Published on June 4th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Shawn Krauss Reflects on the Intriguing Evolution of the Specs
Charleston-based rock quartet the Specs rock and sway at their own casual pace these days. Twelve years ago, singer/guitarist/keyboardist Eric Galloway, guitarist/singer Steve Tirozzi, and drummer Shawn Krauss comprised the core of one of Charleston’s up-and-coming indie acts, alongside several original like-minded musician in the legendary Chord & Pedal collective of underground popsters.
Nowadays, as one of the longest-running “together” groups in town, they regularly congregate to brainstorm, record, experiment, and perform at ease. It’s not an overstatement to declare them confident and capable veterans of the Lowcountry’s indie scene.
Galloway, Tirozzi, and Krauss welcomed skillful bassist/guitarist Brett Nash (of Boring Portals, Southern Femisphere, Company) into the lineup last year, just in time to contribute to the band’s forthcoming studio album. The foursome only occasionally play out at such local venues as the Tin Roof and the Sparrow. They’ll headline the Roof on Friday. June 7.
“We’ve all been really busy with work, music, and other things,” says Krauss, who currently tends bar at the Tin Roof and keeps time with local band Company. “Eric got into acting three years ago, doing commercials and pilots. He actually has a speaking role in Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies [2012, directed by Richard Schenkman]. Steve’s doing musical projects and teaching, and Brett [Nash, of Company, Boring Prtals, Southern Femisphere] is playing in several bands. There’s plenty going on.”
The Specs initially formed in Columbia in the early 2000s. They briefly relocated to Boston before heading back to S.C. and settling in Charleston in 2004. They employed a rotating cast of bass players along the way, including Scott Padgett, Tripp Wrenn, and Chord & Pedal exec Kevin Hanley. Galloway has always been the main face and voice of the band.
“To me, Eric’s singing and delivery are just phenomenal,” Krauss says. “He has to play keys during at least half of the set, but I especially like it when he comes out from behind the keyboards and really lets loose.”
In 2006, the Specs recorded and independently released a self-titled album that twisted vintage and modern styles of power-pop and orchestral rock. They worked mostly at Tree Studios in Atlanta with producer/guitarist Les Hall of Crossfade and Trey Anastasio’s and Howie Day’s touring bands.
“Everyone has always brought new ideas into the Specs,” Krauss says. “And right now, everyone’s chops are up, so they naturally bring some new life into things. We’re are a little more ‘rock’ these days, compared to what we did a few years ago. We went through an experimental, proggy phase with more keyboards when we recorded our last full-length. The keys were heavy back then, but now there’s just enough to fill things in and give it an extra edge. I like the minimalistic use of keyboards. Eric has gotten so much better as a keyboardist, and I like the fact that we have that dynamic and element.”
The Specs started working on new recordings in the summer of 2010, but progress has been sporadic. Over the last three years, they’ve spent merely a dozen or so full days in local and regional studios, tracking a little bit at a time. They laid down the majority of the music at alt-rock band Crossfade’s (now burned-out) studio in Columbia with Hall on hand, and they did a few extra sessions at Ocean Industries on James Island with engineer Eric Rickert.
Krauss says the basic tracks and most of the overdubs and vocals are finished, but a few key adjustments are still in the works for the seven- or eight-song project.
“I’ve been really happy with everything that’s been going on with the Specs,” Krauss says. “With any band that’s been together for 11 or 12 years, you’re going to have your ups and downs and bullshit. But we made it through all of it, somehow.”
“We never wrote music to gain commercial success,” he adds. “We never worried much about getting big or getting on a label, and we never felt like the clock was ticking as we got older. We’re lucky. Friends don’t break up like bands do, you know? We never really overdid things by playing too much on the road or whatever. We just played when we wanted to play.”
The Specs share the Tin Roof stage with Sleepy Eye Giant on Fri. June 7 at 10 p.m. Admission is $5. Visit reverbnation.com/thespecs for more.
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