Kim Shattuck Still Makes the Muffs Really Really Happy: It seems crazy that it’s been two and a half years since Kim Shattuck of the Muffs, the Pandoras, the Coolies, the Pixies and more passed away. Pretty much that entire period has been cloaked in the global pandemic; indeed, Kim’s tribute concert had to be canceled right at the very start of lockdown and we were robbed of our chance to say goodbye to an L.A. rock & roll great together.
Prior to Shattuck’s death, the Muffs had been reissuing their back catalog one album (or EP) at a time, and Ronnie Barnett (bass) and Roy McDonald (drums) have continued that great work. The latest to get the spit n’ polish treatment is 2004’s Really Really Happy. It was already a stellar piece of work – there really isn’t a bad Muffs album – but the reissue comes with a full disc of Shattuck demos, and it’s a treat.
“We went slightly out of order,” says McDonald. “We had been doing the reissues in order and actually the next one should have been Alert Today Alive Tomorrow, but we were never able to connect with Fat Wreck Chords to get approval to do that, so we just went to the next record. Maybe they’ll get in touch. We were negotiating for a bit and then it just fell apart. But we skipped to the next record.”
Shattuck was, the guys say, a master at demoing. Hence the fact that the bonus disc, named The New Improved Kim Shattuck Demos, sounds like the quality is as good as many band’s actual albums.
“This is the first thing we’ve done since Kim went away,” says Barnett. “We’re not prepared to dig through her archives at this point, so we were wondering what to do for bonus tracks. I’m searching around, and I was always the technically inept member of the band. So while Kim’s sending raw MP3s and digital links, back in the early 2000s, I always had to have CD burns. So I had a big stack of random CDRs with one or two tracks. But before we recorded, Kim compiled them all onto one disc. So that’s what that record is. Kim recorded the vocals at home.”
McDonald says that Shattuck’s demo genius evolved over time.
“Every record progressed,” he says. “When I first joined the band, she sent me some really super primitive demos, like everything that ended up on Blonder and Blonder. So that was 1993, ‘94 that I was listening to those. By the time we got to this record, she had really dialed in how to make these demos. It made it super easy for Ronnie and me because she kinda worked out the arrangement beforehand. By that time, I’d been in the band for a while so the three of us as a trio, she knew how we played and worked together. I think when she was making the demos she thought of that. This is what I know we can do together. Further on, she started using my old studio drum tracks, to create demos. That was the next phase of it. Basically, she didn’t even need us anymore.”
He’s joking, but that’s clearly not true – Shattuck always spoke very highly of her bandmates. Still, she was a creative whizz and a workhorse. She never stopped. It’s unfortunate that her time with the Pixies didn’t last very long, but her work with the Pandoras and the Coolies left us with some great records. And Really Really Happy is a gem.
“I like it more than its predecessor,” says McDonald. “We had come out of a really rough patch, I would say. The fact that we were still together as a band… Kim was in what then was a fairly new relationship. Everyone was in a good spot. We felt like, ok, if we weathered the storm of the past few years, we’re pretty solid as a band. You get that on that record. We’re excited to be playing and making a record again. I think it has some of our best songs.”
“I hadn’t heard it in 18 years or however long it’s been since it came out,” adds Barnett. “Obviously, we still continued to play some of those songs live, but I was astounded at the quality. It’s got a lot of songs, and a lot of high quality songs that I’d forgotten about. I’m glad it’s getting rereleased because I think it deserves some more attention than it maybe got at the time. When Roy said we took a break, we didn’t sit on our asses that entire time. We continued to tour and stuff. People mark time by record releases and I get that, but we continued to work all those years.”
We had high hopes that the guys were sitting on a pile of unreleased Muffs material, that there might be a new album in the future. That doesn’t seem to be the case.
“The last record that we released, No Holiday, we used some of the demos or half finished songs that we’d never finished up,” McDonald says. “So there’s not much left. I think what was left is what ends up on this record. I don’t think there’s much left out there. I don’t think Kim had any hidden tapes. But maybe.”
Finally, we had to ask about that canceled Kim Shattuck tribute concert. Versions of Shattuck’s band the Muffs, the Coolies and the Pandoras were all scheduled to appear, and more besides. As of now, it hasn’t been rescheduled.
“There has been some discussion a while back of rescheduling it, but I haven’t heard anything recently,” says McDonald. “But yeah, we rehearsed for it before everything completely shut down.”
“We made the decision to cancel it on the Wednesday and the next day we wouldn’t have had a choice,” adds Barnett. “But me and Roy rehearsed with Jeff and Steve [McDonald] from Redd Kross the Sunday before. We sounded pretty good.”
So who knows? The Muffs may yet play again, if only briefly. For now, we can enjoy this album, remember what a spectacular talent Kim Shattuck was, and be glad that she left us with so much joy.
Kim Shattuck Still Makes the Muffs Really Really Happy: The Muffs’ Really Really Happy reissue is out now.