Interview: Shutterings Discuss Their Patchy Take on Math Rock

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Shutterings is a group that was not quite founded, but rather, amassed together as an evolving project. Their performance is as kinetic as their music. They’ve shared two singles off of their upcoming LP: the titular “How to Drown” and most recently, “KIRBSTOMP.” While keeping an eye on my nauseous dog, I had a chance to talk to them via video chat about their eclectic and patchy style and the writing process they underwent in creating How to Drown.

The project began as a solo endeavor, with the primary songwriter being Izzy Rolow in California. Over time, Rolow gathered members Chris Semsey, Jude Corbin, Caelan Burris and Anthony Armenio. From there, it “developed into a more collaborative effort as more people got involved.” Anthony says that most songs are written by “Izzy building some insane composition and throwing it to the rest of us to untangle together as a group.”

Their newest single “KIRBSTOMP” is dynamic and fast-paced, which is different from the title track’s crunchy low frequencies and grungy melodies. I asked Izzy if the rest of the album would be similarly, well, not similar. He said, “The whole album was written in halves between two different years. So the first song, which is sludgy and slow, is inspired by Boston-based grunge bands. I wanted this heavier, underwater feel. Over time, I think my writing style changes and “KIRBSTOMP” came much later in the whole process – so, it feels quicker and more frantic.”

Since I was able to speak to everyone at the same time, I decided to ask each member about their personal contributions to the album. Anthony began by telling me, “When we got back from this last tour over a year ago, we were all kind of ready to go and the album felt written. Then, all these different personal issues made us each feel like we were drowning. Thankfully, they all resolved well, but having this project and these specific people around me made me feel safer and better during those tough times.”

At this point, I noticed that our conversation flowed organically. Their answers all wove together, and the end of one thought was picked up effortlessly by whoever spoke next. Izzy said the lyrical content was “personal and anchored to specific relationships I’ve had with people. When I start off, I write about and express myself – often against toxic relationships and habits I’ve tried to learn and be better from. I think that’s why the album, to me, ends on a positive note: my current partner and my relationship with the band makes me feel more positive.”

A common factor among each of them was feeling a sense of inclusion being in the band and while creating the project. Izzy mentioned that in previous songs, Chris added some spoken word sections. Chris said that Shutterings “is different from any other project I’ve been a part of because I feel like I have a personal influence over creative decisions. There’s actually a space where I can express myself and, like the listener, can find my own way to relate to Izzy’s original content and emotion.”

Jude, who tracked the bass for the album despite playing guitar in the live band, said he “joined to play bass around the time the album was being written.” He laughed and added, “I’m still very proud of those bass lines, even though then Izzy was like, ‘Dude! I’m from California, so you totally have to play guitar in my band!’ So I started playing second guitar, and I feel like I’m just here jamming, it works out and I’m having fun.”

Caelan, the most recent addition to the band, mostly observed and plucked a bit at the bass, but jokingly said, “It has always been my dream to secretly usurp this band from Izzy from the inside. But I take any opportunity for music whenever I can, and it’s always fun along the way, especially working with Shutterings.”

The band made sure to give thanks to the recording studio Find The Good Productions in Santa Ana, Avery Muether for her artwork, and Ben Zima in Albany for letting Anthony record saxophone with him. Check out their new song “KIRBSTOMP,” which is streaming now, and look out for How to Drown out November 6.

Luciano Ferrara | @LucianoRFerrara

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