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Shannon and the Clams Put On A Brave Face

Wrestling with loss and despair, band leader Shannon Shaw’s stellar resilience shines through on The Moon Is In The Wrong Place.

by Brad Simm

Photo courtesy Easy Eye Sound

The first song on Shannon and the Clams’ new album, The Moon Is In The Wrong Place, kicks off with a serious bassline that rivals the seductive grooves of Motown’s legendary and influential in-house bassist, James Jamerson. “The Vow” is a beautiful beckoning of love and commitment. It was Shannon Shaw’s testament of forever to her fiance, Joe Haener, a well-respected drummer from the San Francisco area. 

“I was going to perform that for him as a surprise at our wedding,” says Shaw. 

Tragically, the happy occasion never took place. Shortly before the ceremony in August of 2022, Haener was killed in a car accident, leaving Shaw, needless to say, emotionally crushed. 

The track that immediately follows “The Vow” is called “Hourglass,” a whirlpool of frenzied energy — imagine the cyclone that tore Dorothy away from Kansas. Shaw says that putting the two songs back to back at the start of the album was intentional. 

“I wanted to capture how my life felt just moments before I got the news about Joe. You know, dreamy and the happiest I’ve ever been, everything’s finally coming together,” she says. “Then it’s just overtaken by this intensity… I feel ‘Hourglass’ really encapsulates the feeling of helplessness, chaos and intensity of where my world went.”

The resilience Shaw displayed after Haener died is remarkable. Instead of disappearing into the darkness of despair, she bounced back, posting fond memories and positivity online.  

“I appreciate you observing that,” says Shaw. ”Maybe someday I’ll disappear, I hope not. Because this feels really productive, like I’m overflowing with insane amounts of creative energy. And I needed that as an outlet.” 

She adds, “This is the most important thing that’s ever happened in my life. If I could, I would build a monument to Joe. I would make a planet or I would do something much bigger. All I want to do is make things to honour him and objectify the tragedy.”

Feeling limited by the bass and the few chords she knew how to play on guitar, Shaw looked elsewhere to spur on her creativity. She needed something more to unleash the spectrum of sounds she was hearing in her head. Bandmates Cody Blanchard and Nate Mahan introduced her to the Omnichord — an electronic, harpsichord-like gadget you can make all sorts of inventive compositions on. Shaw describes her excursion into the Omnichord.  

Behold! The almighty Omnichord!

“It has a thing called a strumplate. A little metal plate that you slide your hand up and down on. That’s how you access the higher notes, lower notes,” she says. “And then you push these buttons, kind of like an accordion, for the chord you want and whether it’s a minor or major or a seventh. It also has a drum machine in it. So I could set it like, ‘Ooh, the samba beat is cool, but it’s too crazy, I’m going to slow it down.’ Then I’m gonna select what sound I want to play on the keys and put on a flute sound and we’ll play that over a slow samba beat… And that’s how I would write songs. Push the buttons until I found the sound that was in my head, the note in my head, or the chord. Then I would play this drum part, push these buttons. That’s how I wrote the whole album.”

Pinpointing the Clams’ style is difficult — it bends and blends genres. And with The Moon Is In The Wrong Place, their musical odyssey, with the aid of the Omnichord, has expanded immensely. There’s the catchy up-beat pop-infused romps, the swanky soul, the dreamy sentimentals, the manic psychedelic twisters along with the barnyard ditties. While their love for the ‘60s and the feelgood three-minute single radiates throughout, there’s a dazzling sophistication to the songs that comes in all colours of the rainbow. 

The moon, the stars, UFOs and the celestial beyond have been consistent themes that the Clams have embraced. But since the accident, Shaw now has a different relationship with the moon and universe. A week before he died, Haener spoke about astrology, Mercury retrograde and the moon being in the wrong place, which lingered heavily with Shaw. 

“The moon being in the wrong place just haunted me,” she says. “After he died, it was like the moon really was in the wrong place or is in the wrong place. Everything that you think of as a normal part of your life, like time, and now the moon. You know, everything is just often different. Or I’m seeing a different version of it.”


Photo: Jim Herrington


Despite the massive turmoil that turned her world upside down, Shaw emerges radically empowered and free from some of the psychological chains that once tied her down. It’s a kind of  strength and fresh vitality that clearly drives the Clams. 

“As defeated and destroyed as I feel, I also feel more powerful in a way,” she says. “Tragedy like this has helped to give me clarity. Certain hang ups I have had forever just seemed to be gone. Like I don’t give a shit about so many things I thought I had to care about before. Now I just feel this whole new focus. And I feel like that’s a gift that Joe left me.”