Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
"The Shaky Hands are five spirits with bodies that move like a wind storm."
Nick Delffs writes this to me, unsolicited last week. No one had asked him to give his band an identity beyond what we are left to decipher from the tales that they spin and the work they do upon stages and inside homey sound studios that could indubitably slake the thirst for autumnal orange light, supposedly the most becoming glow that could break upon anyone's skin and features. The only reason to mention the lighting and mood is because the songs that come encased on the band's self-titled full-length debut record seem to have grown plump and ripe like obese Floridian fruit, bursting with years of bathing in the sublime sun and still holding onto the rosy cheeks and toughness that comes with a hard winter.
The thawing and warm stockings make one appreciate the warm seasons - the growing days, when grapes and naval oranges engorge themselves - as if the seasons themselves were kings and princely. So, there's sunshine overpowering the ice. It happens all the time. The Shaky Hands, a band from Portland, Oregon, that may just be like a wind storm - if that's what they want to be with their bodies - is maybe more like the sober aftermath of the invisible rampage, the nasty howling that loosens shingles from rooftops and makes people question the sturdiness of their ranch-style houses as the walls and windows keep getting slapped with backhands. They're the somber, but thankful survivors of the blustery gusts, the dismissive arms swoops of sky, hunching over and collecting the various sticks, twigs and branches felled onto a soft lawn. They're the kind of people who understand that these sorts of things happen, but they still suck some ass when they do. It's just necessary to roll with those punches, forgetting as many of the causes and effects as they can when life's throwing lemons and curveballs, not softballs.
The aloof luster Nick Delffs floats his words upon is full of crimson, full of exasperation at times and full of unrequited...feelings. You hesitate above because you want to say it's that always talked about unrequited love, but it's more unrequited time and the embellishment of it that he sings about more often than that silly little thing called love - the easy way out. He sings in "Show Me Your Life" about some time that he's got to kill over there and wonders if you would or won't just kill it in tandem with him - even those wanting to murder time, like company for the procedure. He holds onto a quality of voice that is ramshackle and it does feel as if he's been shaken from sturdiness, from the firm standing that anyone wants to ask for from a situation, from the living hours, when we're guided along by our available sunrises and sunsets, a limited number we all comprehend. It's that iffiness in the depths of what he's thinking and singing that gives the band its unmistakable character - one that speaks to the unbearable heaviness of having water up to your chin and feeling it continue to rise, but still maintains a comforting momentum that seems to still suggest that the drain plug that you've been reaching for with anxious fingers is almost found and safety is arrived at.
There are no nasty or dire situations to speak of in Shaky Hands songs, just the ones that we forget to give the kind of weight to. Things don't have to be potentially disastrous to be life-and-death, they just have to occur and that - more than anything - is what Delffs wants to get across. There's a carpe diem attitude in his insistence to get in touch with everything - the society, neighborhood and people around you, closest to you. It isn't that cheerful and rah-rah though. It more asks the question, "Why did you drift? Why didn't you do more? Even so, no matter what you think, you did some things that shouldn't probably ever be forgotten." He sings, "How could your whole life be gone in seconds it seems so wrong/Maker, make a light to shine on those who need light" and in another he sings, "There's more to your life than you could ever know" and those are two thoughts joined at the hip. It's the consolation of a life wasted, but still lived. It's more about disfigurement and unrecognizable worth. These songs of crimson and untamed breeze are unforgettable even if all is treated as fleeting flight.
"After many nights of long drives and sleeping on the side of the road, we came to what seemed to be a radio station. We were warmly welcomed and greeted with beer and hand shakes. It was nice to not be in a bar or venue. Soon, we were shown an array of different instruments we could play. It felt like a dream. We set up and began making our sounds and moving our bodies, recording our spirits -- weary and worn." - Nick Delffs