Shanda & The Howlers shine on debut record

You see it register in her feet first, the groove.

Right then left, right then left, each heel rises as if Shanda Cisneros is squishing bugs to the beat.

Soon enough, her hands and hips join the party, the former flared out, her palms becoming stop signs, the latter swishing to and fro as the rhythm builds.

The garage is hot and quickly growing hotter as Shanda & the Howlers get to work on a Thursday evening.

Bassist Luke Metz moved to his new eastside home recently, and so the band’s rehearsal spot is still largely unadorned, its walls decorated by a lone picture of a shaggy Tom Waits, back when he was looking like the Wolfman’s stunt double.

After drummer Keith Alcantara gets this session started, saxophonist Micah Lapping-Carr rips a lead that reverberates through the room. Six-stringer Trevor Johnson adds funky stabs of guitar, while Cisneros brings it all home on the mic, her voice collapsing blues, soul and R&B into a singular expression of feminine guile and vigor.

“Singing songs in the soul genre is really tough,” Metz notes before practice, hanging with his bandmates next to a vintage jukebox loaded with ? and the Mysterians, Elvis and Stiff Little Fingers jams. “I think it’s gotta go directly from your heart and right out through your voice. You can’t stop and think about it too much; it can’t go to the brain too much.”

In other words you’ve got to feel it, and Cisneros certainly does, palpably. She’s the focal point of Shanda & the Howlers’ new record, “Trouble,” the band’s first. It’s an album rooted in vintage sounds — think LaVern Baker, Howlin’ Wolf, Stax Records — but it never feels nostalgic. Too often, bands that explicitly mine the past can feel like a study in form, elevating style above substance.

What makes this bunch stand out is they internalize their influences and then create something fresh from familiar sources.

It begins with Cisernos, who’s an assertive, no-nonsense presence on “Trouble.” “Don’t call me babe. Don’t call me buttercup,” she warns during the punchy swing of “Mind Made Up.” “I’m not your little plaything, you can count on that,” she thunders on “Don’t Need Your Love.” “I’ll never be your puppet on a string.”

This is an album of strong songs populated by female protagonists who are stronger still.

“I think more women should have the voice of confidence,” Cisneros explains, arms and shoulders brightened by floral tattoos.

Cisneros began getting in touch with her voice at 15 years old, when her brother gave her an Ella Fitzgerald cassette.

“That changed my life forever,” she says. “I wanted to be her for the longest time until I found out that I had more of an Etta James-type growl. That’s when I really got into the blues.”

Cisneros has fronted other acts, but this is the first time she’s singing original material.

It’s working.

Songs from “Trouble,” which was put out by Boston indie Rum Bar Records, have been played on “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” show on satellite radio, and the band has gotten positive reviews nationally and abroad in countries like Spain and England.

“We just sold a CD in France and sent that out,” Cisneros grins. “I was elated going to the post office, ‘I have to send this to Paris.’ ”

The band gigs steadily, playing upward of six sets a night on some occasions. They’re the rare act equally capable of going over with the rockabilly faithful at Viva Las Vegas, where they’ve turned in well-received performances, as well as, say, a punk crowd in Flagstaff, Arizona. (“They were moshing to us,” Alcantara notes).

Johnson breaks down the band’s appeal succinctly: “Drinkin’ and dancin,’ ” he says.

Back in the garage, the group works on a new tune, Cisneros reading her handwritten lyrics as she sings.

She’s found her voice.

It fills the room.

“In every project I had been in before, it was a cover band. This was our material and it felt very personal,” she explained earlier in the evening. “It was very empowering for me. I wasn’t very comfortable being powerful. These guys made sure I was.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Entertainment
Black History Month Festival
Las Vegas residents gathered on Saturday, February 16, 2019, at Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd, to celebrate Black History Month. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
You Can Design With 3D Printers, Laser Cutters And Ceramics At Discovery Children's Museum
You Can Design With 3d Printers, Laser Cutters And Ceramics At Discovery Children's Museum (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Champagne vending machine at Waldorf Astoria in Las Vegas
One of only a few in the country, the Moët & Chandon machine at the Waldorf Astoria in Las Vegas is stocked with Imperial Rose for Valentine’s Day. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Las Vegas Valentine’s Day desserts
Mio Ogasawara of Sweets Raku and Rebecca Bills of Gen3 Hospitality in Las Vegas create elaborate Valentine’s Day desserts. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
One Night For One Drop
Cirque du Soleil cast and crew donate their time and talent to this year's "One Night For One Drop" performance at the "O" Theatre in the Bellagio. The event takes place March 8, 2019, and benefits the One Drop organization. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Chinese New Year Parade
Chinese New Year parade takes place on Fremont Street. (Bill Hughes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Manzo restaurant a key part of Eataly
Nicole Brisson, executive chef of Eataly, at Park MGM in Las Vegas, talks about new restaurant.
Designer Makes Festival-style Crowns
Designer at MAGIC trade show Makes Festival-style Crowns (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Excalibur Raises tent that will house "Fuerza Bruta" show
Workers at Excalibur raised a tent, which will be the home of "Fuerza Bruta," a temporary show that will run from March 7 to September 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roc Boots Make For Glittery Festival Wear
With 3-inch-tall chunky heels, cleated platforms, and sparkly glitter, you’ll want to wear these to dance the night away. Sally Cull, product and development for Roc Boots Australia, assures you that you can. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get A Custom-painted Jacket At Las Vegas Fashion Event
On the first of the two-night Commotion event, clothing brands connected with consumers, offering shopping, giveaways and customization opportunities. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Venetian Celebrates The "Year Of The Pig"
The Venetian hosted dancers to celebrate the Chinese New Year and "Year of the Pig." The dancers performed a traditional eye-dotting ceremony and lion dance. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Pepe the truffle-hunting dog
Jose Andres knows that quality black truffles can also be found in his native Spain. He’ll be sharing some with the world for a week, starting Monday. From Feb. 11-17, his Cosmopolitan restaurant Jaleo will be showcasing four special dishes made with Spanish truffles discovered by the truffle-hunting dogs of his friend Nacho Ramírez Monfort. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tony Abou-Ganim mixes drink at Libertine Social
Tony Abou-Ganim, The Modern Mixologist, helped change the cocktail culture in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masaharu Morimoto talks ramen in Las Vegas
Masaharu Morimoto talks about bringing a ramen restaurant to Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morimoto considering full-time Las Vegas ramen spot
Morimoto talks about a full-time ramen spot in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign moves to new home at Neon Museum Boneyard
The famous and newly restored, Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign is working it's way to a permanent home at the Neon Museum Boneyard in downtown Las Vegas. It will be moved in six pieces and take five days for reconstruction. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign moves to Neon Museum Boneyard
The famous and newly restored, Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign has been moved to its permanent home at the Neon Museum Boneyard in downtown Las Vegas. It will be moved in six pieces and take five days for reconstruction. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign moves to new Las Vegas home
The famous and newly restored Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign has moved to a permanent home at the Neon Museum Boneyard in downtown Las Vegas. It will be moved in six pieces and take five days for reconstruction. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas band Otherwise release song and video in tribute to slain cousin
Adrian and Ryan Patrick, brothers in the band Otherwise with drummer Brian Medeiros, talk about the release of a tribute song to their deceased cousin Ivan. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Las Vegas residency
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Vegas residency (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing