It’s Tuesday, the day before Shanneyganock is scheduled to release two musical DVDs, and the DVDs are missing. “The last time we had track of them, they were in Moncton,” singer Chris Andrews said.
Better late than never, though: the DVDs arrived Thursday afternoon, and were on store shelves in time for the weekend’s shopping crowds.
The DVDs are about as different as they could be: one, “Live on George Street,” is a concert DVD, filmed over two rowdy nights at The Rock House last May, and an accompaniment to their CD of the same name, released last fall. The other, called “Journey,” features decades’ worth of video footage of Newfoundland and Labrador scenery shot by Gerry Boland, with background music by the band.
The latter is a project Shanneyganock has wanted to do for years, Andrews said, and is aimed at both tourists and locals alike.
“It’s something we’ve always dreamed about, and Gerry has some unbelievable images of Newfoundland scenery that make me feel very, very impressed and proud,” he said.
“Newfoundland and Labrador always looks great, but the video is really well-done and really represents us.”
“Live on George Street” represents the band, too — or at least what it’s best known for: a foot-stomping, bottle-clinking, laughing, singing good time.
While the DVD cuts between the Friday and Saturday night shows, there are no overdubs or other edits, Andrews explained, meaning it’s as close to a real Shanneyganock show as you can get.
“You can hear us when we shag up,” Andrews said with a laugh. “I think if you play a perfect show, there’s something wrong — you’re not into it enough, or something. When you’re caught up in the fun, jumping around on stage and getting tangled up in cables, it’s bound to happen.
“We want the audience to go cracked, and we’re more than willing to go cracked with them.”
A couple of the songs weren’t meant to be included on the DVD when the original track list was made up, but were added because of an extra-enthusiastic audience reaction. In between each song, band members give wisecracks and little blurbs about where the song came from.
Shanneyganock plays a mix of traditional music and original tunes, and songs like Eddy Grant’s “I Don’t Wanna Dance,” accordion-style. Many of the original songs are written by Andrews, and others by band member Mark Hiscock.
When Andrews writes, he said, he writes for a voice other than his own, which is undeniably deep and scruffy.
“I’m a ballad-writer,” he explained. “I find the band really hard to write songs for, and I find it hard to write for myself. When I write, I picture Mark or someone else singing them.”
Some traditional songs, like “I Had a Hat” and “Our Town,” might as well have been written by Shanneyganock, since they’ve come to be the band’s signature tunes. While they might not always be Andrews’ favourite songs to play — having performed them over and over — they’re ones the band will always do live, he said.
“People come to hear us perform songs like ‘I Had a Hat,’ so we do them,” he explained. “I guess that’s the difference between musicians and entertainers: musicians play what they want, while entertainers play to the audience. I think we’re a combination of both.”
Together for about 16 years, Shanneyganock started out as a pub band, charming St. John’s audiences with ballads, sea shanties, and jigs and reels alike. Since then, they’ve released eight albums (and have been featured on numerous compilations), have won five MusicNL awards and earned a 2008 East Coast Music Award nomination, have completed several cross-Canada tours, and performed in Doha, Qatar.
They’ll host their sixth annual Shanneyganock Christmas at the Delta Hotel ballroom in St. John’ Dec. 27, joined by special guests Matt Hornell and the Diamond Minds.
While Andrews said the band has grown up over the last number of years, having moved from the bar scene to concert venues and now taking their music more seriously, its sound hasn’t changed much, and the members continue to set goals for themselves.
“Our first goal, when we started, was that we had to play Erin’s Pub,” he explained. “And then we had to play The Blarneystone. Then we had to do the matinee at Greensleeves, because there were a lot of big bands playing there at that time. Then our goal was to fill O’Reilly’s (Pub), and then it was to fill The Delta.
“We set new goals more or less every two years. If we don’t reach them, then we’ve got to re-examine what we’re doing.”
The goal they’re working on now is cracking the American folk music market, and Andrews reckons they could be on their way. They’ve made some good contacts within the folk festival circuit, and have been getting pointers from MusicNL and the East Coast Music Association when it comes to exporting their product.
No matter what, though, Shanneyganock has no plans to leave the island to seek their fame elsewhere.
“We’re fiercely proud to be from here, and we always have been, even when maybe it wasn’t cool to be fiercely proud to be from here,” Andrews said, laughing. “None of us are getting any younger, so if we can make a decent living and stay here, we’ll be as happy as pigs in you-know-what.”
Shanneyganock’s “Live on George Street” and “Journey” DVDs are available now in local outlets including Fred’s Records, O’Brien’s Music and Costco.
Tickets for Shanneyganock Christmas are restricted to those aged 19 and older, are $35, and are available at the Mile One Centre box office, by calling 576-7657 and online at www.admission.com.