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  • Slide # 18
     

    BIO

    ABOUT THE BAND

    Shiz Rock is conscious, hippie, lesbeaux folk-rock and soul born from the soul of the south, New Orleans. Lilli Lewis formed The Shiz with her wife, Liz Hogan in January of 2009 when they moved to Liz’s hometown of Hammond, LA after spending 18 months working at a Buddhist retreat center in Northern Colorado.

    Hogan had been denied employment with a wilderness therapy program in Arizona on the grounds that her marriage was not recognized by that state, and that her relationship went against organizational policy (read more at www.selfevidenttruths.org). Facing the start of an economic crisis after having spent all their savings attempting to relocate for that job, Hogan and Lewis saw forming a rock band as the only reasonable thing to do. A self-declared folk artist to the bone with a penchant for silt rivers and old songs in minor keys, Hogan says they found their indie rock alter-ego because “being an artist and being gay in the deep south makes people want to be loud sometimes.”

    A quick youtube search on the Lilli Lewis moniker will reveal plenty of earnest little morsels from the artist, alongside comments like, “Most slept on black folk singer–I listen to her when I want to be high on my soul,” and the inevitable, “Why haven’t I heard of you before?” That could be because for the last 5 years, the deceptively shy soul/folk songstress from Athens, GA has been living in Louisiana, making “hallelujah and shake your booty” music with The Shiz, a band rumored to have “enough energy to power a large city” (indie-music.com).

    The two were already mutually inspired by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, Indigo Girls, and Toshi Reagon, but on long road trips across the country they began to discover deeper resonances in their respective musical languages. Liz shared artists and icons like Mark Knopfler, Tom Petty, and her personal giant, Neil Young, while Lilli handed down the likes of Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, and Giant Steps himself, John Coltrane.

    Hogan and Lewis discovered in each other’s writing a mutual compulsion to speak on weighted truths more elusive than what they tended to hear from their peers. When they finally started writing together, they found that the substance of their differences made the music real. They called their collaboration The Shiz, mostly to close the door on taking themselves too seriously, and released their first eponymous EP as part of the 2009 RPM Challenge. Their first full length studio album, Where We Stand, was recorded a few short months later by Liz’s uncle, Nashville veteran Sam Tritico, at Island Music in Merritt Island, FL. The album won favor with a cross-generational audience, but the lineup that made the record didn’t last the year. Over time and after a rotating door of guest members, they found kindreds in drummer Wade Hymel and bassist David Alan Craig.

    Multi-instrumentalist Wade Hymel joined The Shiz in the fall of 2009, originally as the bass player. Hymel, a talented composer, arranger, and frontman with an infamous gift for being able to make music out of anything from cajon to car keys, now features as The Shiz’s drummer and expert percussionist. As an early Shiz fan who seemed to know all the songs better than the band, Hymel first caught the eyes of Lewis and Hogan while performing with his bands “204″ and “Black Polka Dots” (a White Stripes tribute band). Hymel displayed sincere melodic innovation on bass, and then shifted his rare, discerning, energetic facility to the drums when bassist David “Alan” Craig joined the Shiz in 2012.

    Alan Craig, son of singer/songwriter David Craig (a local legend whose songs have been recorded by any number of rock, country and blues artists including Memphis Slim and Clarence Gatemouth Brown), lived on the other side of the wall from The Shiz’s rehearsal space for over a year before Lewis and Hogan discovered that he was a musician. An impromptu front-stoop conversation about the value of a good song and live original music led to Craig joining up shortly thereafter. From his first notes, Craig provided grounding for the band’s sound, and offered a no frills, “only play what serves the song” approach, reflecting the musical authenticity he’d grown up with. Craig remembers when his father helped build the remarkable Studio in the Country in Bogalusa, LA, the landmark facility that has been the studio of choice for legends like Jimmy Buffett and Stevie Wonder. Thanks to the Craigs, The Shiz recorded the first EP for their latest album, Meet You in the Morning (Elysium House Records, 2013), along with the single “New Jim Crow,” at that infamous studio.

    Meet You in the Morning, co-produced by The Shiz and TJ Barends (Bare Sounds Productions at Sir-Reel Studios, Hammond, LA), is an ambitious 70 minute 14 song opus with a wide ebb and flow reminiscent of Tom Petty (one of the band’s most obvious heroes) and his Wildflower days. Singles include “Juggernaut,” “Driftin’,” and “For the People” from Hogan, and “New Jim Crow” and “Sleep Baby, Slumber” from Lewis. As with any album conceived project, the songs, diverse as they are, belong to each other, and are held together by the quartet’s “electric chamber music” approach and Barends’ roots based sensibilities. These qualities lend a youthful, transparent authenticity to the relatively mature and nuanced collection. Challenging industry and ideology from the BP Oil Spill to the prison industrial complex, the themes are both topical and existential in nature, and rely on their southern/bluesy roots to balance and at times lighten the material. A notable exception to this, however, is the 7 minute tone poem “Boxcar,” a song written by Lewis and Hogan after experiencing an exhibit of the same name at a Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, FL in 2012.

    The deluxe edition of the recording, only available for download at theshiz.bandcamp.com, includes a studio outtake of “Broken Wings, ” the only original love song in the band’s repertoire to date. When asked about the glaring the absence love-based themes in their writing, Lewis mentions that so many of the love songs she knows “don’t seem to be about love of the requited variety.” She says sometimes their most political action is “just showing up as themselves,” as their Uncle Sam had once put it. And since she and Hogan are currently lucky enough to enjoy a relationship that actually works, they are free to use their music to work on other ideas, like personal sovereignty and redemption.

    The album features a number of worthy collaborators, most notably violinist Andrew Robin and guitarist Owen Scott, III. Owen Scott, a friend and former band-mate of the late B52′s founding member Ricky Wilson, is a fellow Athens, GA native who left the city the same year Lewis was born. Lewis recruited Scott after a coincidental meeting in Baton Rouge, LA, just as the band was going into pre-production on the new album. Owen is featured on “New Jim Crow” and “For the People,” along with the decidedly Athens / REM influenced tune, “The Rapture.”

    The Shiz embarked on Midwest and Southeast tours in support of their debut album Where We Stand, and a West Coast tour in support of the Studio in the country EP I AM, which was recorded by studio engineer Ben Mumphrey (stage sound mixer for the Pixies’ 2004 reunion tour, documented in the film loudQuietloud: A Film About the Pixies). 2013 saw the band become a constant presence on stages throughout the gulf region. The Shiz climbed to Reverbnation’s Top 10 New Orleans Rock Charts, became a regional finalist in the Hard Rock Cafe’s Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands, featured in the re-launch of indie-music.com, gained “Next Big Thing” kudos on AfterEllen.com, and performed in the New Works Showcase at New Orleans’s 21st Annual Cutting Edge Conference. Recent singles can be heard on radio all about the region, including New Orleans’s signature station, WWOZ.

    Hogan and Lewis now reside in New Orleans, LA, where Hogan is completing an MFA in Poetry from the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans. Lewis is a freelance musician/composer/producer/engineer and manager of Elysium House Records, a boutique label specializing in releasing “innovative, soulful music” informed by the Southern American aesthetic.

    As a duo, Lewis and Hogan can be heard monthly at The Neutral Ground, the South’s oldest Coffeehouse, where they win over patrons of every variety with their earnest signature sound.

    The couple agree that the band name, first designed to keep them from taking themselves too seriously, has come to represent a calling. The Shiz calls for its members and fans alike to invest in things that are good, things that matter. They believe art still matters, music still matters, and people pouring their everything into something for no other reason than the love they may hold for it still matters. Any music born of such calling is what this band proudly calls Shiz Rock.

    ROOTS & BRANCHES

    A 2010 transitional hiatus allowed Lilli and Liz to form “Self Evidence,” an acoustic duo with a focus on activism and social justice. The two did two short stints in the Midwest and were invited to perform for various events around the country, like IDAHO Atlanta and Toledo Pride (opening for BITCH at OUTSKIRTS Toledo). They also engineered and co-produced the debut album from Oberlin Ohio’s feminist garageband, BACKBONE.

    They also took the opportunity to complete a longtime dream of Lilli’s, which was to record a collection of Spirituals from the African-American folk tradition that resulted in The Promised Land: Songs of the Sacred South. Enlisting fellow band mates and local talent, the album launched the jazz/bluegrass offshoot “The Promised Land Players,” which features violinist Andrew Robin and flutist/composer Nicole Chamberlain.