If you were trying to determine the age demographic of Shiny Toy Guns, you’d have a very difficult time. Though they’ve landed several songs on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart, they have a legion of young fans.
Very young fans. “I probably took 20 pictures from people under the age of 12 last night,” says the band’s co-founder, Jeremy Dawson. “They knew the lyrics to every song. It was freaking me out. They knew more of the lyrics than I did.”
It might be the fact that parents are rocking out to the Guns and their ’80s-like sound that’s bringing in the kids.
“Maybe,” Dawson says. “Kids like what kids like, and normally they don’t like what Mom and Dad like. They think it’s lame. I’m still trying to figure that out. Maybe we should go do a tour with Nickelodeon.”
That’s not as crazy as it sounds. The group appeared on the Nick Jr. program Yo Gabba Gabba late last year under the alias The Shinys.
It was about this time that they received a Grammy nomination for their debut album We Are Pilots, which featured Modern Rock radio hits “You Are the One,” “Rainy Monday” and “Don’t Cry Out.” Though the ’80s influences are apparent, Dawson says they’re not really retro rockers.
“We’re younger than that,” he says.
He does understand how people make the connection though.
“In that decade and especially the late ’70s you have music based around melody,” he explains. “Music based around very passionate epic soundscapes. A lot of synthesizers and drum machines were used … we’re half robotic. Half machine, half guitar. The ’90s went back to the raw guitar, three-piece bands, Rock & Roll. I don’t know what this decade is yet.”
Another thing that might have caused people to assume they were directly influenced by ’80s bands was their cover of “Stripped” that first appeared on the Goth Tribute to Depeche Mode.
“(The compilation’s producers) came to us and asked if we’d like to do (a Depeche cover), and we got the opportunity to pick the song, which was really cool, so we picked ‘Stripped,’ ” Dawson says. “It was something that was OK to cover because there are so many Depeche Mode songs that, by law, you should not (be allowed to) touch. ‘Stripped’ wasn’t one of the big smash hits, but it’s still a great song. It just felt like it was the right one to do.”
The song continues to be a big part of the band’s set.
For their new album, Season of Poison, the band went in a slightly rockier direction, which was something they hadn’t foreseen when they began creating it.
“We didn’t plan on Season of Poison doing anything,” Dawson says. “We just let it go. If you remember the film Fight Club, there’s that scene where Brad Pitt lets go of the wheel and just lets the car go. That’s kind of what we did — we just let it go.”
Though it’s decidedly edgier than Pilots, Dawson notes that the songs still follow the philosophy of the debut CD.
“We kind of went a lot more aggressive this time, but it’s still very melodic,” he says. “It has sort of a kick to it you could say.”
Season of Poison marks another change for the group, as singer Carah Faye Charnow departed this past August. Dawson claims the split was amicable and that the rigors of touring simply took its toll on Charnow.
“She’s extremely happy where she is now,” Dawson says, “and we’re happy where we are now and we’re friends. It’s totally cool.”
Charnow is now living in Sweden, where she’s formed a band with her boyfriend. Replacing Charnow is ex- Cooler Kids vocalist Sisely Treasure. If you don’t recall her former band, you might know her from Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll reality series, where she was a finalist.
“Sis was a girl that we wanted to be in our band six years ago, when the band didn’t even exist,” Dawson says. “We couldn’t do it because she was signed to Dreamworks with Cooler Kids, and so we had to go and audition other girls to be in the band.”
At the time they were forming Shiny Toy Guns Dawson and Petree had been working together under the name Slyder. The Shawnee, Okla., natives had wound up in L.A. together and had become moderately successful making dance music and DJing. But that particular scene began to wear on them.
“We just got sick of it and the music started getting crappy, and it was all extremely drug-oriented everywhere,” Dawson says. “We’d go to a show and be stepping over people everywhere laying in their own drool. It became not fun.”
Having been in Rock bands previously, they decided to mix their two interests. The result was Shiny Toy Guns, with Dawson on bass and keyboards and Petree on guitar and vocals. Mikey Martin was brought in on drums.
“We said, ‘Hey, why don’t we smash all this together and make a new sound?’ ” Dawson says. “That’s kind of where we (are) today.”
SHINY TOY GUNS perform Saturday at the Madison Theater with The Ting Tings and SafetySuit. The show is SOLD OUT.