It’s hard to decide if Shipwreck is from under the sea or maybe somewhere out West. Their wet, dark rock is despairing and lonely; the guitars chug or jangle, and the dual vocals are windy. This is a band that paints landscapes, not portraits. Buzz had the opportunity to speak to Shipwreck’s two songwriter/guitarist/vocalists (in John Owen and Harman Jordan) not long before the release of their debut LP, Origin.
Buzz: There are a lot of ‘watery’ themes in your music. What’s the origin of that?
Harman: Part of it is just the sound we go for, it’s kind of like a spaced-out underwater thing. I like shoegazer stuff, and I always thought of shoegazer stuff as like being inside an aquarium, reverberating sound. I think it may be accidental, all the water references.
Buzz: But where did the name ‘Shipwreck’ come from?
John: When we were ready to do shows, we just thought of a random name. We just liked the sound of it in terms of imagery.
Harman: I was also at the time reading a book called So Long, See You Tomorrow … There was a shipwreck reference in there, just like ‘Everyone’s life is like a shipwreck.’
Buzz: You also have a lot of Western sounds.
John:[Speaking to Harman] You finger-pick.
Harman: I think my interests are a lot of older country music, like Gram Parsons and the country-rock stuff like the Byrds. I lived in Tennessee for a while and did the bluegrass thing.
Buzz: Did you play bluegrass?
Harman: Not really; I learned the songs, and I learned that ‘1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2’ banjo finger-plucking style and I kind of adapted that to guitar for a while. I like elements like that and I like the themes in country songs. Older country songs seem to often be a little bit deranged.
Buzz: Any particularly deranged one?
Harman: There’s that song called ‘Pretty Polly.’ It’s basically about this guy who marries this woman and takes her out on his horse and then just kills her for no apparent reason.
John: I always thought my stuff sounds a little more nursery-rhyme-ish.
Harman: I try to get beyond the normal rhythms of the finger-plucking stuff and just warp it to the point where I don’t even know what rhythm I’m following.
Buzz: You guys are labeled as ‘psychobilly’ on MySpace, but you’ve got the ‘subaquatic astropunk’ label as well? Any other bands in those genres?
Harman: The subaquatic astropunk thing was originally tongue-in-cheek.
John: Originally we put ‘alt-country’ in there, and that’s the one that stuck for some reason.
Buzz: You really can’t escape that one.
Harman: Someone told us, ‘You don’t sound like the other astropunk bands I’ve heard.’ I was like, ‘That’s a term?’ People come up with really interesting things that we sound like. In Akron, Ohio, this guy said we sounded like the Chameleons. We played in Charleston, and the guy who runs that place said we sounded like a mix of Bauhaus and the Talking Heads.
Shipwreck’s release party for Origin takes place Tuesday, July 5, at Cowboy Monkey. The Living Blue are headlining, kicking off their tour; also on the bill is American Minor, before they depart again. The show begins at 9:30 p.m. with a $5 cover.