Identical twins Laurie and Katelyn Shook occupy a rare corner in the music world. After all, how many duos of this kind can there be?
“Oh, there are a few others out there,” Laurie Shook says laughing.
The Shook Twins With: Brooke Annibale When: 8 p.m. Sept. 24 Where: Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Tickets: $12-$15 Info: lh-st.com
The 33-year-old sisters have been singing together since grade school. Though Laurie plays banjo and Katelyn favors the guitar, they consider their voices their main instruments. And while they’ve put a lot of time and work into their vocals, it’s really been “an effortless blend,” Shook says, in a phone conversation from her home in Portland, Oregon. When immediate family members sing together, even more so with twins, they achieve what’s called “blood harmony;” it’s almost as if you’re harmonizing with your own voice.
“It helps even more that we have the same DNA and the same vocal chords,” Shook says. “It’s been a really interesting journey.”
Defining their dreamlike style is something the sisters are still trying to figure out. They generally tag it as indie folk-rock (fantasy writer Neil Gaiman is a fan) but it’s really much more than that as their eclectic style fluctuates from song to song. They’ve been known to augment their songs with samples, looping and beatboxing.
“Yeah we have kind of a personality disorder when it comes to genre,” says Shook with a laugh. ““We draw from a lot of different things.”
Their new album due out in the first half of 2018 even has what they’re calling “folk-disco,” as well as some R&B and sultry soul in the mix.
“It’s different but all held together with an element of folk with some acoustic instruments and, of course, our twin harmonies are always in there,” Shook says.The twins will perform at Schubas with their band — Barra Brown (drums), Niko Daoussis (guitar, mandolin) and Josh Simon (bass).
The sisters grew up in scenic Sandpoint, “a beautiful, little town” in the northernmost reaches of Idaho. “Our early songs had a lot of nature references,” Shook adds. “We always just write about the way we live our lives.”
They sang together in choirs right up until college but surprisingly didn’t study music at the University of Idaho. They both have a degree in radio-television-digital media production. The thought was to have their own show on The Travel Channel and travel around the world for a living.
“Then we realized we really didn’t like being on television,” Shook says with a laugh. “So we decided to travel a different way — in a van with three boys playing music.”
After graduation, they moved back to Sandpoint, for a time performing with other local musicians. In 2009, they relocated to Portland where they performed as a duo before forming a band. It was a move from a simpler life to a more complicated one, but that wasn’t a bad thing, Shook says.The lifestyle change was tempered by the city’s rich indie music scene. “It was a just so great to be surrounded by all this music and tapping into it and developing an audience of new fans,” Shook says.
As they absorbed the local music scene, their tastes began to change. They paid more attention to the tones of instruments and “those weird noises on records that make you wonder where it came from and how it was made. We really like the noise you don’t know how to explain,” Shook says. “That’s definitely where we’re going with the new album. Our guitar player Niko is amazing with noises. He’s got all sort of pedals and he’s really good at twisting knobs.”
The sisterly bond goes deep for the twins even when “American Idol” comes calling. In the summer of 2014, they received an email asking if they’d be interested in auditioning but they’d have to compete individually. Their first thought was “Why would they think we would want to do that?” They followed this with a polite reply laying out their reasons for decliningand their reasons for staying on the path they have chosen.
“We just really wanted to express[to ‘American Idol’]what its like to do this on our own and that it’s really hard work,” Shook says. “It’s not always my favorite thing — trying to make it by ourselves in this sea of musicians. But we are proud of it and we wouldn’t want to go that route to compete against each other.”
Mary Houlihan is a local freelance writer.