Standard Sounds

Annie O Presents: Rupe Shearns

We have a secret weapon at The Standard in the form of a French-Moroccan music maven named Annie O. After years in the music industry representing greats like Lou Reed, Pearl Jam, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Peter Gabriel, we nabbed her to curate The Annie O Music Series, a regular concert series in the airy Penthouse of The Standard, East Village. 

On Friday, September 30th, Annie O tapped Matt Whyte, aka Rupe Shearns, to ascend to The Penthouse. Formerly of Earl Greyhound, the Brooklyn singer and guitar player is forging his own path as Rupe Shearns, with his debut album due in early 2017. He spent the past four years working on his new music and he's now ready to share it with us in an intimate set at The Standard, East Village. Annie O connected with him before the big night to hear about how his album came together. 
Annie O Presents: T.O.L.D. & Rupe Shearns
Friday, September 30, 7-9pm
The Standard, East Village Penthouse
Free with an RSVP to

ANNIE O: What can you tell us about the name Rupe Shearns and the story behind your upcoming album?

RUPE SHEARNS: The name came about toward the end of a 4-year recording process. It occurred to me in a dream one night and I liked it enough to make note of it, maybe not necessarily as a band name, but regardless, it ended up in my iPhone notes among other band name ideas I’ve thought of in jest and earnest over the years. So I can say it beat out Panther Scratch, among others. 
The recording itself began with little direction at all. I set out to record some songs with Noah Murphy (co-producer) and the process informed the production as we went along. I think we began every song with guitar and voice, but I doubt any of those initial ideas remain on the final mixes.

Tell us a little bit about your bewitching single "Surf Burial." How did it come about and what was the recording process like?
I was walking along the dunes in Montauk, Long Island in June of 2011 and my friend and I saw a group of people memorializing someone who I can only assume was a surfer. It was strikingly solemn and ceremonial. They had set up logs of driftwood to make an arch and hung garlands of flowers from it; beneath it sat a surf board with an urn strapped to the top of its nose. At the end of the service, the group stood in a line with their arms around each other and one among them stepped out from the line and paddled the urn out from shore about 15 yards and sank it into the ocean. I felt incredibly lucky to have witnessed it. 
The recording process itself began like most the others and Noah came up with the string arrangement fairly early on in the process. Perhaps even before Chris recorded the drums. 

This album was 4 years in the making and features some very talented collaborators. Tell us how those came about. 
I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many uniquely gifted musicians along the way. Chris Bear was the drummer for Earl Greyhound before he started Grizzly Bear, and Inara George has been a dear friend since I drove her and her band around in the old EG van for some East Coast tour dates in 2005.
Any wild moments or fond memories you can share from the road?
The fondest memory that comes to mind first is falling asleep to the sound of rain in the back of our van in Detroit in 2010. We’d just played a memorably satisfying show and had yet to load the equipment back in the van and leave. It was blissful. 
You're a master musician that is proficient in many instruments. As a teen, you played with legends like Carlos Santana. With so much knowledge of different instruments and sounds, do you ever feel like a mad scientist in his lab while in the studio? How was the songwriting process for this album?
I can say with a good deal of objectivity and adequate self-esteem that my skills stop short of mastery. I’m a lucky duck and have had the opportunity to play with a lot of inspiring musicians and to have been able to keep learning along the way. Before making this record, I was comparatively rigid in my approach to making music and my collaboration with Noah helped shake up my process. He has a sky’s-the-limit and "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" approach which has made me far more curious and patient. Making music deficient in either quality can be a slog.
Are there any specific tracks you currently have on repeat?
My wife and I have listened to the new Frank Ocean album around the house more than once recently. Gone are the days where I could listen to a track on repeat. I’m no longer cut out for it, I don’t think.
How would we find you on any given Sunday?
This past Sunday, I was recording a Serge Gainsbourg-inspired track for my friend’s fashion label, Stone Fox Bride. Then I went to dim sum for a friend’s birthday in Chinatown, came back to the apartment, housed half a pint of ice cream, and finished the track for the video I began earlier. 
If Rupe Shearns had a superpower, what would it be?
Does time travel count? I’m not qualified for it more than any other ability per se, but it’s the most appealing.
What can we expect from your show at The Standard, East Village, as we understand it is your first show as “Rupe Shearns”?
I’ve been playing the 12-string guitar tuned way down like Pete Seeger and Leadbelly a lot these days, and I’ve arranged the songs to jive with that sound. The enormously talented Alec Spiegelman (Anais Mitchell) and Dave Cole (Rubblebucket) will be backing me up on pump organ, bass clarinet, and marimba. I am psyched!

Do you still have your other band Earl Greyhound?
Earl Greyhound is no more. We played our last show during the fall of 2010 in NY.

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