PHOTO CREDIT: Loud and Quiet Magazine
EVERY time I tackle this feature…
PHOTO CREDIT: Africa Pombo
I learn something new about the band/artist concerned. Shame are on the block and with good reason: they are one of the most compelling and demanded bands of the moment. I have listed them (in the past) alongside peers such as Cabbage and IDLES: a couple of young bands amazing critics and fans with their honest and stunning music. They all talk about the experiences of modern life and what it is like for them. There are no pretences and egos: the bands produce music that is natural to them; designed to inspire listeners and get them involved. Shame are a band who look at love and the unpredictability of daily life in a fresh, humour and personal way. The boys are signed to Dead Oceans and based out of South London. I said I was going to get away from the capital a bit and look at other areas. It is inevitable I would return there at some point. Whilst I think the North is a more prosperous and promising area when it comes to the new bands with a unique and promising bent. That is not to say London is infertile and meagre. Shame prove there is a lot of strength and inspiration in the capital’s waters. The boys were touched and saddened by the death of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith. It is unsurprising considering the comparisons between the two...
PHOTO CREDIT: Holly Whitaker Photography
The Fall’s leader was a master when it came to those witty and sardonic tracks whose music sounded like nothing else out there. Shame will not reach the heights of The Fall: they are making strides regards distinguishing themselves from the pack and creating something wonderful. I can hear some of Smith’s candour and accent in the music of Shame. In a world where bands have less of a market share than past years; there are fewer great bands than there were years ago – it is hard making a mark and getting the critics’ attention. Anyone feeling sorry for the band should remember one thing: they are currently in Australia and, from the looks of things, enjoy the hot weather, tepid beer and general coolness. Between jumping into hot pools and downing some cold ones – the guys will play some gigs and, you know, generally rock the Australian public! The band have already sold out Electric Ballroom (London) later this year. They are playing London gigs in April and, between now and then, taking their music around the world. The demand is coming in and the boys busy – consider their album, Songs of Praise, and that can hardly take you by surprise. I was expecting a recreation of our oldest-running Sunday T.V. shows – a lot of choral singing and bewildered old people bleating on about God. In fact; I am glad we did not get anything vaguely ecumenical and religious (the cover for the album reminds me of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds).
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Pitchfork, when reviewing the album, stated the following:
“…But in their fight to distinguish themselves from every other white male British guitar band, Shame imbue their post-adolescent rage with wit and, crucially, an awareness that they may never succeed. From the opening murky “Dust on Trial,” frontman Charlie Steen is fixed on the idea of remaining unheard: “What’s the point of talking if all your words have been said?” He preempts the inevitability that British critics will herald them as saviors of the scene by rejecting the construct. “The idea of a rock star is offensive,” he told the Guardian in a profile that was splashed across the paper’s front page”.
Look closely at that Guardian profile and one hears a band who do not want to be seen as Rockstars and idols. They want to affect and influence – without compromising credibility and their purity. There are background snippets and quotations that really stand out. In terms of their formation and beginnings (when asking drummer Charlie Forbes):
“Shame formed around the Queen’s Head pub in Brixton, the former headquarters of the Fat White Family. Forbes’s dad was a friend of the landlord, who let the young band rehearse in an upstairs room (“Every day,” Forbes says. “Just hop on the bus to the after school club”). There they met assorted luminaries and recidivists of the south London music scene, but managed to avoid the worst excesses of the Fat Whites and their friends, largely through being too young to realise they were hanging around with committed hard drug users (“We were oblivious,” Forbes says).
They stumbled over lucky break after lucky break. Not just getting a free rehearsal space for 15 months, until the Queen’s Head was converted into a gastropub, but meeting people who then gave them studio space, and getting free advice from musicians who had been chewed up and spat out by major labels. What they learned was the importance of keeping as much control as possible over their decisions, which led them to sign to indie imprint Dead Oceans for their debut album, Songs of Praise. They also think the very grime of the Queen’s Head shaped them into being Shame: “I don’t think if we had started in a squeaky clean studio it would have been the same,” Forbes says”.
Frontman Charlie Steen offered some advice and concern when it comes to that Rockstar lifestyle:
“That lifestyle could only exist because of money. Bands can’t go out now and get a kilo of coke or drive to Las Vegas in a Ferrari. Now it’s get a gram of speed and sit in a Travelodge. That’s the reality of it.”
The guys were part of the clique that bonded HMLTD, Goat Girl and Dead. The South London bands transcend the image of modern-day bands. They project a more realistic and exciting brand of music. They do not want the trappings and riches of a style of life many chase – those with perfect teeth and hair that get laid every night and lust after the spotlight. Shame have laid into the Conservatives and the manner in which they are ‘running’ (or ‘ruining’) this country. They have seen what P.M. May is doing and attacked her form of government. Our leaders are not really here to serve the masses: Shame know this and project that dissatisfaction and rebellion through their music. Songs of Praise is filled with songs that talk about youthful existence and the way the country can improve; why we all need to band together. It is appropriate a band who wants to bond the masses should give their album that religious-homonymic potential: pastors who see the darkness around them and want to do something about it. Their start was modest and they relied on advice from musicians and any chance they had to get into a rehearsal space. The fact they have got a deal and are touring the world is as a result of great music and constant graft. The band has that working-class ethic that means they are going to turn down big-money deals and corporate sponsorship.
They refute that gaudy and vile life where their faces will be plastered on billboards and they are hocking every gadget and service they are offered. They want to remain rooted and balk at the idea of becoming big-league stars. Whilst they would never exclude fans of a certain class/political persuasion – one feels they would dissolve a Conservative member/politician if they were within spitting distance of their gigs – you feel this is all about the music. The guys are all about the energy of performance and getting their sounds to people. They are, in a way, political crusaders who are providing something deeper and inspiring. Last year saw the flourishes and bloom of their early-career gestation. They were a new name and, pre-album, a popular force. They toured around Europe and, between dark nights in vans and eating anything that looked vaguely palatable – that lifestyle took its toll and their health was affected. Steen had panic attacks and was vomiting frequently. The riotous and exhausting touring schedule meant there was a natural end: they had to cancel some gigs because of Steen’s ill health. There are worries the popularity and reception afforded Songs of Praise could do even more damage. The guys are in Australia and are back in the U.K. before too long. They will tackle festivals and various nations; they have a long gig schedule and will have few days off between dates. I have quoted a lot from others but the truth is this: the band mean business and have a long career ahead of them. I hope the success and increased pressure does not see them abandon their ideals of naturalness and rejection of superstardom. The more celebrated they become; the harder it is to maintain that working-class, grounded persona. I know they will do their best: creating albums like Songs of Praise will see them maintain that balance of credibility and popularity. You urge them to succeed and look to see where they go next; we wait to see how good they can get and how they lead the scene. They have had a hard road and overcome obstacles along the way. Their success is deserved – so you cannot really deny them their acclaim and position. As they wake up in the warmth and scenic wonder of Australia it makes you realise what…
PHOTO CREDIT: Shame
JAMMY bastards they are!
PHOTO CREDIT: Pooneh Ghan