A spy in the house of rock


photo/Matthew Robbins
photo/Matthew Robbins

A talk with Shawn Saindon

By Ron Raymond Jr.

Shawn Saindon is best known around town for his stint in Vacationland (the radio-rock combo now on permanent vacation), as well as for the years he was a regular DJ at Zootz and Asylum. Saindon recently hung up the headphones at Asylum to devote his time and energy to a new rock outfit, Hiss & Chambers. 

Featuring Saindon on vocals and guitar, Ryan Dolan (Lincolnville, The Sheila Divine) on drums, Mike Hamlin (Peepshow) on guitar, and Jasper Rice (Figurehead) on bass, Hiss & Chambers are readying to release their first studio recording, an eight-song EP called Making Eyes. They play Space Gallery with Bullyclub and Spouse on Friday, April 13. 

The Bollard: How long have you been performing, with or without a band?
Saindon: Pretty much all my life. Family outings were hosted by me – anything for a laugh or a smile. In junior high, I picked up the guitar and picked out a few chords in an attempt to impress a girl. It was a miserable failure [laughs], but I did catch the songwriting bug. 

Performing original material started in high school, and I released a solo album in the latter part of the ’90s (Three Star Day) and traveled a bit. I released a full-length with Vacationland a few years back, and now this project with Hiss & Chambers. In the middle of these projects, I’ve played in so many other bands and performed acoustically. I hate to say it, but it’s been a loooooong time [laughs].

What made you finally decide to give up the DJ gigs and concentrate fully on your music career? 
After you do anything for so long, you get a little tired. Time for something new, you know? And I did want to spend more time on my own music.

But, you know, I loved every second of those dance nights – some of the best times of my life. One of my favorite things to do is watching people dance. There are so many stories on the dance floor, so much energy. I love watching the tragedies and the victories of the human drama. And the stories I tell in theMaking Eyes EP are all about the dance floor and the dynamics I saw. When I would DJ, the dancers became my muse. 

My favorite character on the EP is in the song “Bad Teeth on a Battered Boy.” He’s the desperate boy who tries so hard to impress the girl, but he’s so awkward, so broken. I could relate to him. 

Would you say ’80s music is a constant presence in this band’s music and live shows? 
We consider ourselves a dance band full of musicians who have never been in a dance band before – ha! But, yeah, the sound has quite a retro, anthemic vibe; an ’80s flavor. 

But the performance has this great modern attack from the rhythm section that gives us our own sound. Ryan comes from this indie/Boston rock background, so he knows his anthem drum moves. With Jasper on bass, those two just really start pulsing. Mike’s and my guitars definitely have an ’80s sound, but with a punk-ish attack. I worshipped the Chameleons UK and Big Country, and always loved how the over-the-top effects on the guitars filled in space the way keyboards would. People seem to like it so far. 

Who are your musical influences? 
Wow, I could list a list that would end all lists!

My father, for one. He was the access to all the music I grew up with, since he was a disc jockey all through the ’80s. When I discovered The Smiths, that was it. I needed to write songs after hearing Johnny Marr’s opening guitar riff on “This Charming Man.” Eighties bands like The Cure, The The, Chameleons UK, Peter Murphy, U2. I loved the Brit Pop scene of the ’90s: Stone Roses, Pulp, Verve and Suede and on and on and on… I also love singer-songwriters such as Bob Mould, Robyn Hitchcock and Joseph Arthur. 

If you were to compare the new EP to an album from the past, what album would that be?
Wow, that’s hard to answer. There’s so many influences mashed up into our own sound that it’s hard to pinpoint that, though I want to say The Cure’s The Head on the Door and Depeche Mode’s Music For The Masses, as performed by U2 with Bowie singing. Wow – what a mess! 

What are you and the band listening to now?
I know we’ve all been listening to a lot of Interpol, Bloc Party, The Knife, and Arcade Fire lately. Ryan turned me on to The Infidels. I can’t get enough of them. Lily Allen rules my world. The band I can’t seem to get out of my car stereo right now is The Editors.

I know you guys have performed covers of ’80s songs like 1982’s “Space Age Love Song” by A Flock Of Seagulls, but if you and the band wanted to cover a song that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?
It’s been funny – we’ve been throwing around so many ideas of covers we want to do. We’ve also been doing Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone.” It’s fun. 

Covers kind of happen by accident. If the song hits us right – and I don’t forget the lyrics – we’ll try anything for kicks, really. I do have a dream to someday remake the classic The The song “Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)” – theatrical rock at its best. 

In addition to Space show, are there any plans for future tour dates?
We’ll be playing a lot between Portland and Boston over the next couple of months. We are still game-planning the release of Making Eyes. It’s been crazy! There’s this weird buzz about the EP that I’ve never encountered before with other projects, so we’re feeling ourselves out. 

What would you like to have folks get out of the new EP?
Arrested. [Laughs hysterically]

Hiss & Chambers and Cult Maze open for Spouse on Fri., April 13, at Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m. Tix: $7 (18+). 828-5600. space538.org. For more on Hiss & Chambers, visit myspace.com/hissandchambers

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