Formed in San Francisco in 2001, Thee More Shallows are the power trio you need in your life. To find out more about the outfit, we spoke about hidden talents, writing processes, advice you’d give to your younger self and something they’d change about the music industry.
Introduce yourself (yourselves) and your hidden talent!
Hi, I’m Dee. The songwriter. My hidden talent: I tell my kids that I’m the best parallel parker in the world, and I believe it. I need to look and find if there’s a competition or reality show for parallel parking, because I’d be so in the running for whatever prize they’d make us lose our minds for. Other than that, I am completely, utterly normal. Normal in a sea of normal. Even my idiosyncrasies are normal. I have a lyric in one of my unreleased songs that I’m fond of: “millions of mes, millions of yous, taking up space, playing white blues” Blues isn’t my jam, but otherwise the lyric is self-referencing. There’s really no need for me, let alone another me. Anyway, nice to meet you.
What made you decide that music is the right path for you?
I’ve been (un)lucky enough to make a fairly good living in sound/music for over a decade now – not as a songwriter, but as a composer and mixer. However I still can’t say that it is right for me. Composing for others has caused me to violate music in unspeakable ways (or wait, I’ll speak it: by scoring infomercials). And songwriting, though it’s never paid the bills, is a mixed bag. The best songs I’ve helped write (Monkey Versus Shark) (House Break), (Ask Me About Jon Stross (A Perfect Map) have helped people get through tough times, have helped me by articulating something I was going through in a very accurate way and providing me with comfort – and I’m immensely proud of them. But the time and energy they took to write took chunks out of me, and they were only heard by a small amount of people. They allowed me to tour a bit, and have some fun times with friends, but they also eroded my mental health and general health. So not sure if it was worth it. I guess I can just say that I’m compelled to make music, so I make music. A bird sings, a fish swims, a white dude plays sad sack songs, or blues if they’re so inclined to be bluesy.
What’s your writing process like? Do you write the music or lyrics first?
Usually music and lyrics separately, then if a line mates with a musical figure they have a song baby. Not too enthused by this mating conceit, but I’m going to stick with it. Sometimes the baby is healthy but we all would have been better off if it hadn’t been conceived. It’s a flatliner of a song, droning on at you about its car trouble at a neighborhood mixer. Or sometimes the baby is wonderful, so full of promise that it seems like it’ll evolve into a Buckaroo Banzai-esque combo of Mozart, Lebron James, and Ram Dass – but it’s too fragile to grow beyond a single verse.
If you could change about the music industry, what would it be?
Musicians shouldn’t be able to listen to music. Sure, yes, the downside is we’d lose out on the wonderful cascade of inspiration that charts a line of influence from, say, Benga Music to Little Richard to Ty Segall. But on the plus side we’d be spared roughly 10,000 bands with sets of influences to which your internal monologue responds “sure, like all those bands, but worse”. Plus, wouldn’t it be amazing to hear the weird stuff that all musicians would come up with in the confines of their brains? That is, wouldn’t it be amazing to hear IF you promised to not, ever, make any more music. Seems like a simple enough idea to implement, right?
What’s the best advice you’d give to your younger self?
Same thing Seinfeld told an aspiring comic. “Do you really think someone is waiting for you to quit music and be a doctor or a lawyer? Nobody cares. Just be a musician, do it to the best of your ability, and stop worrying about how good you are and what else you SHOULD be doing. Just do the thing.”