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"I was always a huge ACBs guy," Collin continues, "and even back in the Abracadabras days, I felt like he [Ervin] understood where we were coming from in terms of pop and harmony and catchy-fun stuff. So if there was one guy in town who was going to get it and be able to run with us, it seemed like it was Koney."
When they moved into their current place on Bell Street, the trio started practicing covers together — songs like "Cathy's Clown," "Never My Love" and "At the Hop." That bled into Collin playing Ervin new demos that he'd been working on, and soon the three were jamming on Collin's songs.
"We had been in different types of bands with different styles and sounds, but this felt more natural," Kyle says. "It was just like, 'Fuck it, we're going to write these little pop songs and play 'em because that's what we like and that's what we're good at.' "
Alas, the oldies cover band never materialized. Instead, the Shy Boys were born. (They originally called themselves the I'ms, but changed their name after Ervin warned them of the headaches of being in a band whose name contains a confusing apostrophe.) Rather than covering 1960s classics, the Shy Boys built an aesthetic inspired by them, with high harmonies, gentle jangles and innocent lyrics.
Live, they are at once precise — they often close their eyes, as though in pain, when they harmonize — and ramshackle. That looseness is in part owing to the creative liberty that Ervin and Kyle enjoy by playing different roles in the Shy Boys from those in the ACBs.
Ervin, who occasionally smashes and bashes the songs into wild, unexpected places, seems to be having an especially good time behind the kit.
"I've played drums before," Ervin says. "But in a lot of ways, I never really figured out the drums, never got better. I'm starting to get a little better now, just because I play more. And it's nice to have Kyle around to tell me if I'm doing a whack fill or something cheesy."
"In some ways," Ervin continues, "it's weird to be in the ACBs, where we have these other good songwriters in the band, but we're always playing my songs. It feels like I'm making it about myself or something, like it's me me me all the time. With Shy Boys, I can relax a little more because it's less about me."
This fall, the Shy Boys cut about 10 songs with Mike Nolte at Westend Studio. But things don't exactly move at the speed of light over at the Bell house. "We'll release it somehow, I think, probably in early spring," Collin says.
They've also been playing around a little more lately. This Saturday, the Shy Boys are at RecordBar, with Ghosty and the Conquerors — a positively extroverted gig. Then it's back to their interior lives and perhaps a holiday show at their place later in the month.
"These house shows we do over here, it's just more communal," Kyle says. "Everybody's close. Everybody's right there with you."
Can this sense of community expand to include the wild rodents roaming their home?
"I actually don't mind the mice," Ervin says. "I saw one in the cupboard the other day, and we just kind of stared at each other for a while. Then I moved, and he raced down into that hole under the dishwasher and disappeared."