Concert preview: Shape-shifting Shamir brings beat-rich Ratchet to the Basement
Shamir Bailey didn't intend for his debut full-length Ratchet to pay tribute to old-school house music, but that's precisely what ended up happening.
"When I sent my first demos to [producer] Nick [Sylvester], he was listening and he was like, 'This is so house! You must listen to so much Frankie Knuckles and this and that and blah, blah, blah,'" said the Las Vegas-born Bailey, 20, who headlines a concert at the Basement on Friday, Oct. 9. "I mean, I had heard of house - it wasn't a term that was unfamiliar to me - but it wasn't something I could pinpoint if I heard it because I was so deep into guitar-based music at the time (growing up, Bailey had a fascination with classic rockers like the Who and Janis Joplin).
"It's funny how the universe works sometimes. I'd never even heard of these people, but my music definitely had the same vibe."
Bailey ascribed the accidental similarities to some combination of his vintage gear ("a super old drum machine from the early '90s," as he described it) and a desire to record songs that ran counter to the glossy EDM acts attracting throngs of revelers to various trendy nightclubs on the Vegas strip. "I thought I was doing something different by doing something a bit more minimal," he said.
A desire to continually seek out new frontiers has remained a constant for the shape-shifter, who started his music career crooning country songs and briefly fronted a punk duo (Anorexia) before recasting himself in the more dance-oriented guise heard on Ratchet.
"It's almost like if you look at Picasso, where he has different periods with his paintings - like the Blue Period and all of that," said Bailey, an emotive singer blessed with an androgynous, countertenor voice. "No one looks at him like, 'He was just finding his style.' No, he was doing what felt right at the time for him. And I'm an artist in that same way."
According to Bailey, he settled on his current career path at an early age - "Ever since I was 8, I was attached to the mic/ Wanted a guitar before I wanted a bike" he announces on the clattering "On the Regular," a story he confirmed as gospel truth in conversation - a decision inspired in large part by his aunt, a poet and songwriter. "I think it was something I was born to do, first and foremost, but my aunt definitely was that push," he said.
Even equipped with this belief, Bailey was still caught off-guard by the success of Ratchet. "It's crazy how ridiculously fast things have been happening," he said.
Should the surge continue at its current rate, however, north suburban Vegas life has helped the musician develop the skills needed to elude any crazed fans that might swarm him in public.
"Once you leave the downtown Strip … it's just mountains and dust and cacti and dirt. And we have tumbleweeds, and they literally will chase you," Bailey said. "I've definitely been chased by tumbleweeds a few times."
8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9
391 Neil Ave., Arena District