David Roush begins writing furiously on a chalkboard. His etchings read, “Fast…Loud.”
Roush turns around, laughs and points to his note.
“This is our music,” he said.
Two words seem to vastly underplay the variety of sounds Ecce Shnak provides. Roush, the band’s vocalist-guitarist, shows no loyalty to a particular vocal style, performing everything from a harsh scream to rap to delicate, skilled falsetto.
Roush, along with trumpet and synthesizer player John Slavin, bassist Michael Corso, keyboardist-guitarist Jordan Ryan, keyboardist Drake Tyler and drummer Bill Ricci make up the experimental band Ecce Shnak.
Four of the six members are current Temple students. Roush studies classical guitar performance; Slavin, jazz music education; Ryan, jazz performance; and Ricci, biology.
“We were all nerd music students at Temple,” Roush said. “I had a music history class with [Slavin], and I saw [Ryan] kick a– at keyboard.”
The band, having been together for a little more than a year, is currently working on recording a three-song EP with Kyle Pulley of local Philly band Dangerous Ponies. The band was scheduled to play Connie’s Ric-Rac on Feb. 8, but the show was canceled due to inclement weather.
The band’s next live performance will be a show organized by Philly Socialists on March 21 at The Fire. The band is excited about the show being 18 and over.
“It’s annoying – I remember being under 21 and having to sneak in to the venue or just being so bummed I couldn’t get in,” Slavin said. “[We are trying to do more 18-plus shows], and house shows are a great way to do that, and luckily The Fire is setting up 18-plus shows now.”
THE TEMPLE NEWS: Are you guys missing a member?
JOHN SLAVIN: We had a lady that was with us for the beginning of the band. Then, we didn’t have a lady for a couple of gigs, and the band sort of stopped playing for a little while over the summer. I was in Ghana, [Ricci] was hiking everywhere, [Tyler] was in India, [Ryan] was in York, Pa., [Corso] was in Philly, [Roush] was in Philly. But we were all like, doing different stuff. We came back, tried out a different lady – she played with us at Johnny Brenda’s. We’re still thinking about it.
TTN: What’s the energy like sharing the stage with so many people at once?
DAVID ROUSH: We try to flirt with each other. [Ryan] and [Slavin] – when they flirt, the music kicks a–. When their relationship grows cold, the music starts to get timid and barren – emotionally barren. One thing that’s really important is goofing with the audience. If someone is particularly interested or responsive, you don’t want to leave that person sitting there, not hanging with you. So goof with them, try to get them on stage, joke with them – that’s how you keep the [show] alive.
JS: [Roush] and I have talked multiple times about how we’re tired of going to shows and playing shows where people aren’t dancing or involved. They just sort of stand there with their pint glass in the back. Which is fine, to go out and want to drink and have fun and see a good band, but we aim to try to get people involved in the set as equally as we are involved with each other.
TTN: I was going to call you guys out on that, because you talk up your live performances a lot on your BandCamp profile.
DR: Does it sound arrogant?
TTN: It sounds like you’re going to bring it. It sounds confident enough that it warrants an interview question. So, what can someone expect from your live performance?
BILL RICCI: Expect to be offended.
JS: I’d say, expect to at moments feel borderline uncomfortable.
DR: If you feel OK, let us tickle you a little bit. And tickle us back, as long as you don’t jump on our stuff. We had a really bad experience where this not nice boy jumped on our art project that we made that symbolized our vitality and our friendship…and this [guy] just jumped up and down on top of it. Expect to play, have the chance to play and be a little spooked. Let yourself be tickled and tickle us back. We are the tickle monsters.
TTN: Who writes the songs?
DR: I write most of them, but we are going to try to write more as a band.
TTN: When you’re writing songs, where do you draw inspiration from?
DR: My dear, dear friends are the No. 1 inspiration of my writing – relationships. My study of classical guitar jumps in a little bit – nothing profound, but little jokes, or I learn a chord or two from it. All of my friends who are musicians influence the sh– out of me.
JS: Outside of his compositions, what we all bring in – I know everyone has different musical backgrounds that influence the way his songs end up coming together as well. Me, specifically, I end up bringing in sounds I’ve heard from bands around Philly that we’re friends with – specifically Dangerous Ponies, who have been incredibly kind to us and gave us a ridiculous first gig that we couldn’t have asked for a better one. Rexedog, Shark Tape – a bunch of different bands.
TTN: The lyrics are pretty humorous in a lot of the band’s songs. What’s the benefit of making your audience laugh along with getting them to dance?
DR: Well, I think it allows them to take some of the insults and hits that might be in there a little bit more lightly. I need to get voice lessons – I like my voice, but I need to be able to really sing. But one really good thing about me with my vocals that I’m proud of is when you’re at a show and you understand a lyric or two in the din of a live performance, and it makes you laugh, it immediately identifies you with whoever is performing. Lyrics to me are so important.
TTN: What’s the story behind the album cover for “Jordan, You Have Woman in Your Beard?” [The album cover features Roush in only his underwear posing on a roof with a bedazzled guitar at his side.]
DR: A couple of years ago, my friend Deborah and I were playing around on a roof in New York City, and I took my pants and shirt off. She is a very fun photographer, and it was a cool, weird, sunny, but cloudy, day. Then I started flirting with this guitar that my friend, this gorgeous French lady named Elise, made with me. It was just a flirty, sexy, goofy time with this here guitar that I try to dink around with when I’m waking up too early in the morning on a Tuesday.
Jenelle Janci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.