Who needs Craigslist or Facebook to find bandmates when you’ve got talented siblings? When Colin Campbell first started writing and singing blues songs as a teenager, he drafted his brother Cameron (Bass) to help out, and eventually, baby brother Evan (Drums) joined the fold after taking a few years to catch up in age.
The trio left the blues behind and released their first EP as The Shackletons in 2016, recording with acclaimed Minneapolis rocker and producer Ed Ackerson, who they’d work with again on 2017’s Second Attempt EP.
Marrying the beer-back Americana of early Wilco with lyrical flourishes reminiscent of The Hold Steady and the pugnacity of a young Soul Asylum, the boys of The Shackletons are a reliably righteous live act that should make a perfect soundtrack for sampling at the 11th Annual Summer Beer Dabbler.
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First of all, congratulations on your Emmy-award winning music video for “Happy Boring Life.” What’s the story there?
Colin Campbell: Our friend Sam Luloff wanted to make a music video for us, so we went to the St. Thomas film studio where he works and just kinda let him do his thing. He had spent a couple of days working on it, but we were there for just a day. Then we heard that it had been nominated for a Midwest Emmy and thought “That’s pretty cool!” but there were a lot of entries, so we figured it was cool to even be featured. Then he went to the award ceremony and he f****n’ won!
All credit goes to him, obviously, he won the Emmy, but we’re in an Emmy-winning music video...Midwest is just a little asterisk on the bottom [laughs].
You all got your start as an all-ages band, so when you were first cutting your teeth, gigs are breweries and bars were probably out of the question. Has that changed at all?
CC: Yeah, we got started playing before we were 18, and Evan, our brother, is still 19. If I can make a show all-ages, I still like to make it all-ages. I understand how the bars work and the laws work, but I couldn’t tell you how many times I was pissed off that a band I wanted to see was in town but it was 21-plus and I couldn’t get in. It’s not like I was going to drink anyway. So if I have the power to make it all-ages, or 18-plus, I do my best to do that.
So, when you finally hit 21 and could enjoy a beer at a show, did that feel like all it was cracked up to be, or did you think it was a little overrated?
CC: I think it’s not overrated! [laughs] I’m in a bit of a pickle here because this is The Beer Dabbler and I love beer, but I don’t want to encourage drinking too much. Before I was 21, I didn’t drink much at all. Some people go through high school and college glugging it down like fish, and I just wasn’t there for it. But once I was 21 and I could go out and drink, that was a little bit different of a story.
Like for instance, I’ve had more than a few conversations with people, PBRs only taste good at punk shows. Any other time, they taste like swill, ya know? But something about the punk show atmosphere completes the experience.
Do you and Cam drink beer during practice? If so, what’s your go-to practice space brew?
CC: We definitely don’t need beer to have practice, but we sometimes enjoy a beer while practicing. It’s probably just Hamm’s, to be honest [laughs].
I suppose as a singer, you have to make considerations with your on-stage drink choice because you’re always risking a burp.
CC: That’s complicated. I never really thought about the whole burping aspect until a year or two ago, but there’s been a couple of times where there’s some lines coming up and… you gotta burp! That’s your fault for drinking beer onstage! You could just drink hard alcohol instead, but I don’t really want to drink hard alcohol! I wanna be able to at least gauge where I’m at onstage.
So it depends on the show, sometimes I’ll have a couple of beers on stage, sometimes I’ll just wait until the end. It depends on the stakes of the show, and the atmosphere. If we’re playing a basement, it’s beer. But I’ve been working towards not drinking beer during sets though. I can’t be burping all the time, I’m the singer, I’ve got to be responsible for that s*** [laughs].
Let’s say y’all are playing First Avenue tonight: What beer are you using your drink tickets on, or do you like a little variety?
CC: You’re probably going to hate me for this answer, but it’s probably Hamm’s! We’re going to come play this craft brew event and it’s like, a joke among my friends that I’ll just go for Hamm’s. You can buy a 30-pack for like, 14 bucks!
That doesn’t mean I don’t like good beer though. My favorite Minnesota brewery is Castle Danger. I love Castle Danger! That might fit the Beer Dabbler narrative a little better [laughs].
If The Shackeltons could be sponsored with free beer for life by any local brewery, who would you pick?
CC: So there’s a couple of different ways to look at this question, right? Because as a beer, I love Castle Danger, if they did that and I got free Castle Danger forever, that would be cool. But I bet they wouldn’t have quite the same perks as if you got sponsored by Surly or something. So my business mind, and I don’t know how existent that is, but my business mind is saying “You should probably go with one of the big fish.” If I just keep pushing this Hamm’s angle, they’re going to have to sponsor me eventually, right? [laughs]
Follow up: Castle Danger offers to make a beer inspired by your band: What kind of beer is it, and what’s it called?
CC: I think it’s probably a Pilsner; I don’t see us as really IPA-y people. I wouldn’t want it to be like, 3.5 [percent ABV] or ‘nothing either. Like, when you got to Trader Joe’s and get their Simpler Times, that’s like, a six-percent Pilsner. It’s gross, but it’s like, a lighter beer. So I want it to pack a little bit more of a punch so you get more bang for your buck. A little less leisurely, you could say.
You could call it a couple of different things, but the first song off of The Second Attempt is called “St. Bibiana,” which is the patron saint of hangovers. We have t-shirts, too, with a beer can that says “St. Bibiana,” so that just seems like a shoe-in.
You guys get to play at CHS Field, which is a pretty big deal! Did any of y’all play any baseball growing up?
CC: Eh...we might have played a couple of seasons of tee-ball when we were kids, but we had season tickets to the St. Paul Saints at Midway Stadium for most of my childhood, and we sat right above the dugout. I really liked Midway Stadium a lot, I know that CHS is really great, but I really loved Midway too. The last time I went there was [for] The Replacements reunion show, which was crazy.
This one is going to be tricky. Pick the mascot y’all identify with more: TC Bear from the Twins, or the St. Paul Saint’s Ball Pig Mascot, which is named Daenerys Hoggaryen this year.
CC: Oh, Daenerys Hoggaryen 100%. I vibe a lot more with that than with TC Bear. I feel naming that thing TC Bear was a misstep. I feel like they could have named it something better. It feels like they didn’t think about it too much, they could have done anything.
I bet the person who was supposed to come up with something totally forgot, and in the board meeting they were like "Alright Jim, whaddya got?” and he was like “Uh...TC Bear!”
The Shackletons will play the 11th Annual Summer Beer Dabbler on Saturday, August 18 at CHS Field with The Bad Man and DJ Leif. You can hear their music on Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp.