Americana musician Shakey Graves talks about his new album, “Movie of the Week,” before an upcoming show at Maymont.
When Shakey Graves releases his new album “Movie of the Week” on Sept. 15, it will be just the start of how fans can experience the musical journey the Austin, Texas-based singer has taken with his latest project. As part of the rollout, Graves, whose given name is Alejandro Rose-Garcia, will launch a website giving fans access to a wealth of material recorded during sessions for the album, enabling fans to essentially create their own unique alternate versions of the album.
“These sessions were so large, I’m doing this thing with the release where, each song has probably five to eight different versions of it. Then there’s all of this other stuff that’s not on there, whole other albums,” Graves says by phone. “You’re going to be able to endlessly scramble the album into unique soundtracks, and then if you want, you can purchase them and we’ll send you the files and then you’ll have your [own version of the] soundtrack. We’re getting it to where it will have unique titles and everything.”
The “Movie of the Week” project was initially intended to be an actual film soundtrack, but the director rejected some of the music Graves had written. Realizing he was still excited by what he had created, Graves began to formulate the idea of expanding on the material and turning it into something of a soundtrack to an imaginary movie.
“I wanted to go into the recording studio and try to make songs based on a plot. Like I had some melodies and demos and stuff,” he says. “The plot of the movie was basically someone from the middle of nowhere kind of burns out, then looks on a map and decides to go somewhere that sounds fancy. He chooses Century City. That’s the spot. Like everything’s going to be better in the future. And then it’s like a road trip movie. Then when he gets to Century City, he comes to find out it’s parking lots for other parking lots.”
Working with the same six-piece band he’ll take out on tour to promote “Movie of the Week,” Graves recorded a wealth of material before he began to figure out which versions of which songs would make up the official album.
“We went as hard and as strange as we could, and then right in the middle of that, it’s like, let’s make sure that the message actually gets across; that the song is audible in a way that we like it and at least it doesn’t feel fully masturbatory, you know what I mean?” he says. “I think all artists should be indulged however they want and I love bands that are really challenging and stuff … The album we’re putting out is the most centered that those songs get. Those [other] versions coming out, they get longer and weirder and rougher around the edges. So all of that will exist in the world, too. But I wanted to show where at least the home base of this is, the kind of sonic unity.”
“Movie of the Week” is a very approachable album musically and it’s Graves’ most pop-leaning effort to date. Songs like “Evergreen,” “Century City,” “Limbo,” “Lowlife” have rich melodies, a pleasing energy and a lush, soft-around-the-edges sonic quality. Meanwhile, “Playing Along, “Play Where it Lies,” and “Ready Or Not,” a duet with singer Sierra Ferrell [who received a great response playing Friday Cheers in Richmond in May], are among a few more spare songs that feel more intimate, but also a bit edgier than the rest of the album.
Taken together, “Movie of the Week” marks another distinctively different statement for an artist who has shape shifted his music throughout his career.
Graves started out in the folk arena with his 2011 debut album, “Roll The Bones,” a stark, intimate, largely solo acoustic affair (reissued in 2021 with a bevy of unreleased material), and then started to expand his sound and instrumentation on 2014’s “And The War Came.” With 2018’s “Can’t Wake Up,” Graves upended expectations with a full-band album that rocked more and integrated a variety of synthetic and processed tones into his rootsy sound.
Graves plans to touch on all phases of his career during the concerts he’ll play as he tours extensively through the rest of the year. He’ll play solo during the show, and of course, with the six-piece band he describes as the best unit he’s had.
“Obviously, some of the more large, bombastic production stuff that I’ve made over the years has never sounded better,” Graves says of playing with his band. “But then also they’re fabulous musicians, so playing this old, more sensitive kind of home studio stuff, they’re able to do that, too. So we do a little bit of both.”
Shakey Graves performs with Trampled by Turtles at Maymont on Saturday, Aug. 5. Tickets range from $45-$65. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with the show at 6 p.m.