PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Herrington
Shannon & The Clams are set to release their most personal — and game-changing — album to date: entitled The Moon Is In The Wrong Place, the record — which was produced by longtime collaborator Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys — is set for release on May 10, 2024 via Auerbach’s acclaimed label Easy Eye Sound.
The Moon Is In the Wrong Place is unlike anything Shannon & The Clams have released before, in both its emotional scope and its production, which takes the band’s sound from black & white to cascading Technicolor. In August 2022, singer and frontwoman Shannon Shaw’s world was turned inside out: with mere weeks to go until their wedding, the singer’s fiancé, Joe Haener, died in a horrific car accident. It was a devastating loss that hit Shannon & The Clams — who were all incredibly close with Haener — with cataclysmic force.
From the shock and trauma of that tragedy comes Shannon & The Clams’ latest album, The Moon Is In The Wrong Place, a powerful exploration of loss, time, love, and resilience that stands as the beloved garage band’s most ambitious, emotionally searing recording to date. The Moon Is In The Wrong Place shows the group ascending to new creative highs, while still weaving in the classic garage-rock and girl-group sounds that have long been a hallmark of their work. This time around, they venture to deeper, farther out musical locations than before and bring a new sophistication and intricacy to their arrangements, while Shaw’s powerful voice veers between sweetness and snarl — sometimes within the space of a single lyric.
Today, the group has shared the title track from the album along with its music video directed by Bobbi Rich. The video is a wildly psychedelic romp through the cosmos, and is destined to be one of the most exciting visuals of the year.
In preparing to record, The Clams — comprised of singer/frontwoman Shannon Shaw, guitarist Cody Blanchard, keyboard player Will Sprott, and drummer Nate Mahan — passed demos back and forth for months and, uncharacteristically for them, jammed on unfinished riffs to see what would happen. When Shaw struggled to find the right chords to go with the melodies that were pouring out of her, she obtained an Omnichord — an electronic instrument with a built-in set of chords and rhythms — and unlocked a new creative palette. In 2023, they returned to Nashville to record with longtime collaborator Dan Auerbach at Easy Eye Sound Studios — who oversaw 2018’s Onion and 2021’s Year Of The Spider — and captured what they’d been creating.
“We all felt the urgency of making something that reckoned with this meteor that smashed into our planet,” Sprott says. “This is the most focused record we’ve ever done, as far as everything coming from a singular traumatic event.”
The Moon Is In The Wrong Place opens with “The Vow,” a horn-laced number that Shaw wrote with the intention of surprising Haener on their wedding day. The track is a brief glimpse of possibility and hope for what might’ve been, one that is quickly torn to shreds. It’s followed by “The Hourglass,” a product of the band’s jam sessions. Intense and unsettling, its hypnotic, lurching groove and cascading organ runs have a touch of off-kilter Krautrock in them; it also offers a look at the volcano of emotion churning inside Shaw’s body.
Blanchard also steps up to the mic for lead vocal duties on several tracks that address his experience with loss and grief, including the strutting, fuzzed-out “Big Wheel” and the Northern soul-styled lament “What You’re Missing.” Sprott makes a rare appearance as lead singer, describing an otherworldly encounter in the trippy tune “UFO.”
There are many moments of staggering beauty on The Moon Is In The Wrong Place. “Real Or Magic” is lush and dreamy, written about a vision where Haener appeared to Shaw bathed in light, and for a moment it felt like none of the horror had been real. In “Oh So Close, Yet So Far,” Shaw feels him in the breeze, the stars, and the trees, understanding that now she shares him with everyone. “So Lucky” grew out of a mantra Shaw was repeating in the weeks after Haener’s death, and the lush arrangement shimmers with sadness and gratitude in equal measure as she recounts her favorite little details.
Another bright spot was found at the site of the tragedy, in the bean fields at Haener’s family farm. Shaw would congregate in the fields with the family and friends at night, drinking wine and looking up at the stars, sensing Haener’s presence in the fragrant flowers and the brilliant sunsets. The experience became one of the most uplifting moments on The Moon Is In The Wrong Place, as “Bean Fields” feels like a hard-earned, if fleeting, moment of joy complete with a rousing communal singalong.
Ultimately, Shaw finds something like acceptance. In the album-closing “Life Is Unfair,” she spells it out: “Life is unfair, yet beautiful. I see it now.” Existence is both bitter and sweet, sunshine and rain, dark and light, life and death. It’s a little bit of everything. Sometimes the moon is in the wrong place. Knowing that has made her and The Clams stronger.