A lot of great bands form in college. The Pixies, for example, formed after guitarists Black Francis and Joey Santiago shared a suite together at U-Mass. By fortunate accident, the two spent hours at a time collectively reveling in the glory of late ’70s punk and David Bowie. Similarly, after actualizing their musical ambitions at Harvard, the members of Galaxie 500 swiftly began practicing with a drum set Damon Krukowski borrowed from classmate Conan O’Brien. Queen’s Brian May and Tim Staffell, too, discovered each other on a noticeboard on the grounds of Imperial College.
Starting a band in college, is by no means, uncommon or unnatural. Being a campus band, however, is a staggering decision, one more impertinent than being a band that merely makes music at college together. Being a campus band entails adhering to the collegiate lifestyle, pandering to the Thursday night red solo cup agenda, often by playing Beyoncé and Zedd covers to a house-full fraternity party. Being a campus band is not akin to writing songs with striking relevance to the collegiate lifestyle (see: “U-Mass,” “Tugboat“). It is not akin to playing a basement house show, wherein indie kids gather around the makeshift stage, acknowledging the band as the main event.
But Shiffley is different. They are, by no means, your average campus band, subsumed under the forgetfulness that follows a night of cheap and hard drinking. Not only did this Long Island band make the best of their Craigslist success story, but they also broke the long pattern of campus bands that came before them. Shiffley, instead, drew from their red solo cup collegiate starpower, collaborating with students that have all sorts of different skills from arts to business. They built their core team from friends at Syracuse University, finding a manager in co-founding member of A Cappella group Otto Tunes, Cormac Dennehy.
“I was a fan that wanted to help out in any way I could. It started out with them hitting me up for help promoting shows and just turned into me helping out with all corners of their camp. One day we just decided to put it in writing,” explained Dennehy, who currently works at talent agency ICM, which tends to clients like Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza, SXSW, Lilith Fair, Sasquatch and Summerfest. “Every day I interact with new people in the entertainment industry — and if I can turn them into a viable contact, or at the very least a fan, then you bet your fanny I will do so. It’s also helpful to see how other people operate in a similar space. I have the opportunity to watch seasoned industry pros do what they do, and occasionally, I am able to apply that to my work with Shiffley.”
Shiffley indeed got their footing on campus, playing house show after house show until the concert board took notice and billed them as openers for 21 Pilots. In January 2014, Shiffley was handpicked by Fall Out Boy, Emeli Sande and Austin Mahone as a finalist in CBS’ nationwide Grammy Gig of a Lifetime competition, placing fourth out of 40 finalists. They were also semi-finalists in VH1’s Make A Band Famous competition. After releasing their EP Atomic Robot Man (mixed by Tony Gallis, the man behind several Steely Dan records), Shiffley is back this year with a new single, “Systems,” and an album slated for a July release.
“‘Systems’ is the second part of a two-song story off of the album about a robot that learns how to feel and then instantly regrets the decision,” the band shared over a warm email exchange, after revealing that they got their name from singer Alex Ganes’ illustration of a sleazy salesman. “As a band, we can relate to the idea of being sleazy salesmen of music.” It’s not long before they casually mention that they got their song mixed at Freshly Baked Studios, in exchange for a shout out. Their flagrant audacity is marveling, and it’s brazen barters like this that truly define Shiffley. Shiffley, as a band, lies on the other side of DIY, on the side that is transparently earnest in its outreach for commercial success. And this, in itself, makes the band that much more endearing, and that much more likely to succeed.
The idea behind “Systems” stemmed from spending their Syracuse weekends chasing down parties until the winter dipped into the negatives, thereby surpassing their threshold for the cold: “[Systems] is about the regret. The robot casts off his/her emotions in an effort return to max efficiency. The main hook, ‘Systems are down, it’s getting cold, I’m going home’ is about crossing that threshold and returning to logic at the expense of the fun times.”
Shiffley July 2016 Tour Dates:
7/21 – Studio at Webster – NY, NY
7/23 – SUSIEPALOOZA – Deer Park, NY
7/25 – Chapala Blue Beetle Rock Bar – Burtonsville, MD
7/26 – Jammin Java – Vienna, VA