Despite the urgent, satirical protests about religion in two of the songs on their introductory EP, Shorthand for Epic's Billy Bullock insists he isn't against spirituality. "For example, a Nick Cave sort of school of Christianity is very different," Bullock says. "It's not a dogmatic thing. It's a particular path that you use to consider these things. I'm moving more toward existential material than spiritual, anyways. It's like the song 'Endtimes'—the whole idea of that song is just the failure of imagination of this whole group of people who call themselves spiritual, or Christian, or whatever. All that they want is for the end of the world to happen. They are so upset at the state of the world, and that it's not a perfect place, they just want it to fucking end. They're no better than terrorists in that way. They just want God to do it for them instead of doing it themselves."
Shorthand for Epic is made up of four very diverse musical talents from different parts of the country: Bullock grew up in Idaho and was known for previous politico-punk band Mea Culpa; classically trained keyboardist Brooke Harker was part of the Anacortes underground music scene in Button Happy; Larry Brady was a skate punk who joined the air force and ended up in shoegazer band Black Nite Crash; and drummer Stormi King is a Led Zeppelin fan from Florida and Texas (her favorite record is Houses of the Holy).
Idaho-expatriate Bullock was continuing to work at Tower Records after Mea Culpa had broken up. "For my next band, I wanted something that would be really collaborative," he enthuses. "For a while, I just didn't want to do music. Brooke would come in [to the store] and I would recommend albums to her. We wanted to play together for six months before it actually happened.
"We don't really sound like the Arcade Fire, the Pixies, and the Mekons," Bullock continues, "but for me at least, these three bands showed me the music I'd been doing wasn't the kind of music that I wanted to be doing. I wanted to do music that had that same expansive quality. There's this beautiful wall of sound and melody and all these things happening, a kind of wonderful sensory overload."
I ask Bullock who they think they actually sound like. "I was thinking Foreigner," he laughs. "I was listening to 'Cold As Ice‚' on the radio the other day, and realized that Foreigner kind of writes songs that structurally seem the way we do."
Despite Shorthand for Epic's occasional lyrical heaviness, their the-Jam-playing-Arcade-Fire-songs-produced-by-Phil Spector sound was catchy enough to get them an in-studio on 107.7 the End on Sunday, December 10, promoting the show.
"We're not even the headliner or anything," Harker humbly adds. "We're smack in the middle of the whole bill. I [was] pretty excited about playing on the station, because I was thinking back on how growing up in Anacortes, you only listened to the End. It was the only decent rock station you could get up there." And Harker insists that "basically our entire goal is to have fun. Getting the kind of shows and recognition at this point is super awesome."
The band's hilarious publicity photo, which mockingly displays their natural warmth and sense of family, is a response to "the image that you have to present in bands," says Bullock. "Beau, my roommate, who took the picture, and brought Larry into the band, is against that idea of four rogues smoking, leaning up against the wall of the building. You know what? You're not a street gang. Unless you're scary motherfuckers like Suicidal Tendencies, stop looking like it! And you're not fashion models. You're playing music."
According to the recent Da Capo anthology, Huey Lewis has primarily been playing for developmentally disabled people for the past couple decades. "Retards love them some Huey," it was writ. What sort of disabled group will Shorthand for Epic be playing to 20 years from now?
"I think probably we're going to be shooting for the multiple amputees," says Bullock.
But you guys are so danceable!
Brady rebuts, "We just want to fill their lives with longing."