Ah, the question, what’s in a name? If you call Austin native Alejandro Rose-Garcia by his birth name, he may worry that he’s run afoul of his mother. Better to go with his stage moniker, given to him by friends on a night of drunken “campfire naming” at an Austin music festival. The new handle seemed to harness all the eccentric intensity and restless, irrepressible creativity that vibrates through this affable, magical twenty-something’s very being.
As a former jobbing actor, believer in ley lines and mathemagical spells, bowling aficionado, and paid-up member of the one-man-band club, Graves deftly straddles the line between solid earthiness and otherworld mysticism, including occult symbol tattoos grounded by flannel shirts and cowboy hats and a trance-like state that overcomes him when he plays. There’s a similar whiff of the spellbound in the rapt attention of his audiences as the singularity of the Shakey Graves experience explodes in a maelstrom of crackling, circular guitar picking, the black humour of his nuanced songwriting, and the freight-train beats of his trademark suitcase kick drum (which he’s since traded for a “real” band”).
Before backing from a record label—or making his music available on iTunes—Graves’ stripped-down “anti-folk” found its audience. His 2011 album Roll the Bones became a viral Bandcamp favorite with over a million streams, and “Dearly Departed,” the first single from 2014’s And The War Came, had racked up over 2 million streams on Spotify before the album was released. Embracing the earthly, the spiritual, the digital, and the physical, Graves isn’t so much a study in contradiction as he is proof that all of those worlds can co-exist and work together in stunning harmony. LS/FF