The Shrine's Rock & Roll Worship

The Shrine, Venice Beach’s premier skate-rock band, talk their new album and more

A couple of years ago, my band Boy King was wrapping up an opening set at Soda Bar. After taking our equipment off stage, we walked out front, eager for the evening’s crisp air and a respite from the volume inside. There, we were met by the sight of three long-haired, grizzled-lookin’ dudes in torn up jean-jacket vests unloading their equally beat-up van. Presumably, they were the next band: the Shrine.

As we stood there, mouths cringing and agape, they threw their completely torn-to-shreds Marshall speaker cabinets onto the ground in a vulgar display of disregard, and then proceeded to drag them -- one by one -- across the cement, scraping their way all the way from the sidewalk, through the venue and its patrons, onto the stage. Right then, we knew we'd be in for some righteous rock carnage.

After stacking those cabinets onstage and powering their amps up, the Venice Beach, California trio launched matter-of-factly into some of the gnarliest skate-rock jams we’d ever heard. At that moment, I was glad to still be standing outside: The Shrine don’t just play hard (as their battered music gear could attest to), they also play loud. Extremely loud. And that’s what you can expect when the band takes the Music Box stage on Friday, April 8.

Fresh off the release of their third studio full-length, “Rare Breed,” the band (composed of guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau, bassist Courtland Murphy and drummer Jeff Murray) barge down a hard-rock road paved years back by legendary bands like Motorhead, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath. Running by and large on the pure punk energy of their hometown skate/music culture, the Shrine barrel full force through the grungiest of rock/quasi-metal riffs and guitar solo freakout jams.

They describe their music as “psychedelic violence,” so I was half-expecting the band’s frontman to be half-awake and hungover when we talked by phone recently -- and I couldn’t have been more wrong (my bad). Landau, ever polite and gracious, was refreshingly down to earth as we discussed their latest album, writing process -- and what it was like rocking out with the almighty Lemmy.

Dustin Lothspeich: The Shrine is pretty embedded in the skate-rock scene. How has that culture influenced you and the band throughout the years?
Josh Landau: I think growing up, we all learned about music through skating. And on the west side of LA, in Santa Monica, and Venice -- even before I was old enough to skate, you’re attracted to skateboarding. You’d look at dudes’ shirts and even the graphics would make an impression. You found out about the Misfits and Metallica, and it just rolled from there. Even now, in our little world and among our friends, skateboarding is the key to the world. It unlocks everything you need. It’s kind of a worldwide club.

DL: You’ve talked in the past about your willingness to be homeless, if necessary, to pay for things like a band rehearsal space, etc. Does that still ring true for you?
JL: It feels like common sense. I don’t live in my car, but there’s a lot of other things that naturally get sacrificed. You don’t think about it, but you talk to someone else and they bring up their regular life, and you realize that you do miss out on things. You end up sacrificing personal relationships because you’re so happy doing what you’re doing.

DL: Was it a lot rougher when you were starting out?
JL: Oh, yeah. The first tour we did was terribly booked. There was literally no one at the shows. We’d be driving from Kansas to Chicago, to Indianapolis, all while playing to nobody, and we just went with it. It was a miserable, roundabout tour. But you know what? You come back, and you’re beat and exhausted, but a couple days later you go, “Man, I wanna leave again.”

DL: I’m sure there’s perks now though. You guys have played with some true rock & roll legends, like the tour you did with Motorhead, for example. Was it rad meeting Lemmy?
JL: Absolutely. When we went on that Motorhead tour, he was not doing that well. It was bittersweet. But he was giving it all, playing two full sets every night. But yeah, it was incredible to meet him.

DL: Your guys’ new record, “Rare Breed,” dropped earlier this year. What was that recording experience like vs. 2012’s “Primitive Blast” and 2014’s “Bless Off”?
JL: It was the biggest process we’ve ever went through. Worked with a producer for the first time, and worked in a real studio for the first time. The producer, Dave Jerden, who worked on some huge '90s records [Alice in Chains, Social Distortion, the Offspring], went into a guitar shop near our house, and our friends were like, “Hey, you gotta check out this rock & roll band from around here.” It was the longest process ever, a lot of mixing. He did his thing, layering this stuff -- we did a lot more layers of guitars. It was kind of scary. He wanted this big sound, which he got.

DL: Do you prefer one sound to another? Stripped-down sound vs. big studio sound?
JL: Each kind of has its own place. [Jerden] was very passionate; he was awesome to hang out with and work with. I’m really stoked about a lot of the songs we put on that record. But maybe we’ll do a mixture of both [styles] for the next one.

DL: Are you guys already at work on a new record?
JL: Yeah, we’re already jamming on a whole bunch of new songs. We’re really excited about them, but you know, you’re always super pumped about what’s next.

DL: Tell me about the process. Do you guys just jam on a riff for a long time until it becomes something?
JL: Sometimes I’ll just bring a riff into the jam room, and we end up playing it for 30 minutes. Sometimes I bring in a full, rough idea. Sometimes I’ll have an idea for three years, and it just doesn’t stick. A lot of times, a guitar riff comes into my head when I’m falling asleep -- I’ll be singing it to myself, and I’ll be thinking, “This riff is so f---ing sick,” and you wake up the next morning and you have no idea what it was [laughs].

DL: It seems like you’re all about guitar, man. Like that’s the only thing that matters to you. Is that about right?
JL: Honestly, yeah. My favorite things to do are walking my dog and playing guitar. It’s hard to explain… but it’s just what feels right.

The Shrine headline Music Box on Friday, April 8, with Joy, Sacri Monti and Petyr opening. Tickets are $12 and available for purchase here.

Dustin Lothspeich plays in Diamond Lakes and Boy King, and runs Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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