The NYC band the Shivers came through San Diego last week, making several stops, including one at Habitat House, an unconventional venue and living room-turned-gallery space in the Golden Hills site of the nonprofit art collective Sezio.
Before the show, I spent the afternoon filming with the Keith Zarriello and Jo Schornikow of the Shivers in the caves of Point Loma for an organization I work called Invisible Children. Among other things, we talked about their impromptu set at the Casbah the prior evening as a last-minute opener for San Diego's the Tree Ring; suffice it to say that this band has made the rounds in San Diego.
Zarriello, a Queens native with a rusted voice, and Schornikow, a soft-spoken Australian pianist, share an interesting dynamic that plays out like one between siblings, taking delicate regard for one another. Their earnest awe of San Diego landscape suggests the recent New York winter has weathered them, a season that is only redeemable for the wealth of songs it inspired, including a new record, More, along with an impressive discography that includes a fully complete unreleased album that remains in limbo, as well as Zarriello's solo album, Truants for Life.
The band remains largely unknown, but, like some of the best-kept secrets, it has acquired a cult following among those who adore them. Some of those followers made their way to the Habitat House living room, spilling onto couch corners and wooden floors -- the biggest crowd to occupy that space so far. Their friends in the LA band Races rounded out the band, providing bass, guitar and drums.
The Shivers began their set with Zarriello walking through the crowd, mysteriously sporting giant sunglasses for their first song, "Irrational Love"; then moving on to "Kisses," a song with penetrating soul. He is often so taken by the music that it brings him to his knees and then, just as swiftly, the set list transitions to more humorous, light-hearted tunes. Their indie status allows them the freedom to be entirely themselves, whether they're eccentric, funny or heartbreaking. Schornikow provides vocals for some of the songs, with bewitching elegance, singing like a voyeur, "Watching you, watching me, watching you."
Watching the Shivers, you get the sense that you're in the presence of real musicians; their entire performance was tight, sophisticated guitar solos and staccato keys, soulful bass tones and a remarkable cohesiveness, considering they invited accompaniment for the night. But what is most impressive is the soul, the way Schornikow laughs in delight while playing and how Zarriello looks at her as if none of us were even there.
Between songs, Zarriello spoke about their tour -- including an accidental conversion to Mormonism while in Utah -- and his absolute gratitude to Habitat for inviting them. They wrapped up their set with "Afrikaan Passport" which they blended into a cover of the Everly Brothers "All I Have to Do Is Dream." Then for their finale, they sang their haunting title track "More," which builds in intensity and soars with every desire -- "More love-making, more real, less faking" -- and they delivered just that.
Nada Alic runs the San Diego-based music blog Friends With Both Arms and works in artist relations for the nonprofit organization Invisible Children. Follow her updates on Twitter or contact her directly.