Two incredibly catchy, hardworking, infectious bands from opposite ends of the country came together for this edition of Bands Interviewing Bands. Shiffley (RIYL: The 1975, Phoenix, The Killers) hails from NYC, while Ships Have Sailed (RIYL: The Script, Dashboard Confessional) come from Los Angeles, (with an East Coast tour up their sleeves this Nov 2-10). They got together to chat influence, Craigslist ads, and their unique process for songwriting and production.
Ships Have Sailed: First of all, really digging your sound! I’m wondering where you pull influence from, and do you notice if that changes over time?
Shiffley: Thank you! Our influences have gradually shifted over time. We started off heavily looking up to The Killers and Phoenix and have recently gravitated to bands like Foster the People and MGMT.
Shiffley: How did you guys meet?
Ships Have Sailed: Funny enough, Dan and I met thanks to Craigslist! I was playing in a band at the time (the one that eventually became 7Lions) and we were having a tough time finding a good bass player through our personal networks… So I posted an ad on Craigslist and along came Dan and he knocked our socks off! Once we were working together on Ships (which started in the studio), we wound up picking up some traction pretty quickly and realized we didn’t have a band. We started working with a drummer, but that didn’t end up working out, so Dan called up Art (who he had played with in another project) and we sent him some tunes to see whether he was interested. Our first show with Art was almost a week-long trip to Canadian Music Week, so it was literally a trial by fire on all levels…airports, logistics, passports, a music conference, and a showcase competing with a Deathcab for Cutie show. It was quite the trip! Art rocked it, got along with everyone, and we all had a fantastic time…the rest is history!
Ships Have Sailed: Do you use outside producers, do your own production, or both? What’s your creative process like?
Shiffley: For the time being, we self-produce, though we are always open to trying something new. Our general process is our front man, Alex Ganes, will come to the band with lyrics and melody; then the band will put their spin on it in rehearsals. So far it has worked very well!
Shiffley: Which of your songs mean the most to you and why?
Ships Have Sailed: I always say being asked to pick a favorite song is like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid…you’re not supposed to answer the question! That said, I think ‘favorite’ depends on the scenario…for example: ‘Boomerang’ is currently one of my favorites to play live, but that changes from show to show, and tour to tour. If I’m just listening, it honestly depends on my mood. If I’m mellow, it’s something like ‘Clouds’ or ‘Insomnia.’ If I’m whimsical, ‘Imaginary Friend.’ Nostalgic, it’s ‘Summertime’ or ‘Drive’…you get the idea. One of my hopes for this project is that there is something in the catalog that just about everyone can love,and for me, that just means channeling emotions and influences from different places, so each of those little fragments of my musical self-take me somewhere I can love in any given moment.
Ships Have Sailed: As a fellow artist, I find it can be tough sometimes to balance between live shows, creating new content (new music and videos), and interacting with people online. Do you guys have a system for managing your priorities?
Shiffley: Shiffley is a well-oiled machine! Though it wasn’t always that way… Creating great music is always our main focus, but for everything else, we typically split jobs up between different members of the group. For example, Bryan (drums) has always been in charge of socials and developing relationships with bands, venues, fans, etc. Alex (keys) is in charge of all things money-related, and Shaune (bass) is our graphics and web-design guy. Once we partnered up with our manager, we were able to put a lot of that stuff on him and focus more on our music, but we are still very involved with how our “business” is run.
Shiffley: What would you say has been the biggest asset to your band’s career?
Ships Have Sailed: Wow, I’ve never really thought about this. Look, I think more than anything for any artist, you have to appreciate your fans as your best asset. The people who support you, come to your shows, buy your music, interact with you online, etc… we literally wouldn’t exist without them, so I give them that credit. We’ve had some really cool things happen over the years (many that probably could classify in this category), but push comes to shove, if no one cared about us, we would probably be nowhere.
Ships Have Sailed: Do you guys take a ‘goal oriented’ approach to your project, or do you just go with the flow and let things happen? Any specific plans or goals over the next year or so?
Shiffley: I’d say we’re definitely more of a goal-oriented group. That being said, we like to keep those goals on the short-term so that we don’t think too far ahead. Right now, our big focus is releasing our first full-length album, but we also have smaller goals like playing in a market we haven’t hit before or returning to a market and doing noticeably better than the previous time. Stuff like that. Ya dig?
Shiffley: Give us your ideal tour pairing (any one or two bands you’d love to tour with or see on tour). Then give us the most ridiculous and worst-planned combo you can think of.
Ships Have Sailed: This is a good one, too! Right now, I would say my top two are Walk the Moon and Train (who I hear are coming out with a new album soon). Worst combo? Not sure about worst, but let’s just say Ships Have Sailed with KISS is probably a combination no one would ever want to see… 😉
Ships Have Sailed: Last but not least (and I love these stories) – how did you guys form your group?
Shiffley: Alex G, Alex J, and Bryan met in high school and were always in bands (both together and not). Shaune came along as a Craigslist success story around the beginning of college, and on the third day, God said: “Let there be Shiffley!” Though we’ve played together in different groups over the years (including a metal band… true story), Shiffley is about four years old and we feel very fortunate to have been friends prior to the band forming.
Shiffley: From touring around, we’ve encountered some interesting people and places. Do you have any humorous horror stories to share?
Ships Have Sailed: No horror stories…yet! [Laughs] Gotta knock on wood now! Getting back to that first trip with Art to Canadian Music Week, what I didn’t mention was that Dan is from Ohio – we flew into Cleveland, then drove to Toronto. On our way back, we stopped through a small town where Dan’s family still runs a dairy farm. We definitely had a blast living the rural life for a couple days on the way back. Art rode (and fell off of) his first 4-wheeler, we got muddy, got drunk, met a bunch of great people, and even more cows. It was such a great trip! Honestly, one of our favorite things about being on the road is meeting new people. It’s one of the amazing privileges of being able to do what we do!
Bands Interviewing Bands: Shiffley & Ships Have Sailed. Photo credit: Shiffley (top) by Sarah Corey. Ships Have Sailed (bottom) by Robb Hoffman