London is a city that changes on a daily basis. Much-loved landmarks become building sites, clubs become luxury flats, and young people get squeezed out.
Except Shame aren’t about to be pushed about by anyone. The band’s feral, visceral sound – post-punk matched to grunge elements, with riffs to die for – is one long clarion call for the disaffected, for the weirdos, outsiders, and the freaks.
Guitarist Eddie Green has sat at the centre of the hurricane for 18 months now. “I didn’t know what to expect going into it,” he explains. “It took me a few months to really register what was going on – it was so intense, and hectic… a bit fucked up.”
“I think we’ve always wanted to maintain that idea of wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, just approach it in the same way. I guess it kind of does cross over into the songwriting because we never set out to write one type of song we just want to write something that’s good. I think it’s all encompassing, really.”
Debut album ‘Songs Of Praise’ is a head-long rush into London’s seedier elements, a funny, anxious, completely outspoken belch from the margins. Recorded in just 10 days at Rockfield Studios in Wales, it’s a dirty, rotten thrill that quickens the pulse the shortens the breath. “At the time we weren’t actually aware of how short that is to make a record,” he smiles. “We just powered through it. A lot of 24 hour days. There was always, at any given moment, at any hour of the day, someone in there doing something.”
“I think it was the environment that attracted us to it,” he muses. “It’s got everything you want from a studio. It’s not massively high tech or anything, but it’s good great equipment, good vibes, and a great history as well.”
The guitarist starts to smile: “Steen played the Rugrats theme tune on the piano that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was recorded on. Little bit of history everywhere!”
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Musically caustic, singer Charlie Steen’s lyrics cartwheel from band in-jokes – the 90 second thrill that is ‘Donk’, for example – to something more personal, always with a natural, unaffected dollop of progressive politics.
“Steen’s lyrics is very much his area,” insists the guitarist. “He’s basically got a fuck-load of these tiny little notebooks and he constantly adds lyrics to them. He’s always writing lyrics down in a little book.”
“It’s not possible to ignore politics right now,” Eddie adds. “We’ve lived in South London all our lives. The changes that we’ve witnessed… they’re mind-boggling. Brixton particularly – where I spent a big part of my childhood – is unrecognisable.”
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“I think most of it has been inspired by just being a teenager in London,” he continues. “I think some of them have political leanings, but I think mainly its expressing the thoughts of a very typical, hopelessly romantic 16 year old, really. It’s an amalgamation of all that we’ve witnessed over the last few years. Becoming adults. I don’t really know if you’d call this the real world, but sort of entering the real world.”
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It’s not possible to ignore politics right now...
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Which isn’t to say that ‘Songs Of Praise’ is a political manifesto. Sure, it cuts a little deeper, but at times – even with the title – it’s outright funny, a consistently outrageous pastiche of a grey, bleak, broken country. “Having an element of humour to basically anything we’re doing was always the goal,” he says. “Even if it’s something as small as an in-joke, we wanted it to be stupid and funny, basically.”
Ultimately, the album is dominated by a sense of risk – riffs that could fall apart at any moment, a production team (Local Hero) more in tune with electronic music, and lyrics that stab at the outside world before collapsing into a series of delirious in-jokes.
“With any musical project I’m doing I want to find the balance between delicacy and aggression,” he explains. “And that’s why I’m so happy with this record, because there’s a lot of hard riffs, and it’s pretty in your face and visceral, but I think a lot of the melodies are still there. It’s what I’ve always wanted out of a record.”
He continues: “We wanted to take each individual track and have it so it has it’s own character, and retain its individuality, but we wanted the entire record to work, and sit together well. The ten tracks on the album are all quite different, just by their nature, but they work together on this one record.”
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We’re living in a culture of extremely innocuous music...
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Somehow, it all works. That’s something Shame embrace, a barely organized sense of chaos that somehow works, and works to an inspiring degree. “We’re living in a culture of extremely innocuous music,” Eddie states. “I’m not saying that we’re daring, or anything like that, but there’s a lot of safe music. And it doesn’t seem like anyone is particularly arsed about doing anything different.”
“I don’t think we’re original or anything in any sense – because we’re not really – but I guess we’re different for the times. I think maybe that’s what people are looking for. It doesn’t take a lot to be different these days, because we’re becoming so saturated with monotony that I think people are desperate for something different.”
So how do the band think the record will be received? “I’ve got no idea!” he shrugs. “If it’s number one in any charts then I’d like it to be a really obscure country… I hope people receive in the way we write them, as I think that’s important. I feel like there is an excitement around the band, and fans seem to be really intense about it - there’s this belief in what we’re doing.”
“I’ve learned from the past just not to hope for anything from the coming year,” the guitarist insists. “If anyone had asked me two years ago, what do you think will happen? I wouldn’t have bet any amount of money on what ended up happening. It’s difficult to think… Our record will come out, we’re going to be away touring furiously. But as for the year of the world… I’m not going to second guess it. It should be fucking interesting. There is no way of predicting that. Especially going by recent form.”
Belched out of London with barely a penny to their name, Shame are offering something different: filthy, daring, risk-taking guitar music that is resolutely unafraid to call it like it is. It’s 2018, and we need a band to believe in. Shame might well be that band.
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'Songs Of Praise' will be released on January 12th via Dead Oceans.
Photography: Liam Hart
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