Shallows is your new electro-pop obsession. With the release of their debut track, “Summer Sucks” the newly formed duo, comprised of producer/guitarist Marshall Gallagher and singer Dani Poppitt, is crashing onto the LA music scene looking for a good time. Their chilled-out yet irresistibly danceable sound evokes the feeling of driving a dimly lit freeway on a Southern California night— and leaves you begging to hear more. Here’s what happened when I talked to Marshall Gallagher (MG) and Dani Poppitt (DP) about their iconic backstory, Netflix favorites, and their thoughts on the upcoming festival season.
You two met at a party and shortly after decided to start making music together. What were your first impressions of each other?
MG — I don’t think we even talked until the very end of the party when she was leaving. I was pretty drunk and I remember saying something along the lines of, “Oh you’re a songwriter? Let’s write sometime!” and at this point I was just starting to dabble in production and collaborate with other people. So I was just looking for anything to get my chops up, but I checked her out on YouTube the next day and just loved the hell out of her voice. Little did I know she’d be my go-to writing partner a year and a half later.
DP — Marshall and I connected at the tail end of this outrageous house party. I was on my way out and bumped into him. We spoke briefly and added each other on Facebook. I think I was on the lookout for a dope producer, and there he was.
Where did the name come from?
MG — Where most decent names come from… nowhere. Totally out of the blue. We had about five different names before we settled on Shallows, and my poor girlfriend had to change the album artwork every single time we decided we didn’t like something.
DP — We had the music before the name. We landed on Shallows because we felt it was the overall attitude of the glamour in Los Angeles, lots of Shallows walking about.
Tell us a little bit about both of your music endeavors before you started Shallows.
MG — I was in a handful of punk and screamo bands back in Denver, none of which really took off but holy shit those van tours were fun. I got a gig several years back playing guitar for 3OH!3, and that took up most of my time for awhile. I still play for them, they’re some of my best friends and we’ve had some incredible experiences. Somewhere in the middle I started an alt rock emo solo project called Swing Hero, which eventually bled into my other current band, Teenage Wrist. I’ve been producing and writing more in the pop world recently and it’s a nice change.
DP — Life before Shallows, my days were still filled with songwriting. Since I was 12, I was writing songs and collaborating with people. In 2012, I went up to a cabin in Mammoth and recorded a full album with my friends. It was a huge learning experience. I think it was all preparation for the big picture.
In your debut track, “Summer Sucks” one of most memorable lines is the standout verse, “it’s better to want you than to have you“. Did writing this come from personal experience?
MG — That was the line that started it all, thanks to Dani. When I first heard it I definitely connected with it… I’ve had plenty of instances where I grew attached to someone and missed them when they were gone, but when they were actually around I was miserable for some reason.
DP — It did come from a personal experience. We all have a person who is better to want than to have. Saying it out loud gives power to make that better choice for yourself. Something that will cause less pain.
Your first live performance was at the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles. How did you feel to play this gig in your hometown?
MG — It was totally uncomfortable and we were so nervous until the very first drum fill. It was our first time playing to tracks that we had created ourselves. When everything came in and sounded fucking massive, I knew it was going to be okay from then on. It felt incredible, and I found out that Dani has some serious super fans.
DP — It felt awesome! All of our besties came out to party!
You’ve released a track; you’ve played your first show— what’s next?
MG — More shows! Like, whatever we can get that’s not some sleazy west side bar or some pay to play nonsense. And we have another single ready for the summer.
DP — Next is working on the music video for “Summer Sucks” while simultaneously playing out and reaching more people.
Do you know each other’s strengths when it comes to songwriting or is it a fairly synergetic process?
MG — With some people it’s hard to pry ideas out, myself included. I tend to overthink things at the beginning of the songwriting process, but Dani is really great at just throwing stuff out there and starting a conversation. And I’m good at filling in the blanks and making stuff sound cool. So it’s definitely a total collaboration and a symbiotic relationship.
DP — It’s a perfect balance. When I’m lacking in an area, Marshall will rise up and vice versa.
Most artists releasing new music seem to agree that genre is dead. Would you consider your music to fit this multi-faceted anti-category?
MG — I’ve never heard that consensus, but I like it. Sometimes it’s fun to speculate about genres and influences so I normally just classify us under the giant bubble of “pop”. But there are so many other elements from shoegaze to hip-hop that make it into our songs; I guess you could say we’re genre-defiant. But I don’t like to hear it come out of my own mouth, it sounds pretentious. Like we’re pushing the boundaries of music or something. We’re not, we’re just having a good time and writing good tunes.
DP — Yes, new disco pop electronic glitter dance rock.
If you were to make a playlist of your most significant musical inspirations, who would make the cut?
MG — The first five artists would probably be… Smashing Pumpkins, Thrice, A Tribe Called Quest, Kendrick Lamar and Led Zeppelin. From there, it’s anyone’s guess.
DP — Tom Petty, Miley Cyrus, Nirvana, Amy Winehouse and Bob Dylan.
What’s under the “continue watching” section of your Netflix account?
MG — I haven’t watched Netflix in awhile because I discovered about a month ago that every episode of Seinfeld is on Hulu. But probably Frasier or Trailer Park Boys or something equally shameful.
DP — House of cards, oh my gosh!
Where do you imagine your song being blasted and danced along to?
MG — My mom’s SUV (laughs).
DP — On the radio in every Prius in Los Angeles (majority of the population).
If you were to go on tour right now, whom would you want as the opening talent?
MG — No one, I want US to be the opening talent but want to open for Kimbra or Justin Bieber.
DP — If we were to get on a tour I would want it to be with M83 or my girl, Miley Cyrus.
We’re on the brink of festival season. Which festival would be a dream to play?
MG — This is gonna sound real dumb but I really don’t see the allure of the mega-festival. I’ve never been to one and I honestly can’t imagine anything more stressful, expensive and unfulfilling as a music fan. But I would definitely not say no to playing Coachella. Playing SXSW a few years ago was a blast too; I’d like to do that again.
DP — Obvi, Coachella. iHeartRadio music festival would be a dream!
What are the benefits of being a duo as opposed to being solo artists?
MG — Collaborating with someone else opens up a whole new palette of sounds and possibilities that I would never think of on my own. And it’s good to have someone keeping you in check.
DP — We are both looking out for each other. Instead of everyman for themselves we get to help each other reach our musical dreams.
Describe a totally surreal experience you have had since starting shallows.
MG — We haven’t been around long enough to experience anything totally surreal… but when I looked at our Spotify plays this morning I was floored. Two years ago I never would have imagined anything I’ve written or produced catch on as much as this has so far, much less a pop song. It feels really, really great and I’m so thankful for everyone and everything that’s led us here.