Vocalist Lauren Shackelford started the group, named after a string of islands called St. Vincent and the Grenadines, at the University of Alabama. Her nowhusband, Michael Shackelford, joined the group and a songwriting partnership was born. Michael was also playing in Duquette Johnston’s band, The Rebel Kings, where he started writing songs with guitarist David Swatzell. One of The Grenadines’ former guitarists dropped out before a tour and Swatzell was asked to fill in. A temporary position soon became permanent. Bassist Jesse Phillips and Brooks Marks rounded out the current lineup.
“That was like two and a half to three years ago. We wound up throwing the songs that we had written outside The Grenadines into The Grenadines and rhe band took a whole other shape. It’s been a long road with a lot of different members, but we now have a core group of people that are really into it,” Swatzell says.
NPR describes the band as a “psychedelic rock and roll trip. Sometimes slow and droning and sometimes upbeat.” The sound is helmed by distorted rhythm guitar, ambient lead, driving drums and bass, and haunting vocals and harmonies.
“People ask us all of the time what kind of music do we play, and I usually answer based on the equipment we play. What kind of music do you think would be played out of late sixties/early seventies Silverface Fender amplifiers?” he says.
The songwriting process is also “all over the place,” with songs written between Lauren and Michael Shackelford, Michael and Swatzell, and some songs are written by the entire band in a fully collaborative effort. Lyrical themes vary, but often come from the experiences of touring, something with which the band is very familiar.
“Touring can be really tough. When you come from Birmingham, a lot of people just don’t get out. For a lot of people, music is just a hobby. They don’t tour and get their name out. This is all we all have and what we believe that we’re born to do. We’ll go in debt and take out a loan for a tour van, I feel like it’s an accomplishment just to tour,” Swatzell says.
“We tour as much as we play in Birmingham. Having a band that doesn’t fight or bicker on the road is a major accomplishment, especially when you’re dealing with crazy musicians that are eccentric and kind of out there,” he continues.
The band hit some major venues on their last tour with Maria Taylor and Dead Fingers, playing spots such as Mercury Lounge in New York, Drake Hotel in Toronto, and the Subterranean in Chicago.
The Grenadines signed with Birmingham’s Communicating Vessels when the label was first getting off the ground. The band released a single through the label and is currently remixing and remastering their debut album, Dejelo Solo, which will be released digitally and on CD and vinyl later this year. They then hope to start recording a new record.
“They’re amazing dudes. They’re not like suits that you normally deal with at a record label. They’re musicians, so they’re really down to earth and care about you.
They’re not trying to milk you to make a buck. They’re pretty legit guys,” Swatzell says of the label’s founders, Jeffrey Cain and Jim Fahy.
According to Swatzell, 2012 will be the year for The Grenadines to take major steps forward. They plan to release two albums, play the West Coast, tour the Northeast, and hopefully make their way over to Europe. He also presents a glowing report of their progress.
“Once we got the core lineup of the band, it just really started taking off because everything was clicking musically with songwriting and personalities, and it’s been getting better and better. Especially with the live show aspect, it’s gotten tighter. Everyone has really tightened up and everyone in the band is an incredible musician,” he says.
You can find out more information about The Grenadines through their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ TheGrenadines. They will be playing at Bottletree on Monday, January 23rd with Gringo Star and Abby Go-Go. Doors for this 18-and-up show open at 8 P.M. and the cost is $8.