Tuscaloosa natives band together to form southern rock duo

Francie Johnson

Tuscaloosa band Shod Shirby has a typical five-part lineup, comprised of a vocalist, guitarist, bassist, drummer and pianist. What’s not so typical is that all five of these positions are fulfilled by only two people.

“We really wanted to see what our limits are and how far the two of us can go,” said Dustin Grammer, the band’s guitarist and bassist. “We just want to see how far, as two guys, we can push things.”

Grammer and Trent Parker, the band’s vocalist, pianist and drummer, have lived in Tuscaloosa their entire lives. The two friends formed Shod Shirby in August 2012.

“We’ve been playing since we were about 10 years old,” Parker said. “We’ve always been around music together, but we’ve never actually played in a band together until late last year.”

Shod Shirby’s first release, a self-titled, six-song EP, dropped on Feb. 5. Parker and Grammer recorded all of the vocals and instrumentals for the EP, except for the song “Not Today,” which features Grammer’s wife, Erica Grammer, on backup vocals.

Throughout the recording process, Grammer and Parker faced the challenge of creating a full-band sound with just two people.

“We were having to learn recording equipment we weren’t familiar with,” Parker said. “It was hard mixing the sound; the whole thing was just difficult.”

To create the illusion of a full band in their EP, Grammer and Parker first recorded the different vocals and instrumentation of each song individually, and then they layered the tracks to form the final songs. This process was repeated for every song on the EP.

The band has encountered other obstacles in addition to recording, such as gaining exposure in the small town of Tuscaloosa.

“As opposed to doing cover songs or playing things that are more familiar, it’s harder to get more attention when you’re writing your own songs,” Grammer said. “It’s not something people can just hear around town or pick up on the radio everyday.”

Parker and Grammer try to distinguish themselves from other Tuscaloosa bands by creating a sound that is purely their own. Shod Shirby has a predominantly Southern-rock vibe, but the band incorporates a variety of influences into its music, refusing to be classified as simply one genre.

“We want to be different,” Parker said. “We’re a little tired of hearing the same things around town. We want to do it in our own way.”

Grammer and Parker draw musical inspiration from their own life experiences, aiming to write music that their audience can identify with. They wrote a not-yet-released track entitled “Down Rains the Fire,” as a tribute to the United States Military. This is a topic that hits close to home for Grammer, a member of the Navy Reserve.

“If you take a regular person, [someone who] just puts on their boots and goes to work, that’s who we want to relate to,” Parker said. “[We want to relate to] people who make the sacrifices.”

“Down Rains the Fire” will be a part of Shod Shirby’s upcoming album, “Driftwood,” which the band expects to release in late spring or early summer.

The two band members agree that Shod Shirby hasn’t been an easy project, but the music itself provides all the motivation they need to keep going.

“We want to reach people, just put a smile on somebody’s face or put a tune in their head,” Parker said. “We really like playing, we really like music, and when you love doing something that much, you might as well do it.”

For more information about Shod Shirby, visit the band’s Facebook page at facebook.com/ShodShirby.

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