A frequent occurrence in the Salt Lake City music scene is musicians working in multiple bands. A guitarist in one band might play bass in another, or seven bands might share the same awesome drummer. Meet Andrew Shaw, whose two projects, Color Animal and Magic Mint, collide on a split 7-inch that he'll release Feb. 13 at Diabolical Records.
A Nebraska transplant, Shaw is a lifelong musician, playing piano since age 7, moving on to playing brass in high school bands and jamming out to Lemonheads covers on a nylon-string classical guitar. Shaw stuck mostly to folk music until he moved to Salt Lake City in 2003 and found his niche in the alternative music crowd. For the past 12 years, Shaw has been a founder and instrumental figure in bands like The Adonis, Chanticleer the Clever Cowboy, The Platte, Bluebird Radio, Calico, Albino Father and The Sister Act. He's also had the pleasure of sitting in with Band of Annuals, David Williams and Will Sartain's solo projects.
"I love the community involved with getting in a room and playing with other musicians," Shaw says. "I love the exploration of music—that I can sit down in an empty room with a quiet instrument and find something beautiful or sad or disruptive to come out of it. I love arrangement because it's like a puzzle. What pieces are missing to make this song feel complete? What can I bring to it to make it sparkle?"
In recent years, Shaw has been focused primarily on his solo work, and two specific bands. The first, Color Animal, was hatched with Calico drummer Tyler Ford after that band ended. The duo played a softer kind of garage rock, but Shaw shelved the band until mid-2012, when he and Ford brought in Felicia Baca on bass and Nick Neihart on guitar, and the foursome quickly recorded their debut album, Vision Lies (2013, ColorAnimalRocks.Bandcamp.com). When Neihart departed a year later, Seth Howe took over. After a few singles, Color Animal released another album, Bubble Gum, in the summer of 2014. The band's third LP, Why Don't We Have Fun?, is due April 2.
While recording Bubble Gum, Shaw found himself writing surf and psych-rock riffs that didn't quite fit Color Animal's sound. Shaw decided to pursue it as a solo endeavor, which he christened Magic Mint. In 2014, he released the first Magic Mint EP, Grand America (MagicMint.Bandcamp.com). Recording entirely in the Zion Building of the Utah State Fairpark, Shaw would stay up into the wee hours of the morning getting the right sounds out of single-take recordings from the echo-filled building. The project gave Shaw independence from his band, which required much more scheduling and time to make shows and recordings happen.
Shaw enjoys that each project presented new aspects and challenges that the other couldn't afford. "I feel like [Color Animal] is making the best music of our career right now," Shaw said. "The most appealing part of it is getting together with Felicia, Seth and Tyler. I don't know what I'd do without those buds in my life. My favorite part of Magic Mint is that it combines my indie pop songwriting and my improvisational loop-based work. Performing as Magic Mint is like walking a tight-rope, and I love that unbalanced feeling of trying to get everything in the right place."
The two acts combined forces for a new 7-inch release, an effort they undertook after bring approached by local label Hail Atlantis Records. The two Color Animal tracks, "Heal Me" and "Sleep Death," were originally recorded for consideration by SLUG Magazine's Death By Salt V compilation. Meanwhile, the Magic Mint side contains an extended track called "Left Foot Right Foot," recorded for the soundtrack to Kenny Riches' film The Strongest Man, but which didn't make the final cut. Both sides show where each band is headed musically over the next year.
Once all the albums have been released, Shaw and company will be looking forward to their next awesome gig as featured acts with the Municipal Ballet Co. in 2016. Their performances are currently scheduled for May 12-14. "They are choreographing new ballet pieces to our music, and we will play with them live at their shows," Shaw says. "It's an incredible honor to be selected to work with them. Everyone we've met associated with the group has been energetic and lovely. I'm so stoked to see this project come together."