Shannon and the Clams bring their diverse blend of rock to Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma

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If You Go

What: Shannon and the Clams

When: 4:20 p.m., Monday, Aug. 26

Where: Lagunitas Brewing Co., 1280 N McDowell Blvd., Petaluma

Admission: Free; Second round of tickets available Aug. 23 at noon


In many ways, Shannon and the Clams remains a prolonged art project for the duo who helped found the eclectic rock band, and an extension of the decade-plus friendship to see where next they can take their traveling exhibit on its open-ended gallery tour.

And with a fast-rising profile in the indie music scene, tour the Oakland-based foursome certainly has. Since releasing their fifth full-length album last February, they’ve played their usual Bay Area haunts to an adoring cult following, but also seen new doors swing open. The band has watched their catchy title climb higher up on lighted marquees out on the road, including headlining Aug. 26 at the Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma, in addition to opening for household-name acts at major venues across the country.

The recent warm reception and rapidly growing fan base are hardly what the lo-fi, DIY rockers expected in 2006 when they threw together a garage band as a creative outlet and to play East Bay house parties while attending the California College of the Arts in Oakland. But they’re also not arguing with the results as they turn the corner of recognition on the national stage.

“I’m constantly stunned that I get to do this. I’m really grateful,” said singer and bassist Shannon Shaw, the namesake for the band’s retro moniker. “I don’t know how far or how long this train ride is, but I’m lucky to be on this train. It’s a good one.”

Since even those early days, when the band was self-recording albums and learning on the job as each of the original trio stayed afloat between gigs by working at friends’ companies, the musicians bound themselves to their high-energy, zany-bordering-on-the-absurd origins. Today, it’s this same approach to playing shows and writing songs that they say helps keep them grounded while also maintaining the genuine, authentic experience for which they seek for themselves as well as their audiences.

If Shaw, with her soulful and at times throaty wails of lovers lost, is the heart of the band, then her co-conspirator, guitarist-singer Cody Blanchard, is its brain. He’s the laid-back musical savant compared to the raw emotion she puts on full display — what she called the yin and yang connection that’s made the pair “inseparable.”

“I’m so sensitive and emotional and just teeming. I’m like full of creative energy that’s hard to organize and harness,” said Shaw, 36, who was raised as a Mormon in rural Napa. “He’s super organized and super technical, super gifted and really good at taking my wild stallion and helping calm me down and help turn me into a beautiful show pony.”

Vintage look

What began in a video production class as an appreciation for the other’s sense of humor, music tastes and fantastical take on storytelling has built into basically more of the same. Despite gaining renown, the two still put their artistic talents to work in crafting album covers, music videos and wardrobes that have defined the band’s vintage look unlike much else out there.

“I often don’t realize how weird the band is,” said Blanchard, 34. “But when people who don’t know us see us, I think it’s probably a lot weirder than I think it is. We’re always dressed up and want to be sharp. We grew up in the ’90s where the standard was Sonic Youth or Nirvana, where you just wear your jeans on stage and stand there and play, and I think we want to do the opposite of that.”

If You Go

What: Shannon and the Clams

When: 4:20 p.m., Monday, Aug. 26

Where: Lagunitas Brewing Co., 1280 N McDowell Blvd., Petaluma

Admission: Free; Second round of tickets available Aug. 23 at noon


With their mishmash of genres that spans generations, from 1950s doo-wop and sock hop to ’60s surf rock and gritty ’80s punk, Shannon and the Clams eludes a suitable label. Critics have drawn comparisons to the B-52s, The Zombies and even Etta James — and each is no doubt an influence in the same way someone might reference the Mamas and the Papas — but Blanchard’s precise fingerpicking and twangy, spaghetti western riffs help give the music an echo of psychedelic revival all its own.

The band, with its complexion as a quartet fit for a classic high school prom, is rounded out by drummer Nate Mahan, who replaced the third founding member, Ian Amberson, when he left to pursue other artistic interests six years back, and newest addition Will Sprott as full-time keyboardist. Both have cemented a sound that’s propelled Shannon and the Clams to new heights with the release of their 2018 album “Onion.”

“We listened to a lot of music with some insane keyboards and it was always the sound we’ve wanted,” said Shaw. “And it’s an ultimate bonus for us to have Will, because he’s an amazing singer. I would never go back. I would never do it again with three.”

Big break in Nashville

The lineup has been a hit for many, including Dan Auerbach, famed singer and guitarist of The Black Keys. He initially heard the band while browsing a record store and before long invited the Clams to sign with his record label and come make the album at his Nashville studio — just the second time they had worked with a producer, which provided more bandwidth to explore and push the music further.

“The barrier to experimentation is very low, whereas recording on your own you don’t already have a studio and all the instruments,” said Blanchard. “And we don’t have to figure out every nook and cranny of this song. We can just get a good scaffolding and Dan will help fill it out really well.”

It’s led to greater opportunities to play bigger and bigger shows, including appearances at Outside Lands and this year at BottleRock as well. Auerbach also toured the country last year on his solo work and took the Clams with him, and has now extended an invite as The Black Keys visit cities this fall on their latest record, which includes the first two dozen events at the new 18,000-seat Chase Center in San Francisco.

Performing to tens of thousands at arenas and festivals is a thrill, and yet the band also hasn’t forgotten its roots, which all started at Oakland dive the Stork Club. They still get to their hometown’s annual Burger Boogaloo and prefer the more intimate settings like Lagunitas Brewing’s outdoor amphitheater.

“It’s easier to get lost in a giant room like that. You can just disappear,” Blanchard said of the larger venues. “Smaller events are cool because we can get up and make eye contact with people. We have a really good time, and are really emotive and expressive. We’ll probably screw up a few times and that’ll be funny.”

Sixth record ahead

After two summer tours — the first with The Black Keys and Modest Mouse, and the second with popular bluesy rockers Greta Van Fleet — the Clams plan to begin work with Auerbach back in Nashville on a follow-up record, their sixth. While they hope to keep breaking through with larger audiences, and one day would like to make the rounds of the late-night talk show circuit, so long as they keep delivering for the longtime faithful during the rising tide of momentum, the band is excited to ride the wave, wherever it takes them.

“That keeps our band great, that we’re still excited, totally engaged, still writing music that we really, deeply care about. That means something to us,” said Shaw. “We’re still in it, still very attached to the experience, and experiencing it. Nothing is old hat yet and I hope it never is. I think as long we continue to work hard, and as long as I still love the music we’re doing and as long as we stay genuine and authentic, I’ll be happy.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or On Twitter @kfixler.

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