On Thanksgiving night a couple of weeks back, the three members of the Shy Boys invited friends and fans — two circles with a lot of overlap at this early stage in the band's existence — to celebrate at the house where they live together on the western edge of the West Plaza neighborhood. Furniture had been relocated to the attached garage, where they practice. Around 11 p.m., after a set of grimy alt-rock from friends the Claque, an earnest crowd huddled together in the low-arching living room to watch the Shy Boys do their thing.
This kind of DIY-show ethic is common to punk culture and sometimes to hippie folk gatherings. But the Shy Boys are neither. They play soft, harmony-laden pop songs with modern underpinnings — a little bit of the Association, a little bit of Real Estate. Still, the intimacy of a house show is well-suited to the tenderness of their music, and they prefer their living-room stage to noisy clubs. Unfortunately, some new fans — an unwelcome contingent — of their private venue have recently emerged.
"We're currently battling a pretty serious rodent problem," singer, songwriter and guitarist Collin Rausch says. It's a week after the Thanksgiving show, but the drums, mics and amps are in the exact same place as they were six days ago. The couch has been moved back inside, but it's positioned near the kitchen, at an angle that would give a feng shui consultant a coronary. You get the feeling that somebody woke up one morning and dragged the couch just far enough so that they could see the TV.
Collin points at the dishwasher. "The mice come in underneath there," he says. "They've basically invaded both the kitchen and the garage. Also, some nights I hear possums climbing up the vines outside my window."
"Smokyman [a nickname for their fourth roommate, who is not in the band] has killed two of the mice so far," Konnor Ervin says. "One got stuck, and he stabbed it with an ink pen. The other one he crushed with a rock."
There has also been a rat sighting. "The rat's dead," Collin says. "We poisoned him."
How big was the rat? "Pretty big," says Kyle Rausch, who alternates bass and drums with Ervin. "It was not small."
"It was a rat," Ervin says, nodding. "It was a rat, with a big, long tail."
The Shy Boys have been living together — and, evidently, with various rodents — for about a year, roughly as long as they've been a band. But Collin and Kyle have lived and played together for far longer. The brothers grew up in Blue Springs and as teenagers and into their early 20s were members of the TD Pack Band, the long-running Kansas City Chiefs pep band that performed at home games until 2008. Their father, Kent Rausch, was an arranger and drummer for the band for 23 seasons.
From 2007 to 2009, Kyle and Collin played around town in the Abracadabras, a glam-rock group. "We were into T. Rex and Bowie and that kind of thing, wearing makeup and glitter and shit," Collin says, sighing.
When the Abracadabras disbanded, Collin and Kyle started working on an EP together.
"We got three songs into it and listened to it and were just appalled and shelved it," Collin says. "And I went through sort of an existential music crisis for a while. But finally I started writing pop songs again."
A couple of years ago, Kyle took over as drummer for the ACBs, the local pop-rock group led by Ervin. The Rausches and Ervin found that they shared a love of oldies music and had the idea to start an oldies cover band. "Oldies are kind of what Kyle and I were raised on," Collin says. "It's what we'd sing in the car with my mom and dad. We'd sing harmonies to songs on Oldies 95. It just became part of our vocabulary.