Music fans of the Pacific Northwest, hello and welcome back to our third annual year-end daily countdown, 100 Bands in 100 Days, where every day until December 31st, we’re showcasing a new band or artist you have to know about, presented by Verity Credit Union. Follow the #100Bands100Days hashtag on Twitter to stay on top of all the bands featured and make sure to follow Verity on Twitter as well. Some days the featured act could be an established and locally-adored northwest-based musician that perhaps you haven’t been turned onto yet, and other times they could be a band with a small following that just hasn’t had their deserved time in the sun yet. Either way, we’re fairly confident you can come away from this daily segment with plenty of new favorites. Today we’re bringing our hundred-day odyssey to the vast sea of Seattle music, to explore the creative output of one of the local rock scene’s hardest-working and most standout groups, Northern Shakedown!
The genre-defying alt-rockers in Northern Shakedown formed the project in the midst of 2011, with its four core members having known each other for over 10 years prior. Just one short year later, the then trio dropped their first official single, “Through the Night,” a down-and-dirty rock track that really forecast the band as one that wasn’t playing around, with the song’s groovy guitar leads, dance music-influenced live drum beats, and passionate vocals, which are treated with a distortion effect just subtle enough to give the track an extra layer of grittiness.
While both this single and the Rural Nyce EP that followed it up later that year were very solid releases for the band, it wouldn’t be until Jabreel Stewart’s addition to the band in 2013 that the group’s sound would be redefined, and help them stand out even more among the pack of Seattle rockers. Early releases felt like pretty straightforward, in-your-face alternative and indie rock with a strong emphasis on groove and rhythm, but Jabreel’s rapped vocals added a strong alternative hip-hop and rap-rock vibe to the band’s sound, without going too overboard with the stylistic infusion.
Northern Shakedown’s approach to combining hip-hop and rock music isn’t quite as saccharine as someone like Everlast, and their sound isn’t quite as abstract and heady as a project like Why?, but their mixture of alternative rock guitars with hip-hop-inspired drum beats and rapping is executed tastefully and with a lot of passion and sincerity when it comes to merging these two worlds. “Soda” was the first track to feature their newest member, who largely dominates the blues rock-influenced track with his relentless flow and lyrics about trying to get to know a woman the narrator knows better. The band’s rhythm section provides an excellent, infectious groove for Jabreel Stewart to ride like the back of his hand.
The latter half of 2014 saw the band expanding their newfound signature sound with two new singles, “Supertramp” and “Mona Lisa,” the former being an entirely sung piece of blues rock that showed off the band’s love of not only classic rock, but also soul music, and the latter track being another rock-hop jam where the quartet really doubled down on their traditional R&B influence that’s always flowed through the blood of Northern Shakedown. While Northern Shakedown has been relatively silent on the studio side of things for the past two years or so, the band is currently in the post-production phase of a brand new six-song EP, projected for an early 2017 release, which was the result of the band working with producer Bubba Jones, most notable for working with Ishmael Butler in his two most acclaimed projects, Shabazz Palaces and Digable Planets.
Through their upcoming EP, the band hopes to show off just how much they’ve grown and matured as not only individual people, but as a band, since their latest release in October 2014. We’re expecting big things to come from this project when the calendar strikes 2017.
Until then, you can follow Northern Shakedown on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and Tumblr, and find their music available for streaming or purchase (most of it available via a name-your-price business model) through northernshakedown.bandcamp.com. Watch the music video for “Soda,” directed by Kevin Kalb, below via YouTube.