Posted on February 27th, 2020
We're very excited about the release of Shell Of A Shell's full length debut. It comes out tomorrow, Friday, February 28th, and marks the 100th release for us at Exploding In Sound Records. We wanted to share Away Team with you a day early so you can let everyone you know to get their orders in (and treat yourself as well) and then catch the band on tour. Trust us, your pals will be grateful you tipped them off to one of the year's most promising debuts. Anyway... we had a chat with the band's own Chappy Hull (who also plays in Gnarwhal and Pile) to discuss this momentous occasion. Listen to the album below and check out our interview while you're at it. You just might learn something new.
EIS: First, a little getting to know you question. If Shell of a Shell were an episode of the Simpsons which episode would you be and why?
Chappy: Fuuuuck, okay, this one is hard but I have thought a lot and a Lisa episode makes the most sense. There is a lot of self reflection in the songs we write and Lisa is often battling with herself on identity issues between being a smart growing girl and still a Simpson at heart. So I would have to go with "Summer of 4 Ft. 2" from season 7. Lisa grows a lot through the help (and meanness) of others and hopefully that's what our songs can convey, hah.
EIS: “Away Team” is a pretty heavy album emotionally with a thematic sense of self-doubt and warped perspectives. Did writing the record help to exercise any of those feelings? What would you hope others take away from it?
Chappy: It is definitely cathartic and helpful to me to write about those feelings, even if only momentarily. When listening back I can remember those times and try to learn from them, but it's also comforting knowing that I had been there and gotten up from it and can do it again. I think sharing those intimate feelings is important to me so people can know they are not alone in what they feel at any point, even the darkest. If we share them together maybe we can be stronger helping each other back up.
EIS: How is the process writing for SOAS different than your other bands? Do you approach the songs from a different stand-point going into them?
Chappy: I'm lucky to have three bands that all have pretty different processes at least on my end going in. For Shell I write a lot of the songs starting on acoustic guitar, planning out chord progressions and melodies before finding the riffs and intricacies between them. I had never really done that before and it was a good exercise especially at the beginning and now it feels much more natural. We will jam on riffs some but not nearly as much as Gnarwhal will to find what happens next in the song or the groove since those songs are primarily riff-based. Shell has a little more pre-planning while my other bands are post. For Pile songs Rick will have a structure and I can write my parts around that. It's really helpful to have different processes for each band to keep them separate sonically and know my place in each band.
EIS: This album feels very “natural” and “familiar” to me in a way like I’ve waiting for it my entire life and never knew it. Do you think there’s a timeless quality to these songs and what creates that?
Chappy: That is such an amazing thing to hear. I was definitely going for a natural vibe throughout the writing process, making sure all of the songs worked together in the album as a concise piece and on their own as well. I'd like to think they are timeless but I guess only time will tell truly. Not being defined to one genre helps with that and although this is a "rock" album through and through I hope it is able to be appreciated by anyone who can attach to it, no matter what music is usually listened to by any one person.
EIS: Between Dolly Parton, Yautja, and Eightball & MJG, Tennessee has a lot of offer music. Where does SOAS fit into the Nashville scene and how was the local community influenced the band?
Chappy: Tennessee is a special place for music for sure; from Memphis to Johnson City we got everything. Every member of Shell has been participating and contributing to the local music scene since we were in early high school and were definitely brought together through the music scene although we attended different schools. Having places like Little Hamilton, The Owl Farm, The Other Basement, and now DRKMTTR puts a different sort of push and community sense on people when you all have to work together to make things happen. There have been massive ups and downs in DIY in Nashville but it has never died and you can tell through the quality of bands that everyone is pushing each other forward in a real way.
EIS: While the songs on Already There were primarily written as a solo endeavor, did that change with this record? Has the band become increasingly collaborative?
Chappy: While I still come to the band with most of the songs written structurally, there is much more collaboration on the feeling of the song and everyone still writes their own parts. On the song "Away Team" in particular, when I brought it to the band, Ian was concerned and maybe a touch irritated that the whole song was build-ups on the drums and we were able to feel that out and turn it into a song that had more grooves and made the build-ups (there are still a lot) hit much harder when they do. I have tried doing my own thing but the way people work with each other and the collaborative side of music that makes it such an amazing thing is something I hold special to myself and want to shine, especially surrounded by such a talented group of people.
EIS: What is your favorite guitar / bass/ drum part on the album?
Chappy: I really love Noel's bass part in the chorus of "Don't Expect". Ian and him have known each other for years and have almost played in every band they've ever been in together (minus two for Ian) and are able to bring out hits in the pocket together so well. That part helps the energy flow so well throughout the somewhat opened up chorus that could just be big and beautiful on it's own, but is taken to the next level. I also just love how Dylan plays guitar and always have. The way he takes the underlying structure of chords and will add to them with his own voicings really shines through on this album, especially on songs like "Don't Expect" and "Away Team". My favorite drum part is probably the turn around in "Knock" from the first chorus back into the main riff. It's so exciting to me every time we play it.
EIS: The lyrics hit pretty hard throughout the record with a real directness to them. How important are lyrics to you in the process of making music? Do you tend to analyze lyrics when listening to music that isn’t your own?
Chappy: Lyrics are definitely important to me but usually come last. I will get an idea of what the song will be about and a line here and there but usually the lyrics aren't completely finished (or even almost finished) until we start recording. For the slower songs like "Funny" and "Find me a Field" the lyrics were much easier and I don't know if that has to do with them being a larger part of the song at first listen or just because they flow more naturally when I am pretty much only playing chords as my guitar part, but it is still always a challenge for me on any record.
I was never much of a lyrics guy growing up but have become better at listening and analyzing them with age. Vocals to me usually just sound like a texture until I start really listening in, and even then it is hard for me a lot of the time to actually understand what words they are saying even if it is crisp and forward. When I would see bands like Converge growing up and everyone in the room would know all of the lyrics except for me it felt strange, but it is just how music hits me I guess, notes first words later. I have gotten much more into more lyrical music lately. I have been frequenting John Prine, Silver Jews, Nico, and Bill Callahan to name a few.
EIS: You’ve worked with Seth Engel on both of your recordings for SOAS. How did that relationship form and what makes you gravitate toward working together? How was it recording in Chicago vs Nashville this time around?
Chappy: A few years ago Gnarwhal toured with Seth's old band Great Deceivers and getting to know each other I felt he had the same disposition towards music as myself and a lot where he couldn't be pigeon-holed to a type of music he loved and could appreciate anything from all around the spectrum. He had recorded some of my friends' bands and I could already tell how easy it would be to work together just from traveling together it was an easy decision. He can tell you when he thinks you can do better and be the most excited person in a room when you really get it. It's really helpful to me especially when I get down on myself and feel like I can never get it to have that person there to really push and help try new things to make it work and Seth is definitely that.
I was especially excited we were able to actually go to Chicago to record so we would all be in the mindset of being there to do something and not have work or home life to interfere. I think it put us all in a really good place to capture what we had worked on so much and what we felt while we were there.
EIS: You’re going on a lengthy tour for over a month of dates (and still not hitting the East Coast). Anywhere you’re particularly excited to play? Anywhere you’ve never been? Anyone you’re stoked to be playing with?
Chappy: I think we are all excited for the whole thing! Particularly maybe our Vancouver show because Ian has never been out of the country and we are playing with Blessed who is one of the best live bands I have seen in years. We met them at SXSW a couple of years ago and they are all fantastic people so smiles will surely be shared. Very excited for the EIS SXSW show at Velveeta Room as well. Every year I have gone, whether with Gnarwhal or Shell, the EIS shows have been out of this world fun and bursting with talent and friends.
I think a lot of these places will be new for most of Shell but the only places I have yet to play are Amarillo, TX and Santa Fe, NM I believe? I have never played New Mexico at all and somehow have missed Amarillo all of these times even though the drives are monsters in that part of the country.
Very excited to play with Sour Widows from San Fransisco as well. Pile played with them last year and they have these insane harmonies and song structures that blew me away last time. Hopefully we'll get them on the east side of the country soon.
EIS: With the tour coming up, will you be playing all of the songs from “Away Team” live?
Chappy: We'll be playing mainly songs from the new album but are gonna pepper in a couple of "Already There" songs as well. I am a HUGE fan of live transitions and reworking songs so maybe there will be a little of that in there too...
EIS: Which member would you say is the “wild card”?
Chappy: On surface level, definitely Ian. But mainly only because of how loud he is but I guess you could say that about me or Noel as well at times. But Dylan, Dylan is the real wild card. It helps that the rest of us are pretty "in-your-face" as well but he can really surprise you in ways you couldn't imagine.
EIS: If you had to compare each member of the band to a character from King of the Hill, who would you all be?
Chappy: We actually had this conversation the other day and it makes perfect sense even if Ian is a little bummed about the outcome:
Hank - Chappy
Dale - Noel
Boomhauer - Dylan
Bill - Ian
Nobody wants be Bill but everything else matches up too well to let it change.
EIS: The fans want to know, when you are coming East again?
Chappy: I believe early August or late July. It won't be too bad and maybe we'll even make it up more than once before the year is up...
EIS: Any tips you can offer to having a great tour? Any recommended van listening? Last time I was in a van with you there was nearly no talking at all except for me yapping and I felt pretty bad about it, haha.
Chappy: Never forget there are other people in the van. As important as personal time is, it is a group effort and there are ways to get personal time without making it harder on the rest of your bandmates. We listen to a lot of Last Podcast on the Left in the Van which definitely is not everyone's cup of tea due to subject matter. No one in Pile ever wants me to play it and I get it. I like to talk in the van too although usually it only takes up about 30 minutes of the drive before we'll go into our own naps or headphones. I was in the way back and sleeping the whole time I would have loved to hear you yap and I'm sure no one else saw it that way!
EIS: This is EIS100 and we’re still amazed we made it this far. This is the 5th release you’ve been a part of and we want to thank you for trusting in us with your music for all these years. Any fond EIS memories / releases you want to share?
Chappy: Fifth release! fuck! I didn't even realize that. Crazy! I wouldn't trust anyone else.
Anytime I have gotten to hang out with you and Alec are special to me. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Also the friendships that I've made from the first big EIS show Gnarwhal played with Ovlov, Rick, Sean, Grass is Green, Speedy Ortiz, Krill, Two Inch Astronaut (and more somehow?), to now getting ready to head to SXSW and share a stage with a completely different roster of EIS bands that still blow people's minds are so dear to me. Seeing and knowing people who are genuinely stoked by the music and family you guys have cultivated is really special and I'm just happy to be a part of it. They're all special, every one.