In this generation, everyone is seemingly anxious to slap a made-up label on something. In 2010, we had chillwave, heavily-synthed music that sounded like it was made in the ’80s, with Toro y Moi and Washed Out as the front-runners for the genre. The term shoegaze was coined by atmospheric music made by musicians who just never looked up. Who could forget metalcore, which was speed pedals, pig squeals, and boys with feminine voices and even more feminine haircuts? It seems as if it’s getting increasingly easier to create the subgenre.
Just ask the boys of Shiloh. They have a genre for themselves. They call it “scum-pop.”
“Dirty pop music,” explained lead singer and guitarist Alex Reindl. “It’s not exactly lo-fi, but it kind of is, just because we’re lazy bastards.”
A more succinct definition was offered a bit later.
“We’re dirty people that write pretty pop songs,” Reindl says.
Reindl is wearing a sweater that hearkens back to Kurt Cobain’s days, and even spoke of someone thinking he looked like the late icon when his blonde tendrils were longer. Ryan Ensley, who also does vocals and guitar, has an unruly, curly blonde mane. Tommy Noir, the bassist, has long black hair that almost covers his face like a curtain. Rounding out the band’s sound is Calvin Schaller on drums.
But really, Shiloh is simply embracing a collection of feelings and the environment of Northwest Indiana, where Ensley and Reindl grew up, but through a nostalgia lens. Think Modest Mouse meets Dr. Dog. And for the love of everything, the name is not a reference to the famous beagle.
Reindl stylistically changed the spelling of the word into a portmanteau that combined the sounds of the words “shy” and “low,” because those are the two main feelings Reindl experiences.
One thing to note of Shiloh is how much material the band has churned out. It’s almost enough to warrant a Wikipedia-like discography. There’s a demo recorded in March of 2011. There’s an EP titled All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers that was recorded in December of 2011. The latest, a full-length, was released in Feburary with the help of Kickstarter, which paid for half of the band’s studio time. Definitely a lot of ground covered in just two years.
However, next time, they might pass on the studio assistance.
“It was a very stressful, arduous process,” said Ensley. “It took us like 60 hours.”
One of the drawbacks to recording in a studio, according to Ensley, is the lack of ease with which to record ideas as they come. When paying for studio time, one has to make use of the time wisely. The band would sometimes wonder if the hourly rate was well spent. Prior to studios, the band would record its folky hits at a house where they’d all lay down their tracks.
Shiloh is now signed to a label named Rhed Rholl where the band can continue releasing the music that its come to be known for. As the guys call it, they are “Midwestern boys making Midwestern noise.” However, in an era where computers rule the world and EDM is easily one of the most popular genres, some people may not agree with what the masses are eating up.
This video was made during Shiloh’s first recording, as the band honed its Midwestern sound.
Ensley has expressed distaste with the community, labeling them “button-pushers.” Though Reindl doesn’t have a problem with the genre at hand, he does criticize the live show aesthetic.
“It kind of takes away from the live performance aspect,” Reindl mused. “The machines are way more in the way of the music than somebody who’s standing up there and you can see him playng the chords, watch him singing to you, making the music as it happens, as you watch it, rather than something that’s pre-recorded when you’re hitting when a loop is supposed to come here, when a drum beat’s supposed to come here. That’s still an art form. It’s still valid. I just don’t think it’s as exciting to watch live.”
This Chicago-based band devotes its blood, sweat, and tears into making the music. Reindl sometimes questions why he’s doing so much work, hauling equipment to a Rockford, Ill. church and singing age-inappropriate songs to preteens, sending him on a flashback ride back to high school, during his own ‘battle of the bands’ days. They joke about electronic artists banging keyboards and motherboards with the same rock star finesse, only minus guitars. They feel sane when they’re playing guitar.
“I would probably be unstable if I didn’t play guitar,” Reindl admitted. “I would probably be really messy and live in a shit hole, but because I’m a musician, I have an excuse for it.”
Shiloh, who used to play shows extremely frequently, now deals with a much lighter load, with three shows coming up on March 25th, April 9th, and April 16th respectively. They are slowly finding the key to what they believe is true success. For now, the band feels it still has a long way to go.
“We’re definitely not even scratching the surface of our potential,” said Ensley, pushing an empty cup of coffee to Reindl. “We have so many songs. It’s kind of constantly growing.”
Shiloh’s journey includes the addition of member Will, who is also a member of Chicago band Teenage Rage, and is currently writing Shiloh’s upcoming full-length album.