Shakey Graves on His “Roll The Bones” Reissue and the Records That Shaped Him

Alejandro Rose-Garcia walks us through some of his favorite music

April 5, 2021 8:53 am
Shakey Graves
Shakey Graves lets us in on what he's been listening to lately.
Magen Buse

Ten years ago, Alejandro Rose-Garcia, who records under the name Shakey Graves, released his debut album, Roll The Bones, on Bandcamp. Even without any real promotion, it quickly earned him a cult following and has since sold over 100,000 copies, but for a decade it remained a Bandcamp exclusive that required fans to do a little more digging to track it down.

“My goal was always to have people just take an extra second to go try and hunt it down,” Rose-Garcia tells InsideHook. “But after 10 years, I feel like I got to do that, and at this point I’m just ready for it to be released. It’s like, ‘It’s time for you to go off into the world, record. You’re not my baby anymore. I can tell you’re all grown up.’”

Now that it’s all grown up, it’s being reissued as Roll The Bones X and accompanied by the additional 15-track Odds + Ends LP, which features early demos and recordings and deep cuts Rose-Garcia pored through his archives to select. Ultimately, the process of revisiting his early material led to some poignant self-reflection.

“When I listen to it now, I hear myself longing for my life, searching for myself, trying to figure out who I am, craving a lot of travel and kind of wishing that I was in some sort of position to trust myself more,” he says. “And in the journals, I made a lot of wishes about what my career might look like. I drew a little suitcase drum, like “Maybe I could put something like this.” And basically, I realized how many of these wishes or like vague things I kind of shot out into the universe have come true. It was a good reminder to just be mindful of what I wish for.”

To celebrate Roll The Bones X (which is out now), we caught up with Rose-Garcia to hear about the music that shaped him as a kid, his go-to road trip music and what he’s currently obsessed with.

What’s the first album or song that inspired you to start writing your own music?

Alejandro Rose-Garcia: I genuinely don’t know. The first album that I remember, the first song I remember jamming out to as a very little kid was the overture of the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, which is like aggressive organ music. And there’s a really heavy ’80s beat over it, which I guess kind of influenced my approach to a lot of stuff, kind of over-dramaticized. Maybe Shakey Graves actually secretly looks like the Phantom of the Opera in my mind. I’ve never really thought about it that much. But I’m sure that had some huge effect on me trying to go forward in my life and being like, “Be a mysterious dude that haunts a theater.”

What’s the one album that, if you had to guess, you’ve listened to the most times in your life?

I’d say Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska is up there. It’s just a record that kind of magically seems to come on all the time. My dad used to listen to it a lot when I was a little kid, and I always kind of rebelled against it, like, “I don’t like Bruce Springsteen because he’s super corny.” And my dad was like, “You’re wrong.” My mom was the same way. And then years later, I started listening to the album on my own in high school. And then my friends started listening to it, and then it became kind of a virtuous staple for me too. I had it on a cassette tape in my first car. And then kind of ever since, it’s just sort of one of those ones that if I start listening to it, I just listen to the whole thing.

Do you remember what the first record you ever bought with your own money was?

No. I mean, my mom had one of those — I forget what it’s called, it was this mail-in catalogues where it’s like, “If you buy 10 CDs, you get 200 CDs for free.” And so that’s where I got them actually, middle-school CDs. But again, when I was a little kid, I listened to music on the radio and then didn’t know what I wanted to get. So I would buy like movie soundtracks when I was a kid. I very much remember buying the Predator 2 soundtrack, which, I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea. So I was like, “I like Predator 2!” I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but yeah, I guess I was that weird kid that you’d walk in and it was just scary movie music playing in my room.

When did you make the shift from the movie soundtracks and whatever was on the radio to having more of a focused interest in seeking stuff out?

I’ve always loved pop music too. I used to listen to a kind of blend of radio stations in my town that I was listening to that was straight up saccharine pop music and like TLC and the Spice Girls and ‘N SYNC and stuff. And then also the alternative radio station, and so I would have to listen to Papa Roach and shit. [laughs] Somewhere in between that. I mean, in middle school, I started having to — I say having to, because I’ve had a lot of CDs that I didn’t like listening to like Korn CDs, and Insane Clown Posse CDs because I just didn’t want to look crazy, which is hilarious. But at that point I started to find stuff like Weezer and Dr. Dre. And then I got into pop-punk for a while in high school. I remember going to, I think it was literally a Blockbuster Music, which makes me sound like I’m a 300-year-old man, and getting a Get Up Kids record called Something to Write Home About, which is still one of my favorite records. It’s definitely a pop-punk record, but it’s on the side of the fence that I don’t feel terribly embarrassed about listening to.

Do you have a go-to record for this time of year, where it’s that first really warm day of spring, and you’re maybe driving around with the windows down and basking in the glow?

I’m not going to lie to you, my spring record this year has been ANTI by Rihanna, her 2016 record. A friend of mine, Caroline Rose, is an awesome, awesome musician, and she made a really incredible pop record. It’s called Superstar. It’s kind of like a meta pop record. But she and I always talk about music like this. And she was like, “Have you heard this Rihanna record?” “Oh no. No.” I really don’t know that much about Rihanna. And for some reason it came up and I started listening to it, and it’s just been playing in my truck for the last week. Especially this song “Consideration,” which was the first song up on that record. I’ve just been driving around. Good, good spring record.

Is there a song that consistently makes you cry?

Oh my god. The ultimate sad song. “Girl from the North Country” by Dylan always kind of gets me. I’m not sure if that makes me the saddest, but it is definitely melancholy and has that pining, like “Well, love is lost. I already messed it all up.” “You Were Always On My Mind” is pretty heart-wrenching. There’s an acoustic version that Willie Nelson did. It’s off of some VH1 Storytellers thing. Anyway, if you can ever hear him just play it with an acoustic guitar, it’s insane. That kind of reframes it. And again, and, with him, it’s like someone in their eighties looking back on their life and thinking, “I might’ve messed a lot up. But I was always thinking of you.” And instead of it sounding shady where you’re like “Oh, thanks. You totally fucked me over, but the whole time you were like, ‘I was thinking of you,’” it’s just wildly poignant. That one really gets me.

What’s an album or an artist that you think is really underrated or wish that more people knew about?

There’s a guy named Michael Hurley. He’s pretty well-known, but he’s always been a little underground. I think he’s still alive. He’s in Oregon. He was the last person that was recorded on Smithsonian Folkways, which is basically the Smithsonian Museum and Alan Lomax recorded all the old blues greats and stuff. And so I think he was recorded when he was like 20 or something like that. And he’s an older gentleman now, but he’s always written just incredibly cool, kind of his own weird blend of super off-brand kind of folk music and a kind of country music. But he’s got a really unique voice. And you know, I think he’s made like 50 records or some absurd amount of records. He’s a treasure. For a while there it was like if you paid him like a thousand dollars, he’d come play your birthday party kind of thing. It’s like, do people just not know?

What do you like to listen to when you’re out on the road?

One album from front to back that I absolutely love is Tame Impala’s first record, Innerspeaker. I’ve listened to that one a million times. Another one is The Infamous, which is a Mobb Deep record from ’95. That’s a go-to. I can listen to Neil Young’s Harvest from front to back anytime, too. That’s a great one. Walk, Don’t Run, Vol. 2 by The Ventures. That’s a great one. Oh, and there’s a record by The Flatlanders that I adore that came out in 2012. Basically it was recorded in the late ’70s, the early demo. And then basically there was an issue where the recording got all screwed up, and they just forgot about it. And then someone was cleaning out a recording studio on West Texas, and found this three-track tape, which no one even makes a three-track tape player anymore. They found a three-track, tracked the whole machine down for it and put it on, and it’s this absolutely pristine folk record, country record from the ’70s. It is awesome. It sounds like it could have been made right now. You know what I mean? But it has a certain type of timelessness to it. That’s an awesome record. Also a good spring record. It’s called The Odessa Tapes.

What’s currently on heavy rotation for you? What are you obsessed with at the moment?

There’s a band called The Nerves that I’ve been listening to a bunch recently. They were a power-pop group from the ’70s. They wrote “Hanging on the Telephone,” that was made famous by Blondie. And I think they started in ’75 and they were finished by ’78. But they produced an EP that had all this cool stuff on it. And they had a re-release that has some of the demos and stuff. They’re just a super scrappy band that I love. They sound great. I mean, honestly often I find myself listening to is a company called The Numero Group that puts out these, re-releases of stuff, and like compilation records of just kind of lost stuff. And usually I find myself kind of listening to almost anything that they put out. They put out all these kind of strange, obscure compilations. But it’s how I find a ton of music. There’s also these really strange records called Songs in the Key of Z that are collections of outsider music. Like Daniel Johnston is one of the more famous outsider musicians. But it’s like found music. It’s like strange things, cassette tapes that people would find, or like their strange neighbor or a crazy person that would sell CDs on the street. And I unabashedly jam those records.

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