Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
Some rock bands go on extended benders, partying and drinking their nights and weeks away. theSHIFT’s lead singer and guitar player John Shannon would rather spend that time in deep meditation in the middle of the desert.
“I’m a vision quester,” the NYC rocker explains, “so I’ll go out in the desert and sit for four days in a circle with no food, just water.”
Shannon admits, “It's pretty extreme, I know, but it’s the idea that you don’t put anything into your body, and you just sit with nature, and your physical vibration starts to fuse with the natural vibration of the earth, and that opens up visions, and experiences, that motivate your life, and your purpose.”
He adds that the Native American tradition, “Reinforces your drive, and commitment, to live a meaningful life.”
Describing the ideology of theSHIFT as “pro mind altering,” Shannon notes that the band’s name represents their ethos. “It’s meant to encapsulate the most transcendental meaning,” he explains, “to shift your mind state about something. To shift your attitude. To shift your energetic levels. To shift your vibrations. For us, it’s all about doing these kinds of things through music.”
While the band, which also includes drummer MJ Lambert, and bassist Ben Geis, is shifting all of those things with their music, they’re also making every effort to shift rock and roll back to its more adventurous roots.
“I think a lot of the danger is gone,” Shannon laments of the current state of rock music. “Take something like a guitar solo. The guitar solo has, at least in popular rock music, completely disappeared, and there’s almost been this kind of anti being able to play that’s developed in the indie scene.”
“When you open up a song you bring in an element of chance,” Shannon continued, “and when you bring that element of chance in, like this could just fall over, or this could go higher, it’s like the energy increases. It can become extremely more high octane, and in the moment, so you can share that experience with the audience, and within the band, whereas when you just play a song from start to finish, like everything exactly the same night after night after night, it’s just very safe. It’s a very safe approach, knowing exactly what’s gonna happen, and just kind of letting the song play itself out. That’s not what rock and roll means to us. We just feel like a lot of rock music out there today is very safe in that way.”
Veteran session musicians who have also toured with everyone from John Mayer, and Ben Harper, to Lauren Hill, Slick Rick, and Big Daddy Kane, the men of theSHIFT are going to show the world what rock and roll means to them with their debut EP, 7th Direction, which is due out April 14th.
Much like with Shannon’s vision quests, 7th Direction has its roots in Native American culture, which is something Shannon’s been interested in since his teenage years, when he spent time at a tracking, and wilderness awareness, school led by renowned expert Tom Brown Jr.
Shannon explains the album’s cultural tie-in, saying, “There’s the first four directions, east, south, west, and north, and then there’s the direction to the sky, which is the fifth direction, and the direction to the earth, which is the sixth direction. The seventh direction is the direction within, and even though it’s the direction within, when you go in you also go out, so it’s like a connecting to the cosmos and yourself, or yourself within the cosmos.”
Knowing that not everyone is going to be accepting of his ideologies, Shannon addresses those concerns on 7th Direction’s lead single, “Kobra.” “What I’m talking about, they’re pretty out there things, but they’re real experiences for me, and catching flack from people for writing lyrics, and writing music, that’s not totally understandable, and is more metaphorical, ‘Kobra’ was a response to that.”
Perhaps if enough people listen to “Kobra” it will alter their feelings on alternative ways of life, but even if it doesn’t, Shannon states, “We’re in this to do this for the energy, for the music, and to win.”
Being able to live the lifestyle he wants, and choose the Direction of his music, equates to quite the win for Shannon, and one doesn’t have to go on a vision quest to see that.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.