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.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Famous Infinity Mirror Room is open in Las Vegas
Yayoi Kusama's "Aftermath of Obliteration of Infinity" mirror room is open at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Glittering Lights dazzles Las Vegas
The Glittering Lights holiday display is shining at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like