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Service with a smile

The name Shamgod may evoke images of an overblown heavy metal band, but this lighthearted Atlanta quartet worships at the altar of literate '80s new wave and punk.

"When I first heard the name Shamgod," recalls singer and guitarist Mary Byrne, "it sounded like a two-word poem that had a lot of multi-layered possibilities."

In 1996, Byrne's brother Don began scribbling his poems on donut wrappers on the way to work. He gradually started adding melodies and chord progressions to thoughts originally intended for submission to literary journals. By '99, Don had moved to Atlanta from Chicago for a teaching position. After-hours basement jams with his co-worker Sammy on drums led to the first lineup of Shamgod. After the group's original singer moved to France, Byrne made an international call to Mary in Uganda.

A Fulbright scholar, Mary Byrne gave up researching refugees in Africa and plans for law school at Harvard to join the band. "Three of the four of us are in a real band for the first time, and it's fun," she says. "I think coming from a sort of neophyte perspective on the industry actually helps us."

Byrne's wide-eyed enthusiasm led to the band's recently released, self-titled EP. She came to practice on a Monday night in February and announced that Music Midtown applications were due by the following Friday. There was only one problem: The band didn't have a demo to send. "So, we recorded the music on that Wednesday and the vocals the next day," says Sammy. "Done."

Guitarist Matt Chenoweth says the four-song EP is one of a series the band plans to release periodically.

As for the Music Midtown application: "We didn't get in," sighs Mary Byrne. "But we got a good record out of it."

Shamgod plays a CD release party at The Earl Sat., April 20.??