Katie Hammon and Rick Spataro, who together form the songwriting team of Slender Shoulders, make for rather unassuming rock musicians.
Their shyness in person — Hammon is the louder of the two, but only slightly — is fitting, given their penchant for ethereal, dreamy pop in the vein of Camera Obscura or Belle and Sebastian. But it can lead to some awkward moments onstage.
“I say a lot of things to make people uncomfortable, I think,” Spataro said recently from the recording studio at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, where the duo met roughly two years ago. “Just things that are generally not funny — like, excruciatingly not funny.”
Hence, the band’s “stage presents.”
“We always said we didn’t have stage presence or something like that,” Hammon said. “And one time we brought — or our friend brought, presents wrapped up.”
with Palatypus, Holly and Evan, El Duke
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Valentine’s, 17 New Scotland Ave., Albany
How Much: $7
More Info: www.valentinesalbany.com, 432-6572
“It was at the Ground Zero show [at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute], which was our first show with Collin [Reynolds, keyboards] and Eric [Margan, bass],” Spataro said. “A friend of mine had said, ‘You guys are really good, but you don’t have any stage presence because you don’t really do anything.’ So . . . she was like, ‘You should get presents, like, gifts, like big boxes with bows, and put them onstage, and just —”
“And it was around Christmas time,” Hammon added.
“Really quietly ask, ‘You guys like our stage presents?’ to the crowd,” Spataro finished. “People like that, though. So we had these big gift-wrapped boxes with bows and stuff on them.”
Capital Region audiences have embraced the band’s quirky style. The group, which features Margan, Reynolds and drummer Matthew Loiacono (aka Matthew Carefully) for live performances, has gone from playing open-mike nights in coffee shops a year ago, to being one of the featured acts at WEXT’s Exit Dome 4 in January. Since that show, full-band gigs have become the norm for Slender Shoulders — the band plays Valentine’s on Friday night, along with Palatypus, Holly and Evan and El Duke.
“The shows we’ve had recently have been bigger shows,” Spataro said. “They’ve been either at Valentine’s, where no one wants to listen to quiet music, or the Exit Dome. That was originally — we were going to do it as a two-piece, but they gave us permission to do it as a band, and everyone wanted to, so that worked out well.”
But it’s only been in the past year that the band has really performed live at all. For a year prior, Spataro and Hammon would write songs and record in the practice rooms at Saint Rose, in order to utilize the keyboards there. The two met in late 2008 in a music industry class, (Spataro has since left Saint Rose, while Hammon is working on her senior project, which will be a solo album to be released in May.)
“I heard some songs she wrote,” Spataro said. “I was like, in school for music and had no projects at that point. So I was like, ‘I should do something; she writes good songs. We should play.’ ”
Catskill native Spataro, who also plays drums with Margan’s Red Lions and Que Caro, hadn’t written many complete songs before. Hammon, on the other hand, had been writing for a good four years at that point.
“I went to an arts high school and took songwriting there,” Hammon said. “I grew up in Washington state, and there’s a school in Tacoma, Washington, that is The School of the Arts, which is — it’s got visual arts, performing arts, all arts, basically. And you audition to get in, but it’s a public school.”
Their first show, as a duo, was at the former Muddy Cup in Albany for the Madison Theater premiere of the indie horror film “Lonely Joe,” featuring local actor Daniel Trinh. The project slowly grew from there, with Margan, Reynolds and Loiacono coming into the fold.
Developing the music
“We ended up recording quite a bit when we first started, because we wanted a lot of parts,” Hammon said. “And the stuff on the Myspace [www.myspace.com/slendershoulders] is pretty old; it’s all stuff that we did last year or the year before.”
“We just found — OK, so we have this music, and there’s like six different parts, but there’s only two of us,” Spataro said. “What are we gonna do? OK, let’s try and make some friends.”
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