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Shaking up Iowa City with rock tunes

BY DEE FABBRICATORE | OCTOBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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mp3 sample: The Shaky Hands

"Allison and the Ancient Eyes"

The Shaky Hands is not composed of jittery caffeine addicts. Nor are its members anxious, tightly wound, or generally unstable. Rather, the indie-rock band’s musicians are remarkably laid-back and even-keeled, not quite fitting the group’s moniker.

The Portland, Ore. band will bring its relaxed persona to the Picador, 330 E. Washington St., at 9 p.m. today. Admission is $6.

The Shaky Hands released its third album, Let it Die, in late September, and the band is now on a three-month-long tour of both the United States and Europe.

Compared with the group’s past two albums, which bassist Mayhaw Hoons describes as “folky and relaxed,” Let it Die is full of straight-forward, catchy rock. Drummer Jake Morris said the music is positive and uplifting and reminds him of what bands used to be.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “We’re just playing stuff we think is good music.”

Hoons’ desire to tour with older bands is a testament to the Shaky Hands’ members and their classic, animated tunes. He pointed to ’80s punk-rock band Fugazi and ’70s rock band the Wipers, and he expressed a longtime admiration for alt-rock band Meat Puppets, which the Shaky Hands has toured with.

The band has received extensive press coverage, garnering positive reviews in both SPIN and Magnet. The member’s have also played shows with such popular indie bands as the Shins and the Thermals.

“Thinking about myself as an eighth-grader in Hood River [Ore.], where the only music magazines you could get were Rolling Stone and SPIN, and then seeing a picture of yourself in one of those magazines, it’s pretty cool,” Hoons said.

Morris and Hoons said they enjoy the simple things. Both are content if their dressing room is stocked with Gatorade bottles and food. They also like showers and wireless Internet access every once in a while, but after all, those are luxuries.

Keeping with the group’s simple attitude, Hoons also said the band doesn’t play enough basement shows anymore, and he’d like that to change.

“Those are always the best shows,” he said. “Trying to win over a house party, even if [the people] haven’t heard your music, is the best.”

The band may be easy-going and grounded, but that is not to say the members aren’t slightly quirky. Hoons marks Guatemalan fanny packs and mesh tank tops as staple articles of band clothing, while Morris likens the group’s music to a wild gazelle — a beast that is fast-moving, bouncy, and quick to avoid danger.

Hoons has had two goals in his music career — to tour and put out records. He’s already accomplished both numerous times and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. Now all he and Morris have to do is quit their day jobs.

“That’s the goal,” Morris said. “But I might quit anyway just because.”


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