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Kansas City's Shy Boys Open Up About Their Song 'Trim'

Local musicians tell the story behind a song and explain how it was constructed musically in The Story of a Song, a monthly segment from KCUR's Central Standard.

Artist: Shy Boys

The Song: Trim

The Beginning: Back in 2011 Collin Rausch played some demos he had been working on for his brother Kyle Rausch and their friend Konnor Ervin. The two of them were already playing in a pop band called the ACB's at the time.

"We listened to a couple of his demos and I was kind of blown away," recalls Ervin.

That was the beginning of Shy Boys. The friends started playing around with different instrumentations, and after about a year they were playing shows. The music part came a lot easier than the words.

"We'll go 10 shows just mumbling lyrics for a new song you know, just straight up singing nonsense, and most times nobody even notices. Until like it's balls to the walls time, I can't figure out how to write lyrics," says Collin.

Finding the words: It wasn't until Shy Boys were in the midst of recording their LP, which came out in 2014, that they had to commit to turning the mumbles into actual words. 

"It wasn't that we were intentionally being coy about what we were saying, it was that it didn't materialize until the last second," says Collin.

Ervin, who wrote the lyrics to Trim, says they ended up using a lot of the same vowel sounds that were in Collin's original mumbled demos. 

"It was swim, I think, at first," says Ervin. "And we needed lyrics in an hour or something and I was like what if we made it trim, would that be alright?"

The significance of Trim​ to Shy Boys: It started off with a simple idea. Trimming hedges. 

"It's just literally about trimming shrubs." says Ervin, who does landscaping. "When I'm working, my mind just wanders, and sometimes it goes into bad places, but if I just focus on just like doing a good job here with the trimmer or whatever. I'll be at least in the present moment, and be at peace."

Collin says he didn't know about the hedges when he recorded the vocal track. "I had this picture of this guy looking at himself in the mirror while he's shaving," says Rausch and that's the image and emotional approach he brought to the song.

"Sometimes you get really depressed or you get really anxious, and I know for me when that happens, I feel the need to change something about myself. And like shaving is like the one thing that I can immediately alter on my body without doing serious harm," he says.

Kyle Rausch says he knew the inspiration came from hedges, but he also had a deeper take away.

"You know the record came out, and as far as everyone could tell on virtual reality, like everything was tight, we were doing awesome, whatever. But really we should have definitely been homeless. It was only through the grace of friends and Konnor — you know it was just a pretty bad time." says Kyle.

Kyle says it was a time of hardship and growth, as they were breaking away from all the standards and pressures that were put on them when they were younger.

"We had already been playing music for a while and like pretty much ruined our lives for it, and this band was like letting go in a way. And I think Trim amongst others is pretty indicative of the mindset," he says.

The lyrics: Trim, stand aside. Hold what's cutting and lean over. Lift, to the left, send a message to your hands to slow down keep your head down, don't be sad. Don't remind yourself. Keep your focus and trim. (Repeat)

Every part of the present has been shaped by actions that took place in the past, but too often that context is left out. As a podcast producer for KCUR Studios and host of the podcast A People’s History of Kansas City, I aim to provide context, clarity, empathy and deeper, nuanced perspectives on how the events and people in the past have shaped our community today. In that role, and as an occasional announcer and reporter, I want to entertain, inform, make you think, expose something new and cultivate a deeper shared human connection about how the passage of time affects us all. Reach me at hogansm@kcur.org.
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