New band Shakes things up

By HermineBloom

For four or five months, no-frills, Chicago-based rock band The Shakes have been busy playing local shows and, according to vocalist Jim Lopez, “giving people the shakes when they leave.”

A year and a half ago, guitarist Andre Miller approached long-time friends Lopez and bassist Joe Lussa after they quit separate bands, asking them to play music with him. The two were skeptical at first, claiming they denied the opportunity via their first e-mail correspondence. But they hung out with Miller, who brought drummer Michael Summaria on board, and now the foursome feels more confident in the collaborative efforts of The Shakes than they did in any previous outfit.

Lussa and Lopez talked to The Chronicle about their current aspirations as a new band and what it’s like to play rock ’n’ roll in today’s landscape.

The Chronicle: What projects are you guys working on?

Joe Lussa: We’ve recorded three songs, we’ve written eight or nine songs together as a band and we’re going to go in and record three more shortly. That’s about it. We’re playing shows as much as we can in Chicago and the surrounding areas.

The Chronicle: What are some of your more memorable performances?

Jim Lopez: We played Reggie’s, and we’re going to play the Metro. We’ve played a lot of suburb shows in Barrington, Ill. Our whole goal is to play smaller shows around to create a fan base and then play Chicago shows at the bigger places.

Lussa: We also played [at] The Roxy [Theatre] in Los Angeles a month and a half ago when we went out there to shoot a music video.

The Chronicle: So, having been in different bands before, what are you guys doing differently now in The Shakes—what’s your point of view?

Lopez: The writing style is different. Everyone has something to put forth. It’s not just one person telling everyone else to do something. Everyone’s bringing something to the table, and it’s awesome to work with. It feels a lot better.

Lussa: The difference between this band, as far as the other band I was in for a while—or even when I was playing with The Highlife—is we strive to not just settle for OK or good enough. We’ll not finish a song if it’s not amazing to us. We’re just trying to bring back a side of rock ’n’ roll that has not been present for a while. A lot of music has been dumbed down, and even people of older ages like a lot of this dumbed-down music on the radio. I mean, Justin Bieber—I don’t really know any of his songs—but I feel it’s not really music a 24-year-old should be listening to. But we’re striving to bring back rock ’n’ roll in the sense of how it was at one point. Everyone’s writing the best music we can instead of just trying to write the best songs they can.

The Chronicle: Who are your musical influences?

Lopez: I’m sure Joe’s going to say The Doors, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and all those great, legendary bands back then. I guess more modern-day Brand New would be one of my picks just because a lot of their stuff is anthemic and dynamic. Then you’ve got Justin Timberlake, who has great melodies.

Lussa: The White Stripes, The Black Keys, I like rock bands of today that are doing something different or at least trying to do different stuff.

The Chronicle: What’s the main priority for you guys right now? Recording an album, playing shows or something else?

Lussa: I don’t think we’re necessarily even focusing on an EP or an album. As far as just writing and recording songs, we’re just trying to write and get songs out there instead of worrying about writing a whole album and how are we going to promote it. Hopefully somebody along the way hears us, wants to give us a hand and put something together where we could sit in a studio for a whole month. Right now, for people to be noticed, you kind of have to make them believe in it. It’s going to be easier for them to believe in it if they’re coming to see you in your hometown and it’s a packed house of people waiting to see you when you haven’t had any help at all.

To listen to The Shakes visit They will be playing at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., on Dec. 18.