Skate metal group The Shrine brings it home to the Townhouse Venice on July 17
By Michael Aushenker
So a funny thing happened in South America.
A few weeks ago, Westside musician Rahne Pistor, formerly an arts and entertainment editor for The Argonaut, was visiting Argentina when he spotted a pair of his Venice homeys, Josh Landau and Courtland Murphy, in a most unusual way.
“I’m in a cab and I see Josh and Court’s face on a billboard for Converse in Buenos Aires. Pretty surreal actually!” Pistor said.
A similar thing might have happened had Pistor been in Australia or Europe, because singer-guitarist Landau and bassist Murphy, former Santa Monica High School classmates, comprise two-thirds of the rising local band The Shrine, a hardcore hybrid gaining major traction abroad and now tackling the States, including a July 17 homecoming show at the Townhouse.
The band’s star has been rising steadily since its formation in late 2012. The Shrine, which also includes drummer Jeff Murray, has received much praise online for its new album “Bless Off,” as well as for the band’s 2011 debut “Primitive Blast.”
Released in March, The Shrine’s second album landed at No. 42 on SPIN’s “50 Best Albums of the Year (So Far)” list. To top everything, “Bless Off” track “The Duke” is simultaneously an homage to, collaboration with, and endorsement from one of Landau’s rock gods — former Black Flag bassist (and Venice resident) Chuck Dukowski, who grafted his original lyrics for his old band’s “I Love You” onto a chugging Shrine instrumental.
More metallic than punk with echoes of guitar-heavy groups Motörhead and Metallica, The Shrine’s sound is “a weird unholy mix,” said Landau, of his affinity for L.A. hardcore punk (including Venice’s Suicidal Tendencies), Murphy’s sweet tooth for speed metal and British metal, and Murray’s love of ‘80s Sunset Strip icons Mötley Crüe and Guns ‘N Roses. Throw in a shared love of Black Sabbath and jazz genius John Coltrane, and The Shrine rocks an unlikely mélange.
“I first saw Josh come onto the scene when he was about 19 or 20, churning out riffage that was just epic,” said Pistor, singer-guitarist of The Sixth Chamber. “His guitar playing was remarkable, unpretentious and had an energy that so clearly stood out among other local rockers, and I made sure to tell him so at the time.”
Despite the SaMoHi connection, Landau and Murphy were initially cool to each other until the day they bonded over a ‘70s U.K. band at a party.
“We talked about Thin Lizzie for like three hours. Nobody f-in’ listens to Thin Lizzie,” Landau said, laughing.
The Dogtown skateboarding culture has always been ground zero for Landau and company, who first performed at a friend’s house party on 4th and Rose avenues in 2009.
“I’ve been into skateboarding and punk and rock ‘n’ roll since I was like 14. So much of my influences are from this neighborhood,” Landau said.
That includes Dukowski, whom Landau met and jammed with five years ago after the Chuck Dukowski Sextet played at Timewarp Guitar Shop in Mar Vista.
“He still attacks his music, and you won’t see someone put their entire being into it as Chuck does. It’s this ultimate inspiring injection of life,” said Landau, who sees 60-year-old Dukowski as a musical role model.
The Shrine found their Raymond Pettibon in artist Kris Kirk, who illustrated both album covers with bold, minimalist graphics (i.e. the “Primitive Blast” wolf head.)
The men of The Shrine are spoken for. Murray is married, the bass player met a girl while in Australia and Landau is dating Olivia Jaffe, who travels with them as the group’s photographer.
Touring has treated the band well, and in August The Shrine returns to Europe before heading to play Japan for the first time.
Playing Moscow and St. Petersburg, “the kids are so nuts. This is literally all they had to live for,” Landau said. Ditto Greece, Spain and Australia. “The farther we travel, the crazier they go.”
Conversely, the London, New York and L.A. crowds were more reserved, he said.
The Shrine are currently shooting their first “Bless Off” video for the song “Worship” around Landau’s native Mar Vista, where he still lives in his family home. The band uses his garage as their jam spot.
“‘Worship’ is like ‘Tooty Fruity,’ a pure love for rock ‘n’ roll music in a sexual way. Jerry Lee Lewis playing piano with his feet. A sonic orgasm,” Landau said. “A lot of our songs are about freedom and personal power, perseverance.”
The ambitious group sells a variety of merchandise on its website.
“We run it like a skateboard company,” said Landau — which makes sense, considering Thrasher magazine has “used a ton of our songs in their skateboarding videos.”
Expect The Shrine’s next album to drop in 2015.
But it’s playing live that excites them the most, Landau said.
“When you finally play a good show and it’s just chaos and you’re stoked and there’s, like, good energy — that’s why we’re doing all this. That’s the best, when the show is good.”
The Shrine plays at 9 p.m. Thursday, July 17, at the Townhouse Venice, 52 Windward Ave., Venice. $10. Call (310) 392-4040 or visit townhousevenice.com