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Live in the Clubs

Reunited Shiny Toy Guns on tour

Mutual respect, saner schedule make rockers’ collaboration easier

Thursday, February 21, 2013
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Live in the Clubs


The Shiny Toy Guns, a Los Angeles-based electronic rock band, will be at Upstate Concert Hall on Tuesday. (photo: Benjy Russell)
The Shiny Toy Guns, a Los Angeles-based electronic rock band, will be at Upstate Concert Hall on Tuesday. (photo: Benjy Russell)

The newly reunited members of Los Angeles-based electronic rockers Shiny Toy Guns have finally learned to respect one another while on the road, and it’s made all the difference.

“If one of the boys in the band needs to do something, he gets to do it,” bassist and synth player Jeremy Dawson said recently from the band’s satellite rehearsal space in Oklahoma City.

“If Carah [Faye Charnow, vocalist] runs out of eyelashes — to a guy, it’s like, whatever, just . . . deal with it. No, you actually deal with it; you pull over and you get the eyelashes. That literally makes her whole day — the little things are important, especially with a girl. You’ve got to respect everybody, and everybody’s got their own little thing that makes them happy.”

By 2008, an overly ambitious tour schedule and the ensuing tensions among band members had pushed Charnow out of the group. It took three years for the original quartet to reunite. Charnow relocated to Sweden and started a new band called Versant with then-husband Daniel Johansson, while the rest of the band — vocalist and guitarist Gregori Chad Petree, Dawson and drummer Mikey Martin — soldiered on with new vocalist Sisely Treasure and a new album, 2008’s “Season of Poison,” a harder-rocking affair than their 2006 debut “We Are Pilots.”

Shiny Toy Guns

and Dirty Heads with Midi Matilda and Oh No Fiasco!

Where: Upstate Concert Hall, 1208 Route 146, Clifton Park

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

How Much: $22 (doors); $20 (advance)

More Info: 371-0012, www.upstateconcerthall.com

On the road again

Now, with a new album, “III,” that more strongly recalls the electro-pop hooks of “We Are Pilots,” the band is once again hitting the road. They’ll be touring with The Dirty Heads, Midi Matilda and Oh No Fiasco! as part of Tour Odyssey, which heads to Upstate Concert Hall on Tuesday night.

Along with a newfound sense of respect, the band is also touring smarter. Unlike the touring behind “We Are Pilots,” which saw the band playing up to 300 dates a year for two years, often crossing the globe multiple times in a single week, the band is taking a more measured approach to show offers.

“Nobody saw the warning signs. We were right out of high school, and 300 shows a year was a killer, but we didn’t know that — we were just stoked to be on the road and to have the opportunity to do this,” Dawson said.

“What we’re doing now is we’re taking a second look at things and asking, should we do this? Do we really need to do that? There were some instances — we were doing stuff like, we would open for The Cure in Miami, and the next day at 5 a.m. we’re on a plane to Berlin, and then we’d turn around and fly back to L.A., and then go to Toronto.”

Charnow returned to the band in 2011 after Martin and Dawson visited her in Sweden. At the time the band had started working on “III,” and Treasure had recently announced her departure from the group. The band would eventually spend three years working on the album, one of many reasons for the title.

“Her coming back to the band had to happen in the most organic way possible; it had to be natural and real and completely uninstigated, and that’s what actually happened,” Dawson said.

Relationship dynamics frayed

“A couple of us flew out there when we were beginning to patch communications, and once we did that we sort of realized that the things we thought were wrong — basically, it was so metaphoric of our relationship, so much. ‘You said this’; ‘I said this’; ‘You made me mad about that’; ‘But you did that’ — once we unraveled the whole thing we realized that nobody really thought anything that the other people thought he did. Everybody was just tired and wanted to go home and see their family.”

Charnow brought a new songwriting sensibility to the band — on “We Are Pilots,” Dawson and Petree composed the majority of the material on their own. With three songwriters involved in the process, the resulting album became a much more personal affair than either of the group’s previous efforts.

According to Dawson, the album focuses on the themes of life, death and love (another reason for the title). Everything from Charnow’s divorce from Johansson (who had joined the band briefly when Charnow returned) to the group’s own fraught history are covered on songs such as “Speaking Japanese,” lead-off track and new single “Somewhere to Hide” and the subdued “Waiting Alone.”

“With life — our male singer, Chad, he has a daughter now; with death, a lot of us lost family members and friends. And then a lot of us found love and lost love,” Dawson said. “Every song has a moment or a story that’s very, very personal and very, very real.”

For Dawson, “III” represents the album the band would have made after “We Are Pilots” had Charnow not left the band. But the band isn’t disowning “Season of Poison,” the album that earned the band its biggest radio airplay with such singles as “Ghost Town” and “Ricochet.” While the sound of that album is darker than either the first album or the new album, the change hasn’t been jarring enough to lose the band any audience.

“We picked up a bunch of new fans on the second album that had never heard of the first one,” Dawson said. “The first and third albums are more programmed, more electronic, but it’s not like we did an extreme hard left or hard right anywhere. It’s a pretty good blend each way.”

 
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