Shakey Graves Looks Back on His Breakthrough Album “Roll the Bones” for Its Deluxe Release
Re-released as a double-LP with 15 new tracks, Alejandro Rose-Garcia’s debut celebrates 10 years of existence.
Alejandro Rose-Garcia has been making music under the moniker Shakey Graves for over 10 years now. The Texas musician has released five albums—most of which are self-released—and three lives recordings. In honor of its 10-year anniversary, he’s officially re-releasing his debut album as a double LP called Roll the Bones X.
Before Roll the Bones, Rose-Garcia’s musical project consisted of two hefty folders full of lyrics, drawings, and even a zine about a mouse journeying to the moon to rescue his love. Shakey Graves was in the works for years, his debut drafted numerous times, for the sake of surviving. “There was a lot of conceptualizing going on—trying to figure out what I wanted stuff to look like, sound like, and be like,” he says of that time in the late ’00s. “And, honestly, a lot of trying to keep myself from going crazy.”
Roll the Bones is a gentle, scrappy debut steeped in heartache and exploration of the self in a new city, reminiscent of folk-rock legends Tyrannosaurus Rex and Donovan. The album was initially plopped on Bandcamp when the site was in its humble beginnings without any information about Rose-Garcia. “In a lot of ways it was a breakup record,” he says looking back. “My first serious relationship had fallen apart and I was wanting to break up with my life—run away, be transient, and figure out who I was in the world. I can hear myself blaming the girl and trying to support myself, like maybe it’s OK to be dirty and crazy and have blinders on. Then, at the end, everything’s zooming back in and I’m saying ‘I guess I just got hurt and I’m in a bit of pain and, you know, it’s going to be OK.’”
Now, the official 2021 re-release includes an additional album titled Odds + Ends that holds 15 extra tracks. Below, you can listen to the extra demos and interludes as Garcia-Rose walks us through the original 10 tracks.
1. “Unlucky Skin”
This album was slowly collected as opposed to chronologically produced. I was freshly 20 and had started experimenting with 4-track cassette recordings and writing the songs as they appeared, and this was one of the first tunes that really stood out to me. It had its only sort of melancholy and playfulness. I recorded the banjo and vocals separately. It took years to figure out how to play the rhythm and sing the tune at the same time.
2. “Built to Roam”
I was living in Los Angeles chasing my tail trying to be an actor when this song came along. The guitar I’m playing is a haunted 1932 Gibson L7 which had magically fallen into my possession. This guitar led me into my early experimentations in open tuning and is playing all the parts, including the rhythm sounds.
3. “Roll the Bones”
I wrote this melody around the same time I wrote “Built to Roam,” but couldn’t figure the lyrics out. It finally came together two years later when I was staying in my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn. I recorded all of it using a Zoom H4n portable recorder, which was an insane task.
4. “I’m on Fire”
I never set out to record a Bruce cover, let alone his most covered tune. I had initially recorded the bass line on its own and then started singing “I’m on Fire” over it sort of as a joke. Shockingly, it all fit together and was so effortless and surprising that I just went ahead and kept it.
5. “Georgia Moon”
My best friend and I scrawled this tune out on a road trip to NYC. Originally envisioned as a tongue-in-cheek country tune about shitty corn liquor, once put to music it took on a serious tone and became a tribute to our journey.
6. Business Lunch”
Found a Casio keyboard in the garbage and made a beat out of it, the rest unfolded into a song about the dirty side of life and its eternal allure.
7. “City in a Bottle (Live @ 2023)”
On my first legendary trip to New York City I met a sex worker on the train named Quick Monique the Freak. She was an older woman and was very concerned about my boots being dirty. She offered to clean them for me and I passed on the offer, but have always thought back on that fork in the road.
8. “Proper Fence”
Built as a tribute to a lot of the old Alan Lomax recordings I was listening to at the time. A classic song about missing the love boat.
9. “The Seal Hunter”
Originally called “For a Good Time Fuck My Wife” about a despicable person. When recording it I was recording over cassette tapes I found in my house, this was a tape by some sort of spiritual sex therapist that one of my parents had—once I heard some of the tape I knew I wanted to sample his voice.
10. “To Cure What Ails”
I had a little studio apartment in Culver City, the majority of the music off this record was recorded in that spot. I would sit at a tiny table and stare out the window every morning and make songs. There was a wind chime outside of the window and a palm tree in the distance. You are certain to hear the wind chime on any track written in that studio but this is the only one that features the palm tree.