The path to rock stardom is an increasingly rocky one for young bands. With the album all but dead, radio having collapsed into a heap of ossified formats, and the Internet increasing competition and cutting attention spans, making it as a musician is even less likely now than it was just a decade ago. Still, The Shake, four twenty-something New Yorkers who make solid, sophisticated guitar rock, are well on their way to glory: With gigs in some of the nation’s most coveted venues—including one this evening at the prestigious CMJ music festival—and a track on the hit HBO show True Blood, they’re quickly crossing the divide separating the scores of amp-schlepping hopefuls from the well-compensated and well-known. It’s an impressive achievement, and it’s even more remarkable considering that two of the band’s members, singer/guitarist Jon Merkin and bassist Jeremy Stein, don’t rock on Shabbat.
This bit of piety, the band members told me one recent afternoon, presents its share of challenges. Friday nights, a popular time for club concerts, are out of the question, and Saturday night shows often mean that guitarist Mike Serman and drummer Dan Kirschen have to do much of the stage-setting by themselves. Such hassles might have driven another band to ruin; The Shake, it seems, only thrives.
And yet, don’t expect to hear any traces of zmirot in the band’s music, or any references to God or the liturgy. Despite the fact that the band was formed during a gig in a pub in Jerusalem, where several of its members were spending the year studying in a yeshiva, The Shake’s sound is far from anything you might call Jewish music. Not, Stein insisted, that there’s anything wrong with that: “I just don’t want to think about my Zayde when I rock.”
The Shake play CMJ in New York City this evening. If you would like to hear more, check out their two new songs below.
Kill My Name: