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The Shaw Brothers find success without record label

Columbus-based duo, The Shaw Brothers, plays at Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar, located at 26 E. 5th Ave., once a month and have a drink named after them at the bar called ‘The Shaw Brothers Blues.’ Credit: Courtesy of Chris Marshall

Columbus-based duo, The Shaw Brothers, plays at Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar, located at 26 E. Fifth Ave., once a month and have a drink named after them at the bar called ‘The Shaw Brothers Blues.’
Credit: Courtesy of Chris Marshall

In an attempt to shine light on local music, The Lantern’s “Columbus’ Own” is a weekly series that will profile a new Columbus band every week.

The Shaw Brothers may display a lack of interest to be signed onto a record label, but the band members see music as an imperative aspect of their lives.

“We’re more interested in making good music and trying to connect with people,” said Andy Shaw, one-half of the Columbus-based musical duo. “Obviously, we want to build fans who like what we’re doing but we also want to do as much as we can on our own.”

While the Shaw Brothers are unable to accurately pinpoint one genre its music resembles, Shaw identifies with new folk, which he said is about more than just the words. He called it a more “personal-based music,” where the musicians write and sing about their lives, love and experiences.

“I’d say it’s a mix of that and a good sense of pop and melody, kind of similar to The Avett Brothers,” Shaw said. “We’re really into (singer-songwriter) Ben Harper, and bands like that really explore the different sounds they can get, places they can go with music, and we’re just like that because we don’t like just being stuck to one genre.”

The band is made up of Andy Shaw, 32, who plays the guitar and the ukulele, and Chris Shaw, 29, who plays the guitar and the violin.

Since the band is self-managed, the brothers often place themselves in situations where they can fulfill the vision they have for the band, even though in the past they weren’t able to commit to that vision fully.

“There are some gigs where we make money because it’s more about being able to survive than about getting the gig that you love,” Andy Shaw said. “We really don’t do that anymore, and we pretty much just do gigs that we really want to do, that we really like, and that really gives us some reward on a personal level.”

When it comes to songwriting, each brother delves into it individually, composing lyrics that hold dearly to their hearts.

“We are two different kind of songwriters,” Andy Shaw said. “Our music is basically my songs with him playing, and his songs with me playing, and that’s the way we work.”

The brothers have a trusting relationship.

“I trust him to bring what he brings, and he trusts me to bring what I bring,” Chris Shaw said. “As far as content and lyrics go, I try not to get in the way of that because he’s really personal, and he’s never said anything about mine either, because he knows that it’s important to be able to say what you need to say.”

Not only does Andy Shaw draw his songwriting from personal experiences, but he also writes about the things that inspire him, with a special focus on love. For the younger Chris Shaw, his songs are based on life questions.

“A lot of my songs deal with questions about how we want to live our lives and why people do certain things that they’re not passionate about,” Chris Shaw said.

With their acoustic music, the Shaw Brothers can be found playing once a month at Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar located at 26 E. Fifth Ave., and every Sunday at Crest Tavern on 397 Crestview Road, as well as the other shows the band plays across Columbus.

“When he is on the guitar, I am playing the ukulele, and when I’m playing the guitar, he’s playing the violin,” Andy Shaw said. “We get a little interesting sometimes, and we bring the tambourine out or drums or little different things to spice it up.”

The brothers played a huge part in the growth of the musical aspect of Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar, where they’ve been playing for two years. Back then, the brothers performed on a rug, which has now been replaced by a stage.

“They were definitely a key component in getting music off the ground in the bar,” said April Kulcsar, manager of music and entertainment at Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar. “They’ll bring in other people from other bands in the city, and it’s kind of a big, open jam where they all play together, and the way I like to see it, it’s like family night in the city of Columbus.”

The Shaw Brothers plays such a key role at the meadery that they had a drink named after them on the meadery’s cocktail menu last winter: “The Shaw Brothers Blues.” The drink is a Mead Manhattan, combining OYO Whiskey and Bergamot Blue.

“I like that it’s small and intimate, and you don’t have to feel like there’s this immense pressure to bring 500 people in,” Andy Shaw said. “You know whoever’s going to be in front of you is really going to enjoy what you’re doing, because they’re the kind of people that really want to experience culture.”

Although the Shaw Brothers has been an established band for eight years, the duo has been playing music together since the brothers were young when they joined the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra, where Chris Shaw played the violin, while Andy Shaw played the trumpet.

Chris Shaw was a second-year in graphic design at the Columbus College of Art and Design when Andy Shaw came back from studying at Chicago’s Columbia College to Columbus to start working on music with his brother.

“I went to school up there, and I was playing music, putting out songs, but I wasn’t really happy and I wanted to come back home,” Andy Shaw said. “When I came back, he started playing with me and accompanied me, and at that time, he wasn’t really doing much music.”

Eight years later, the duo is still going strong with its own material. They’ve traveled from Austin to Florida to New York City, among the many places they’ve gone to put out performances.

“Touring obviously costs money, but it’s really worth it,” Andy Shaw said. “We go all over, but the main place that we play is regionally, so Chris and I do a lot of stuff all over Ohio.”

The Shaw Brothers are slated to start working on their new album in early 2014. The band has a full-length album on sale on iTunes and its website for $9.99, and its music is available to stream on Spotify.

They are scheduled to perform 9 p.m. Friday at Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar.

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