Richmond’s Southern-Americana rock band, Big Mama Shakes are back and shakin’ things up you could say with some pretty extensive plans to reshape themselves this year.
Since forming in 2013, the five-piece has entertained intimate crowds at Capital Ale House, held down a regular residency at The Camel, played alongside big-name acts like Dirty Heads, Passion Pit, and Incubus, toured the East Coast, and recorded two albums. The Williamsburg natives have gained a large following and carved out a niche in the local music scene with their unique sound of soulful Southern rock which draws in younger and older generations.
I guess you can say vocalist Brady Heck has come a long way from raising chickens on the farm with his grandma. But the band will soon face a bittersweet moment this weekend as they say farewell to their drummer and founding member, Chandler Matkins, who will play his last show with the band.
Embracing his studies and trying his hand in professional acting, Matkins, along with the band, has decided to host a fundraiser for TheatreVCU’s Senior Showcase as his farewell show.
All of the proceeds will go toward sending VCU theatre students to major cities like New York and Los Angeles to get them in front of agencies and casting directors to propel them forward in their occupational endeavors.
“I just wanted to do something important to me for my last show, and all the guys agreed that it was fair, so the best idea I could come up with is giving the proceeds to something that not only I but many close personal friends of mine have put a lot of work into,” Matkins said.
Matkins will be passing the torch (or the sticks you could say), to drummer and close friend Isaac Friend of local folk/rock band Lady Empire of which Heck is also a member.
“We had auditioned a few other drummers that were all incredibly talented musicians, but there was always a disconnect,” Heck said. “When we brought Isaac in it just felt natural. There was no acclimation period, just playing music with your buddies. We have already played together on separate occasions, and he has a similar musical background, so all signs pointed to Isaac.”
Friend had nothing but great things to say about his new opportunity with Big Mama Shakes. “There’s a rare dynamic of raw talent and dedication with these guys that you don’t see too often. There are equal parts dirty rock and roll and fleshy heart. I can’t wait to sweat and bleed all over everything,” he said.
Although having to say goodbye to a fellow band member is something almost every band dreads, Big Mama Shakes remains optimistic for the future of the band and are incredibly supportive of Matkins’ journey to pursue professional acting.
“Even though Chandler is leaving, it is an opportunity for growth and we are excited to keep pushing forward. Everybody is doing what they need to do; there are absolutely no hard feelings,” said Heck.
Speaking of new changes, although there are no dates confirmed, Big Mama Shakes has plans to start recording their new album.
“The new album is going o be different than what we’ve done in the past,” said Heck. “Of course, it’s still going to have some upbeat sweaty rock songs, but we are exploring a deeper part of ourselves this time. I believe our folk/country songs have always been our best material and where we are most true to ourselves, so we’re practicing our five-part harmonies and restringing our mandolins.”
This mysterious forthcoming album will be the first new album we’ve received from them since 2016’s EP, If I Try.
Big Mama Shakes has been writing material for their new album since before recording If I Try, but they decided to leave the new music out of the EP and let it marinade for a while. If you want a taste of the new album, they have recorded one song “Coming of Age” that has already been released and will be featured on it.
In addition to a new album, there have also been some rumors circulating around a new band for the group. “It was briefly discussed, but we couldn’t seem to come up with any name that wasn’t a complete joke. If a name change does come about, we would do it when we release the new album- and that’s if we even do it,” said Heck.
During our chat, bassist Peter Cason reminisced about their favorite memories and cities to play in, from the world’s most amazing pinball machine to lighting a hotel on fire in Ohio. “After our last show in Boston, our good friends in a band called These Wild Plains had representatives of Jagermeister take us out drinking under the official company tab which was an utter catastrophe,” said Heck. “It was monumental, I didn’t even know bar tabs could get that high,” Cason added.
Although Matkins said there is nothing that quite compares to playing for their “heaven sent” fan base in the New England area, they attribute a lot of their success to the diverse and incredibly supportive music scene here in Richmond.
“Richmond is a city that loves every single aspect of music. You have music on both completely different ends of the spectrum, and they both can be just as popular with completely different fan bases or the same exact fan base,” said Matkins.
Cason described the empowering Richmond music scene as a city that loves uniqueness and authenticity. “If you are true to yourself, the scene is going to accept you for it. It’s something that bleeds outside of art and music; it’s just how Richmond is as a whole,” he said.
As for tour plans, “Big Mama is keeping her secrets close,” according to Heck. As for now, the band has been in cahoots with These Wild Plains and the two will play together in Boston later in March. Heck has also been setting up some new potential venues in the Richmond area and said he has high hopes for this new lineup.
Big Mama Shakes’ final show with drummer Chandler Matkins will be this Sat., Jan. 20 at The Broadberry, with $8 presale tickets and $10 tickets at the door. The band will be joined by Dog Lagoon, Minor Poet, and Walkerton Brothers, comprised of two other members of Big Mama Shakes, Caleb Austin, and Elijah Righter. Doors open at 7:00 pm. Tickets here.