They’ve been wearing suits to work for the last two years, but their job has been to rock your world. Instead of slinging briefcases, The Shift, a four-piece band, brings it with power pop that won’t stop.
Within its first two years, The Shift has performed in front of at least 15,000 opening for Soul Asylum, released their first full-length album, “If,” and toured regionally in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
The band has come a long way from their first 2015 parking lot gig for Art Blitz at the intersection of S. Broadway and 4th St. SW. According to the band’s bassist and vocalist Daniel Johnson, “there was only one little PA speaker remaining when we played.”
“By the time we got to play, one of the PA speakers blew,” elaborates Travis Allen, vocalist and guitarist.
In addition to Johnson and Allen, the band consists of Cole Ebertowski on guitar and vocals, and Taylor Nogosek on drums. Allen and Nogosek have history together from their stint with the nationally touring band the F-Ups which signed with Capitol records in 2003 but broke up in 2006.
Feb. 4th is the official date of The Shift’s second anniversary, and they’ll be playing a show at the Rochester Art Center (RAC) for the Andy Warhol: Minnesota Goes Pop exhibit opening.
Chad Allen, the director of Community Engagement and Interim Manager at the RAC, puts it this way, “We chose the boys because their fresh sound and cool factor are so effortless, much like Andy. He was cool because he was Andy. These cats are cool because they’re the Shift.”
Another local band, Second Story, is also slated to play alongside The Shift at the RAC. “We have been lucky enough to play with The Shift one other time…They are a very tight band. You can tell from the moment they do their sound checks. They have a desire to get the perfect sound, and you can tell they put a lot of pride in their craft,” says Second Story bassist Mike Terrill. He also praises The Shift for being “committed to bringing original music to our town.”
The Shift love performing; as Allen says, its “fun to play your own music in front of a bunch of people,” but the last two years have also included a lot of hard work. The band practices three times a week, worked on recording their album in the winter at the “Shift Shack “which was heated with a wood burning stove and a few space heaters, and sometimes survived on “gas station nuts and jerky” when they were on the road.
Where will the band be in the next two years? Nogosek quips “Japan.” Johnson says “Mayhaps vinyl records released and lucrative tours with national acts.” Noncommittally, Allen suggests “Doing whatever comes our way.” Ebertowski optimistically hopes, “I’d like to be a touring band. I’d like to have another full-length album out.”
Whatever the future holds, The Shift has already proven it is a band capable of great things.
How did The Shift form?
Travis: Daniel and I met at a Chipotle in about 2014 through some mutual friends. I had just moved to Rochester from Wisconsin. I really didn’t have any intention of starting up another band because I had moved here to get a better job so I could move out west. He finally convinced me to “jam.” So he and I drove out to Kasson where we met some other dudes and “jammed.” One of those dudes happened to be Cole. Like most “jam sessions” we had five people that could play guitar so Cole offered to take the position of the drums. I remember he had to use a chair as a snare stand. Anyway, after a while of fooling around, Cole picked up my guitar and started ripping some Eddie Van Halen solos. I was like “I have to play in a band with this dude.” Daniel and I eventually started “jamming” with Taylor but we needed a guitarist. I asked Daniel to “Just ask Cole.” He showed up. We clicked. The Shift was started.
Over the past year, you’ve played shows in at least three states, what’s it like to be doing a gig in DesMoines or Madison?
Taylor: It’s a completely different experience when playing in different areas of the county. People appreciate music in a different way. It’s like a subculture of the basic American culture. Different strides about life and the arts. I strongly suggest for any group to play as far away as possible to experience this unique consciousness.
Daniel: Its a lot of work and driving and lugging equipment into places where no one knows or really cares, but it is rewarding in that the promoters and sound techs and other bands become enthusiastic after hearing us and its just a good time not only playing the show but hanging out with each other on an adventure.
Cole: It’s great! Makes me feel like I’m in a real band. It’s my first time really experiencing the band life. I love it.
Since your band is named after a dress, what’s the story behind your black suits?
Travis: The only person that looked good in the dress was Taylor. Suits won by default.
Daniel: We promote the idea of The Shift dress in optimistic dreams that people will flock to our shows wearing shift dresses as soon as weather permits. The Shift name also references the shift you work at your job, the ongoing shift in consciousness that happens through history as a harbinger of change, the subtle shift in perspective that allows you to understand what was once opaque, the shift in attitude that allows you feel gratitude instead of griping, the shift key on your computer that lets you CAPITALIZE, etc. We wear suits to form a brotherly solidarity with each other and let you know we are here to put on a show. We are about participation and connection with an audience but the rock and roll idiom requires some amount of pretense and bombast to pull it off and wearing suits is our nod to the showmanship required.
What are you most excited about for your upcoming 2nd Anniversary RAC show?
Daniel: Diversity of audience. All ages. All backgrounds. Second Story playing. Andy Warhol art. Should be a special night.
Travis: To play with Second Story again! I have known two of the dudes for years. It is really cool to be in an event with them. Great band! Great dudes!
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned while playing with The Shift in the last two years?
Taylor: When everyone stays positive and tackles goals with an open heart, amazing things happen, and you are rewarded tenfold.
Daniel: The more you embrace and foster something for exactly what it is, the more it grows and blossoms, the more you try to wish, cajole, compare and control something the more it withers and escapes you.
Rumor on the street says you’ll be performing a cover of a Velvet Underground song to pay homage to pop icon Andy Warhol’s involvement with that band at your RAC show on Feb. 4th. What has the process of learning a song originally performed by The Velvet Underground been like? Can you give a teaser of The Velvet Underground song you’ll play?
Cole: The song only has a few chords in it so it’s pretty easy to learn. As for a hint… well… we’re having a guest singer…
Travis: The song we chose is pretty straight forward and easy. So the process hasn’t been terrible. She’s a killer is the teaser I guess… It will for sure sound more like us than The Velvet Underground. They have a unique sound I think that is hard to really replicate. I always feel like if you’re going to cover a song as an original band you have to put your own spin on it. Unless it is the Beatles. It doesn’t need a spin.
What question do you wish I’d asked you, and how would you answer it?
Cole: What do you think of the 2016 presidential election? No comment.
Taylor: What is the meaning of life? Experience….. Live life. Stop wasting half your life at a job. You’re giving your experience to someone else. Debt is the enemy that imprisons your soul. It is slavery. Only use what you need and nothing more.
Travis: How do you feel about the state of the world? We could do better.
Daniel: How do you like to dance? Close, very very close.