that will be our next full length. We’ve got a few Record Store Day 7 inches coming out. One is a split with Zig Zags on Volcom’s label. We got a split coming out on this Australian label Tim Guitars. Then we’re leaving to go on tour with Dinosaur Jr., a west coast run. Then we’re coming home for two days, and then we go to Europe for 30 shows. We’ve got 30 shows in 32 days. Then we fly back and go straight to Scion Rock Fest in Memphis.