Shark Attack are a joke.
Sitting around Secret Cedar Recording Studios, the gorgeous, if untidy, studio that Patrick Heaney owns in Santee, the group even acknowledges it.
“Yeah, it started out as a big joke,” Heaney says, talking about his and partner Michael Delgado's humble beginnings nearly three years ago. “We used to make fun of DJs so much. We're all musicians. We all grew up all fucking punk rock, and we used to just tear these people apart. And if someone told me, ‘Hey man, in a couple of years, you're gonna be a pretty decently known DJ,' I would have said, ‘Fuck you.' Now, people make fun of us for being DJs.”
The guys are in the studio to rehearse for their debut-album-release show. The night before, the duo were out all night drinking with Aaron Blomberg, who recently joined Shark Attack, making the duo a trio that performs original electro songs live. The studio is a music geek's wet dream—Heaney says he sunk more than $30,000 into it when he took it over. He's quick to point out that even bands looking to record there rarely have love for him or Shark Attack. “I recorded a band in here called Sunnyside, and I got a call from my other engineer, and he's like, ‘This band is in here, and they're blatantly talking shit about you—saying that you're a fag and you're a loser, a DJ that doesn't know how to play real music.' I gave them a really good deal over the phone, and they went on the blogs and started talking shit—stuff like, ‘The place is really cool but the owner's fucking lame.' And I'd never even met them!”
But the studio is just the tip of the iceberg. Since Shark Attack's formation, they've faced vitriol and criticism at nearly every turn despite packing crowds into clubs. And while they've gained respect in much of the DJ community, chances are that if you mention Shark Attack to someone in the scene, you'll get an earful of disdain. Everywhere you turn, it seems everyone has an opinion of the boys, even if it rarely has anything to do with their music.
“People talk shit on the Internet—stuff like, ‘Oh, he got married and his rich wife's dad bought him all this stuff,'” Heaney says, referring to the studio. “Fuck you. No he didn't. I worked. Loans. I still have to pay for all this.”
In fact, it's the duality at the core of Shark Attack that drives their music while also causing the criticism. Musically, Heaney brings technical expertise, producing and engineering all of the group's material, and Delgado brings a sense of rhythm and the ability to reel in his friend when he goes too far with his experimentalism. Personality-wise, they're very different. Heaney is abrasive in his opinions and demeanor while Delgado often seems shy and soft-spoken. Even now, with their reincarnation as a live band and the release of their album (Shooting Judas), they risk alienating even those who love their music. At their recent unannounced (but packed) show at Beauty Bar for a trial performance of the live band, many of their critics saw their transition as some half-assed attempt to gain more credibility with a local scene that pegs them as a bunch of untalented hacks. But the truth is, they've always been musicians—they played in hardcore bands when they were growing up in Coronado. Heaney says it's always been their plan to incorporate live instrumentation.
“We wanted to wait until the album came out, but now I just want to do this,” he says. “I wanna stay away from DJing. If I could have it my way, we would never do it again.”
While their early material closely resembled the thick and heavy electro-house that was coming out of France at the time (think Daft Punk and Justice), Shooting Judas and the live band are even more grandiose. With Blomberg on guitar, some songs can resemble bands like Muse (the bombastic “Northern City Riot”) and The Album Leaf during the more languid, down-tempo songs (“Holy Ghost”). They even verge on Nine Inch Nails-type ferocity with the mix of Blomberg's screamed vocals and industrial-rock of “This is the Shark Attack.”
“People will hate it, though,” Heaney says.
“Whatever, they hate on it no matter what,” Delgado adds.
Whether people wish them well or write them off, it seems there will always be people who find their music aurally pleasing enough to listen. It's not as experimental as many of their contemporaries, and Shooting Judas probably isn't going to change the electro scene forever, but when you start out as a joke, every detraction seems funny.
“Everybody has to be an asshole to us for some reason,” Heaney says.
Delgado chimes in: “Yeah, but I wouldn't have it any other way.”Shark Attack play as a band on Friday, July 10, with Nadastrom and Disco Villains and a DJ set on Saturday, July 11, with Toxic Avenger and Them Jeans. Both shows are at Voyeur.