FEATURE Never Shout Never
Image Credit: Kevin Deems

Guys From Never Shout Never Are Having The Time Of Their Lives

by Kathryn Sesser
It’s a nice, fall weekend day in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Through my open window, I can hear the normal city noise that permeates the streets on a daily basis: The more-than occasional fire truck, cars honking, an angry taxi driver and the CTA’s omnipresent “Doors closing …”

But then come the screams. First one, then many, until they become one and the sound is all that I hear, as it dubs over everything that is normal about this little enclave in the city.

No, there is no crime being committed outside today, although one would be quick to assume.

And no, it is not the second-coming of the Beatles. (Rest assured.) So don’t let the sounds fool you.

But to hundreds of teenage girls who wrapped themselves around the sidewalks outside of the Riviera Theater a couple of Saturdays ago, you would have thought it might have been. Alas, they were there, in all their excited glory, to see Never Shout Never. (Or NeverShoutNever or NeverShoutNever! or even Chris Drew and The Shout ... Whatever they choose to be called at the moment, as quite frankly, it’s too damn hard to tell.)

The Joplin, Mo.,-based band is touring in support of its latest album, Time Travel, released this year on Sire Records. And there is no doubt that 2011 has been big for them, in both beautiful and tragic ways. A product of the mySpace generation, Never Shout Never was originally just Christofer Drew. Making music at home, the teenager would post it online, and he soon became somewhat of a Web sensation. So much so that by 2009, many major labels wanted a piece of the Never Shout Never action.

Flash-forward two years, and with the release of Time Travel, it’s easy to see that the music is not just about Drew anymore, and more about the band as a whole. Talking recently to guitarist-turned-drummer Caleb Denison, it is easy to see how excited Never Shout Never is about their current tour. When I caught up with him last month, the guys were just starting their nationwide tour in Denver, Colo.

Talking to me from a street corner near their venue, Denison’s joy over the new album and the band’s tour almost oozes through the phone lines.

“We’ve always been a band, but this is the first time that there is no doubt that we’re where we want to be and we have the members we want to have,” Denison says about Never Shout Never. “Life is good. It’s all clicked together and it’s going great. We’re all pumped.”

And Denison has even more to be “pumped” about with the release of Time Travel.

“I’ve always kind of helped write the musical part of it, I’ve done that since the beginning. But with this album, Chris was kind enough and generous enough to put one of my tracks on there.”

The track, “Silver Ecstasy,” is an age-old tale of love, loss and never wanting to let it all go. “I’m pretty stoked about, it” Denison adds, “And it’s exciting to have one of my tracks on the record. It was a pretty big moment in my life.”

Like Drew, Denison currently lives in Joplin, having moved with his parents from Oklahoma to Missouri. His father, a former policeman, has played guitar for more than four decades now. “Growing up, my Mom played piano in church,” Denison says. “Most of my family is pretty musical. They all sing or play something.”

It was in Joplin that Denison met his Never Shout Never bandmates, and where earlier this year, all of them were faced with a life-changing event.

“We were fortunate enough not to lose any family or friends,” Denison says of the May 2011 tornado that devastated the sleepy Missouri town. “There were some acquaintances that we knew of that got hurt, or people we were familiar with that lost their lives. But for the most part, we were lucky. My parents and grandparents lost their houses; my dad’s studio where I recorded a lot of the songs ... I mean we lost some stuff, but you’ve just got to pick up and move on. What can you do?

“It’s like I say, there aren’t any tornadoes hiding in the woods waiting to destroy people’s lives. It’s just an act of nature. You’ve just got to deal with it the best you can.”

And deal with it, they have. Following the destruction, Drew began a relief fund with United Way to raise $1 million for his hometown. He also took video footage of the destruction and set it to music, using the title track off of Time Travel. Drew posted the video to the band’s YouTube channel, and encouraged viewers to donate to the relief fund as well.

And their fans have given time and money, with full force.

When it comes to their followers, the numbers are expanding daily, and rightfully so. For a group of guys in their mid-20s, their fan base would pretty much be a given: Girls in their mid-20s. (And younger.) But Denison says that maybe that’s somewhat of a misconception.

“There’s always going to be young kids that like us. When Chris started writing music, he wasn’t all that old, so the fans were young,” Denison says. “We do have new fans that are younger, but most of our fans are those that are growing up with us ... I think the only way I can explain it is it’s more like a ‘fan family,’ I guess.

“The kids who are into our music and like what we do, they bring their parents with them ... And then they get sucked in,” he adds. “Nine times out of 10, when we’re outside talking to people, we’re not talking to the kids, we’re talking to their moms and dads.

“I always say if you write about truth, someone’s going to relate to it,” Denisons says. “And I think that is what resonates with people is that Chris writes about things he has gone through, and other people have gone through that stuff as well.” There’s just something about Drew’s writing that Denison says “sucks them in.”

If you had asked the guys what this year would hold for them, it may have included hopes of a hit album. There would surely have been talks of a (hopefully) sold-out tour. But never, in their wildest dreams would they have imagined how close Mother Nature came to uprooting their lives.

Six months later, the guys of Never Shout Never have finally been able to turn most of their attention away from the tornado that will always define them and their town. Moving forward, the focus has become more about “Time Travel” and the tour that has them currently criss-crossing the country.

“With other albums, it’s been a cool experience, but with this album, it’s kind of been a game-changer for us,” Denison says. “It’s different and really, we’ve truly expressed ourselves this time. All of us together, we just went in and did it ... Everything to do with making that record, it’s been a big part of us. We feel it’s the coolest thing we’ve ever done.”

“Everything is moving so fast,” he adds with a laugh. “I don’t know if there’s time to deal with it all.”

  • Kathryn Sesser has been a designer with The Times of Northwest Indiana for nearly five years, but a writer all her life. A Mississippi girl, this resident of Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood is a Southerner through and through: Good food, good conversation and good music drive the soul. When not dreaming of grits, this lyrical junkie can be found wandering the streets of Chicago or searching for gems on vinyl. If the sun is out – and it’s above freezing – find her at Montrose beach with her dog, Huxley.