Shook, the debut full length from Everett, WA’s TELLERS, is a record of both wide-open spaces and quiet moments, its eleven tracks drawing from the windswept and rain-soaked sonic heritage of their Northwest home. Shimmering guitars build to grand melody as percussion tumbles forward, all anchored by Sarah Feinberg’s stunning, arresting voice; soaring and plaintive, worn in all the best ways and glowing like polished brass. With bursting melodic fireworks, the songs fall back into themselves like drifting embers. Shook is the rare record that heralds the arrival of an undeniable songwriting force.
Feinberg grew up in a musical household nestled in the foothills of the Cascade mountains. Her mother taught her and her three siblings to play guitar, and she wrote her first song at eleven. At eighteen, she made fast friends with Brad Heyne, and the first seed of TELLERS was sewn. They drifted apart as sometimes happens, until a few years later when they found themselves back in the same city at the same time. “I asked Brad and another friend to accompany me to a solo gig at a local pub,” says Feinberg. “The gig went well, and afterwards, Brad asked, “So when is our next practice?” TELLERS was born. With the addition of close friends Tyler Chism on lead guitar and Isaac Melum on bass, the TELLERS family was complete. Together they have grown as both people and musicians, and the bond within the band is true and deep.
In 2016, the band released their debut EP Walking Blind, crafted in weekly basement rehearsal sessions where the band stood facing each other in a circle hashing out tunes. Their music spoke of a place and time, and the band soon found themselves performing with local luminaries such as Damian Jurado, Shelby Earl, Cataldo, Sisters, and more.
The bones of Shook were laid in fleeting moments of inspiration. “Most of the songs were written in my car,” laughs Feinberg, “quickly jotting down lyrics at a stop light or in a grocery store.” These slips of potential were hashed out late night in a hushed quiet as the house slept. “Often I am struck by a small phrase that just burrows in,” explains Heyne. “I let the words sit, sometimes for weeks, before I add music to the lyrics and then I lightly arrange.” When a song is nearly complete, it’s presented to and completed by the full band in their sacred creative space; the basement of Feinberg’s 1919 North Everett home.
Recorded at Red Room Studios in Seattle with producer and engineer Ryan Leyva and mastered by Ed Brooks at RFI (Resonant Mastering) in Seattle, Shook is a flush, grand record, layered in organ and guitar. Steven Barci was brought in to handle drums. Bryan Bradley (I Will Keep Your Ghost) helped arrange “Hollow” and Simon Nicol (Leava) helped arrange “West,” “Ground,” and “Walking Blind.”
Lyrically, the record is a meditation on death in a myriad of forms: of loved ones, of relationships, and of ideals. Yet the record is laced throughout with moments of childlike innocence. This lends the record a palpable internal tension: an acknowledgement of a dark world, apocalyptic even, where the search for truth and goodness is urgent and necessary. ”Shook is about coming to the hard realities of life and losing the innocence we often take for granted,” says Feinberg. “In a strange way, I hope people get comfort from this album, and that they feel a little less alone.” Heyne continues, “Each of us endure the brunt of our own story. By telling ours, we connect to the stories of others. The collective narrative; all of our stories are one story.”
At turns, grand and intimate, suffused with fearless honesty, Shook flickers in the dark with a warm orange glow. The road we all walk might meander between triumph and tragedy, but TELLERS reminds us that we do not walk that road alone.
“I’m walking blind… I see you’re giving me some light…”