In 2018 the 4 members of Kansas City’s Shiner made some phone calls. They caught up on their current lives — families and careers — and they also reminisced about 2012 when they re-released their acclaimed album The Egg on vinyl and played sold-out shows in New York, LA, KC and Chicago. Those were some of their biggest shows ever and many in the audience were new to the Shiner fanclub, having never seen the band years earlier. Soon enough the 4 of them – drummer Jason Gerken, bass player Paul Malinowski and guitarists Allen Epley and Josh Newton decided they were not quite finished, there was another life for Shiner they could not ignore.
Soon after, Shiner gathered together at Matt Talbot’s (Hum) Earth Analog studio in Tolono, IL to write in a lab setting, working out ideas they’d been emailing back and forth. After a few sessions that took place over a year and a half, they sifted through the detritus and have emerged with 8 solid songs that make up the new album, Schadenfreude. The LP was self-produced, engineered, and mixed at Malinowski’ own Massive Sound studio in Shawnee, KS. Newton notes, “ultimately I think it worked in our favor. We were able to walk away from things for a bit and see if the songs were heading where they should. We’ve always been extremely hands-on, even when working with someone else technically ‘producing,’” he continues, “with our last record (The Egg), we ended up remixing and adding things to almost half the record on our own. At this stage in our existence, we know what we should sound like.”
Despite the hiatus, Shiner have not missed a beat. Gerken is still a drummer’s drummer and his heavy right foot is tied to Malinowski’s distorted-symphony bass. Epley and Newton hew left and right in the mix and worked in lockstep counterpoint throughout the proceedings and leave room for the vocals to enter the mix without overtaking, and instead working as a whole within the strings and skins.
The songs on Schadenfreude are not so much an answer to The Egg as some properly timed follow up might, but instead stand on their own after 15-year hiatus. It’s the sound of a 4 piece band with each player finding his place in a book as though he just left the room an hour earlier and picked up on the next paragraph upon return. Speaking of the lyrics Newton says, “a lot of themes on the album are pretty dark but always with a silver lining around the edges. The title itself is a commentary on the most common human trait of enjoying your rivals’ demise. Or your apparent enemies.” The album’s “For In The End” is Shiner’s version of the world-is-ending “life is so hard, we all die alone, but I’ve got you and that makes all the difference.” The first single “Life As A Mannequin” pushes the narrative of ending your suffering by giving into your worst tendencies that are bad for you but at the same time feel so good. “Genuflect” examines dysfunctional relationships and the reasons people enter and stay in them.”
After their extended break from the studio and life on the road Shiner is once again looking forward with the May 8 release of Schadenfreude and a North American tour planned for 2020.
More about Shiner:
Shiner formed in 1992 with Tim Dow as the original drummer. They released their first EP the following year and found themselves signed to DeSoto Records, (owned by Jawbox’s Kim Coletta and Bill Barbot). With the addition of Paul Malinowski on bass, Jason Gerken on drums and Josh Newton on guitar and noises, the band began a creative high and a busy touring schedule for years, with their final album in 2001 The Egg a critical success. Along the way countless tours of the US, Europe and Japan, and 4 full-length albums gave them a fiercely loyal set of diehards. Comparisons with their contemporaries of HUM, Jawbox, Failure, and Swervedriver are unavoidable, but Shiner carved a path of their own with a dedication to song-craft and musicianship while often wrapped in darkly sugared hooks. Shiner broke up in 2002 but not before a very special farewell show at the Madrid Theater in KC in front of a couple of thousand friends.