Shook Twins came into possession of the magical, giant golden egg in 2010. According to the story on the band's Web site, Laurie Shook happened upon a young man holding the thing, and when she asked about it, he said a woman gave it to him and told him to sign it and pass it on to the next person.
Laurie Shook was that person, and she promises on ShookTwins.com that she will eventually hand the egg off to somebody else: "Until then, it shall be musical!"
In that way, the egg is being passed every night Shook Twins perform - including almost certainly April 16 at the Redstone Room. Laurie and her identical twin Katelyn don't appear eager to part with it, but they turned the egg into an instrument: Laurie filled it with popcorn (making it a giant egg shaker) and mic-ed it (making it a drum).
The twins seem earnest in believing the egg has magical properties, and that's in keeping with a general belief in positive energy and mysticism. (One writing session, Laurie said in a 2011 interview, was inspired by a visit to what she called a roommate's "spell nook.")
I mention the egg, however, because it's just a tellingly distinctive aspect of the band (which in the Quad Cities will also include bassist Kyle Volkman and guitar and mandolin player Niko Daoussis). As Katelyn said in a recent phone interview, the egg and the beat-boxing and the looping and the telephone mic are elements that make Shook Twins "a little more interesting than two folk-singer girls."
Those are good narrative hooks - and they give the group sonic tools for more-dynamic live performance - but they're ultimately window dressing. On Shook Twins' third studio album, last year's What We Do, the songs and performances stand tall on their own, anchored by the twins' singing. Their voices can be sweet or haunting - and, on "Daemons," both simultaneously. They're more often earthy and sensual, and the two women's harmonies create lovely moments of graceful emphasis.
It helps a great deal that the production (by Ryan Hadlock, who also did The Lumineers' self-titled hit) and arrangements are varied and surprising - folk instruments in expansive and detailed pop treatments. The title track finds the Shooks mimicking plucked strings with their voices in an aggressive stereo mix - coming at the listener from all directions. "Daemons" has a too-direct message, but it also has a thrilling tension between delicate prettiness and thick darkness. "Ryan really helped make that a lot more ominous and eerie-sounding," Katelyn said, adding that she thought it ended up appealingly "creaky": "I thought it sounded like an old wooden ship."
That song's dimmer mood, though, is unusual for an album that is generally infused with an elevating warmth and brightness. Opener "Thoughts All in" has exhilarating vocals in the chorus ("Keep it all on fire") joined perfectly with electric guitar, banjo, and fiddle that obliterate any preconception of "two folk-singer girls." Similarly, "Shake" has a serious rhythmic groove and density making old-time instruments feel entirely modern.
Shook Twins for What We Do wanted to record closer to their home base of Portland, Oregon, and also wanted to record in one long session for the first time. The choice of Hadlock, Katelyn said, was an attempt to see if a bigger-name producer could boost the band's profile. "We just decided to make a more legit record," she said.
And to pay for the session, Shook Twins had a concurrent Kickstarter campaign, which Katelyn said was "exciting and also nerve-racking." The band had a $25,000 goal, and of course there was no guarantee they'd meet it.
Fortunately, Katelyn said, the money came in - more than $26,000 in 30 days: "It was a consistent flow of fans willing to donate, so we didn't feel stressed out or anything. It just actually fueled the whole process."
Shook Twins will perform on Thursday, April 16, at the Redstone Room (129 Main Street, Davenport; RiverMusicExperience.org). The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and also features Barstool Boogaloo and Victor & Penny. Tickets are $10 to $12.
For more information on Shook Twins, visit ShookTwins.com.