The band formed in 2001 when bassist and keyboardist Jeremy Dawson began playing music with guitarist and vocalist Gregori Chad Petree in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The pair collaborated on projects like the video game soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto III. Drummer Mikey Martin, a California musician from Simi Valley joined Dawson and Petree, and, initially, Ursula Vari sang with the band.
However, in 2004, Carah Faye Charnow replaced Vari after Jeremy met Carah while looking for a singer for songwriting demos. In an interview with LoveToKnow, Jeremy Dawson described the band's formation: "We met because friends and people who were working on other projects put a few of us in situations where we noticed others in their situations. We talked, then we were alone for the first time and it was amazing. Like when you know this is who you want to be with."
Innovative Use of Social Media
The chemistry clearly worked. The new lineup of Shiny Toy Guns began to build a local following in California. In addition, during MySpace's time of peak popularity in the early 2000s, Shiny Toy Guns was one of the bands to take advantage of the popular new social media site, and this multiplied the band's already fast-growing fan base.
Dawson described to LoveToKnow their relationship with MySpace during this early period of the band: "In theory, MySpace has helped everyone, but it's a little tricky as to who is able to take 'credit for popularity,' if these are the right words in context....did Myspace [cause this connection between the band and our fans]? Not exactly. But they built the bridge, they opened the doors."
But, as Dawson explained to LoveToKnow, despite the band's burst of popularity in the early 2000s, it experienced "an unimaginable amount [of trouble]," in the music industry as they fought to make a name for themselves. The journey toward completing their first album was a clear example of how the path to success in music can be unpredictable.
Rise in Popularity
After growing in popularity, Shiny Toy Guns released their first album in early 2005 called We Are Pilots. The band switched up the track list, revised some of the recordings, and then released the album a second time not long after the first release. Their popularity online and on the touring circuit finally led to a major label record deal with Universal Records in June 2006.
In April of 2007, the band turned heads in the industry when its song You Are The One beat Maroon 5's Make Me Wonder and Snoop Dogg's Boss' Life in MTV's weekly Battle of the Videos competition.
In addition, their signing with Universal had one immediate benefit: the professional recording resources of the label allowed the band to re-record and release We Are Pilots a third time. This final version of their first album did the trick. It was a big success with fans and critics alike and in December 2007, it garnered a Grammy nomination for "Best Electronic/Dance Album."
- You Are The One (Charted no. 25 on Billboard's Alternative Charts)
- Rainy Monday (Charted no. 23 on Billboard's Alternative Charts)
- Le Disko (Charted no. 26 on Billboard's Alternative Charts)
Although the band has two talented lead vocalists who share the singing duties, Carah Faye as a female lead vocalist became known for her beautiful voice and looks, which created preconceptions at times. Dawson explained to LoveToKnow the band's approach to that problem:
"Unfortunately, we do have to be careful. The American media marketing system trains people to look immediately at the outer shell of something thrown in their direction, and Carah just happens to be a very beautiful person inside and out, and it's a bit hard to not focus on that longer than one of our bass guitars or something. Preconceptions will be replaced with actual grasping of our vision once someone digs even a few inches deeper with us, so it's not an actual problem, just something we do have to think about as we make decisions and move forward."
Emphasis on Songwriting Craft
The members of Shiny Toy Gun each have displayed an unusual depth to their craft. Their image is more than just eye candy, and they're certainly not your average rock band. As Dawson explained to LoveToKnow, the band makes songwriting craft their highest priority:
"It's a thousand times more important to learn to make music and sounds and write thoughts and words that move people than it is to be able to perform these sounds and sights live and perfect on a stage. The stage is always second. If you put it first, you will join the tens of thousands of bands out there who have a ceiling above them that they just ram their heads into every day, unable to penetrate to get to the next level because the priorities were not set from day one."
While the band tries to create meaningful art, they have also refused to be snobbish about it. When LoveToKnow asked Dawson if the shallow lyrics of pop stars bothers him when his band is trying so hard to write deep lyrics, he gave this surprising answer:
"[Pop stars] are just people who are very talented in the aspect of performance and they are part of a sub-system of music that is built around a sexual sheep-herding style of marketing and distribution. At the end of the day the people or 'stars' themselves actually listen to the same good music you or I listen to and dream of how they would rather be doing something they truly love or something closer to that. They are a lot nicer and more interesting people than anyone gives them credit for in a stereotypical sense. And none of this has anything to do with us at all--it's absolutely grey, neither pain nor gain."
Second Studio Album: 'Season of Poison'
Just as Shiny Toy Guns had reached a new peak of popularity, Carah Faye Charnow left the band, and then formed the band Versant in Sweden with Daniel Johansson. The founders of the band, Jeremy and Chad, told an interviewer that she chose to leave and that they did not kick her out. In a later interview, however, Carah responded by claiming that she had been kicked out.
Later in 2008, female vocalist Sisely Treasure, who was formerly in Cooler Kids, replaced Carah as singer and the band released their second album "Season of Poison" in November 2008.
- Ricochet! (Charted no. 17 on Billboard's Alternative Charts, the band's highest charting song)
- Ghost Story (Charted no. 26 on Billboard's Alternative Charts)
By this time, Shiny Toy Guns had become seasoned world travelers and built fan bases globally. Dawson shared his thoughts on the differences between touring in the United Kingdom and the United States:
"It is quite different....with England and so many of the other countries in Europe, there is a difference. Take yourself, you who are reading this, and all of your friends. You and your friends go to shows, listen to amazing music, have a collection that mirrors a record store possibly, and you consider yourself different from the person walking down the street who may only listen to CHR "hit" radio and manufactured pop music, right? Overseas, the people walking down the street listening to pop music are just as open-minded and hyper-critical as you are and love just as amazing music as you do.
"It's a world where people are logically open-minded and they think differently. They think from face value to origin, instead of only what they can see right in front of their face or hear right in front of their ears. Of course, so many of you are exactly like this, but the majority of life over there follows this pattern where America is still working to get to that point."
Girls Le Disko: The Remixes
In 2010, as the band worked on a third studio album and as this work became delayed, the band chose to release some in-between material to hold fans over until they could complete the studio album. They released Girls Le Disko: The Remixes, which featured new versions of their songs remixed by Boys Noize and Gabriel & Dresden.
- Cover of Peter Schilling's Major Tom (Coming Home), which was originally used in a Lincoln car commercial, and it charted no. 97 on Billboard's Hot 100.
Third Studio Album: 'III'
Not long after "Girls Le Disko," Sisely Treasure left Shiny Toy Guns to work on solo projects. In a dramatic countdown video on their Facebook page, the band announced Carah Faye would be returning as vocalist. This led to the 2012 release of their third studio album III, which successfully recaptured the band's original, and much loved, pop-synth rock sound.
- Waiting Alone
- Fading Listening
In addition to Carah's return to the band, her then-husband Daniel Johansson, who had formed Versant with her, also joined Shiny Toy Guns for III. However, Johansson left the band before III was released because his and Carah's relationship ended.
In a 2014 interview in Chicago, the band described the making of the dramatic music video for their single Waiting Alone, which featured Carah Faye running across the country from Los Angeles to New York to reach her love interest. In the interview, Carah revealed that though she was raised in Southern California, she loved hiking in the mountains and rugged wilderness life, which explains why she was willing to do the arduous running and mountain river swimming she does in the video.
In addition, Jeremy Dawson explained in the interview that when he's not with the band, he's often with a group of professional storm chasers who are trained paramedics and who aid in putting out fires caused by lightning storms.
2017 Reunion Shows
In the spring of 2017, Shiny Toy Guns, as documented on their social media, appeared in a few shows in New York City and Los Angeles to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of their breakthrough album We Are Pilots. The Los Angeles show received positive reviews and showed the band still has an enthusiastic fan base.
The Loyal Fan Base
One of the band's most favorable reputations is its friendliness and openness toward its fans. This, in turn, has created a fiercely devoted fan base. As noted in an interview with the Ventura County Star, the band has played at a fan's birthday party and held a contest for a lucky fan to travel with them in Scotland, among many other gestures of kindness to fans.
Dawson explained to LoveToKnow the band's philosophy toward their fan base:
"The reason why those people are involved with us is because they first listened to or were shown our music, and then they found out that we actually care about who they are and what they are doing in life. Probably more than their friends do. Probably more than their parents do....It's amazing how this is possible: now when things burn and tears run down your face instead of running to your room or to your car to blast the music that calms your heart into your ears, you can now speak into the lives of the people who made the music you cherish and rely on for life. And if you chose us to be that music for you, we speak right back."
The band's live shows are no exception to the connection they've made to their fans, as Dawson told LoveToKnow: "[Playing live shows] means we get to interact with more people, which is truly our end-of-the-day goal with music. Studio work is like being naked, it's something that's really personal with us; it's construction and work, which needs to be done, but it's not as exciting as making someone else feel something they deserve to feel that they didn't feel seconds before."
The Band's Future
As of August 2017, no formal announcements have appeared about possible future studio albums, but the band continues to play live shows and its visionary, innovative love for music will likely move them to create more in the future.
Shiny Toy Guns has had a simple goal with its career, as Dawson explained to LoveToKnow: "We are just answering a call to help other people change things. First with life stuff. Then with the sound of music globally....We will remain exactly who we are, just like we were two years ago, just like we will be 30 years from now. Promise."