The Shack Band may call Richmond home, but for most of the band, the music began in Blacksburg.
“We all started as a band when we were at Virginia Tech,” said Mason Owen, bassist and vocalist for the group. “I met Andrew, our keyboard player, my sophomore year. I was living in a one-bedroom house on East Roanoke Street that people called ‘The Shack.’ We started gathering all of the music equipment we needed and by the time we were ready to play, people were already calling us the Shack Band.”
The Shack Band is composed of four college graduates: Owen, drummer Bobby Hudson, keyboardist Andrew Gillespie and guitarist Hunter Pease.
“I was actually in a separate band at Tech,” Pease said. “Our two bands would play together; we jammed a lot. When some people dropped out, they asked me to join.”
Gillespie, Pease and Owen are Tech alumni. They said playing a show last week at the Sycamore Deli brought back fond memories of their time in college.
“It was our second time playing at the Sycamore Deli this semester, but oddly enough, that place used to be known as The Lantern,” Owen said. “Back in the day, we saw huge national touring bands in that room: Perpetual Groove, Lotus, The Hackensaw Boys, Railroad Earth. It was cool because Blacksburg had that vibe to get national touring bands in a 150-person room and the next night the Shack Band could be playing there.”
After graduating from college, the band left The Shack and moved to Richmond to begin real work as a group. They had no record deal and no guarantee that their music would be a success.
“It was terrifying to move to Richmond and go for it after graduating, but things worked themselves out,” Owen said.
The Music Business
Making it in the music business does not come without hard work. Each member of the group has a job outside the band.
“Besides touring, everybody has their own way of financially supporting themselves,” Owen said. “Hunter and I are both cognitive skills trainers — it doesn’t take up many hours of the week. One of the guys is a plumber and one works at a golf course.”
Owen and Pease said they value their extracurricular work, even though their lifestyles seem atypical to the modern working world.
“I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing for anything,” Pease said. “What we’re doing outside of music will prepare us for when we’re not in a band. I’m getting useful, practical experience.”
Developing a following
The band also values its connection with fans. Building loyalty in a fan base is critical, and seems more important to the Shack Band than financial success.
“It helps when someone can come and make an initial investment in us and finance things,” Pease said. “We’re the ones making payments on our transportation and equipment and when we get an investment from someone who believes in who we are and what we do, it helps a ton.”
The band hopes to maintain a loyal following while reaching out to new fans.
“We keep trying to develop new markets while servicing the following in markets we already have,” Owen added. “Blacksburg is one of them, and it’s great to be able to start a tour knowing people will be at shows to see you. That’s one of the great things about coming back and playing in Blacksburg.”