Shame – Interview 2018

Back in January, Shame came out of the blocks fast with their stunning debut album Songs of Praise. Acclaimed across the board, their post-adolescent rage is infused with wit, a shed load of melody, and a fair degree of modesty. They didn’t expect all this, but they may as well as take it as far as it goes. Following stints in Europe and the US they have just embarked on what they are now calling the ‘Ibuprofen Tour’. Brightonsfinest spoke with guitarist Eddie Green about how a pub became the focus of their development, fighting at The Great Escape, and the stunning reaction to their music.

Things must be fairly mental for you at the moment?
It’s been quite a confusing six month spate of madness. Difficult to quantify it, but it’s been brilliant. The hard work is starting to pay off.

When did you actually form the band?
About three years ago. When you finish school you get these really long summer holidays, with nothing to do. So, we started a band, at the Queen’s Head in Brixton, above the pub. We started gigging pretty quickly after that, and then it grew into something that seemed a little more serious. And now we’re here. It’s been an interesting journey.

That pub was really central to your development?
Yeah, it was a really big deal. It was like the beating heart of South London culture. It was absurd in many ways. Some people might argue it was something we shouldn’t have been exposed to at our age. But it was a lot of fun, and in a way, we miss it.

How did you end up there?
Our drummer, Charlie, whose dad is a close personal friend of the landlord. So, when we had this idea for a band he said we were welcome to go and practice there. We ended up doing our first gig there.

Does the pub still exist?
It does exist under the same name, but there is new management, and it’s extremely different. It’s definitely not what it used to be!

Sounds like you practically were living there.
Well, not quite, but we were there almost every day and Charlie and the singer would often go there straight after school to rehearse.

A lot of bands used to play there?
The first time I ever went there the line-up was Fat White Family, King Krule, and Childhood. That was a pretty special one. It’s a small place, holds maybe 110 safely, but when it got really mad there would be over 200 people. Sometimes it got so hot the landlord would stand on top of the bar, and you know those mixer gun things? He would literally spray soda water on people. We used to do these summer all-dayers, and start at 2pm, and go on indefinitely. It was like being in human soup, in a way.

And your first gig was there?
Literally two weeks after we formed, our first gig was there.

I read there were about four or five people there

Yeah, there were four people there, and one of them was the bartender, and the remaining three were friends that I managed to scramble down there.

Was there any plan when you started the band?
None at all. Musically no. There was no direction. It quite randomly hopped from one genre to the next when we were writing our first songs, which was pretty funny. There was never any strict plan of what we wanted to achieve sonically until we started on the album. Then we knew the direction we wanted to go in. We never had that stoic ambition of wanting to sound a certain way. It’s quite liberating in a way.

I’m still learning as a musician. I’ve never considered myself a particularly accomplished musician. To pin myself down to one style or genre would be a bit reductive for me, I guess.

How do Shame songs come about?
The lyrics are all written by Charlie, our singer. He’s got dozens of these little red notebooks. We’re pretty democratic with the rest of it. The remaining four of us will come up with an idea, and someone else will write something over the top of it. It’s quite a collaborative effort.

The album is brilliant
Thank you. We’re pleased to have it out, the reception has been brilliant.

Has it been a bit of a surprise, the reaction?
Massively! If you had said this to us when we started out we would have been like, nah! We’re still going to be playing at the Queen’s Head to four people in three years time.

You used to do your own gigs at The Windmill, too?
Yes, we did. We started that night. We started a night called Chimney Shitters, which basically enabled us to put on bands we liked, with us. Bands like Goat Girl, Dead Pretties, HMLTD, Sorry… We were fed up with being put on these bills by random London promoters, where there was no thought given to it. We would end up supporting a folk acoustic duo, and we just thought this is ridiculous. The only immediate answer to that was starting our own nights. The Windmill was one of the few venues that would let us do that. For that they have our eternal respect.

People might look at you, and think you might be trouble!
It’s quite funny, really. We’re like normal guys. I don’t see why anything we do would give off that idea. When we were recording our album, in a residential studio, and the people who work there were like, ‘We listened to your music before you came in and we thought you were going to be a bit of a nightmare, but you’re actually quite nice’. Oh, Okay. Thanks!

One of them said we were the politest rock’n’roll band she had ever met. I think that should more or less be our epitaph from now on.

But, you did do a Brighton gig, part of The Alternative Escape, at the Black Lion. And apparently something went a bit wrong there…
Yeah, that was really weird. Some of the security were just doing their job, some of them were being aggressive. We were later told by the management of that pub that they didn’t have any experience of doing security at gigs. But when kids started moshing, they thought it was a fight. Literally, there was a bit of movement in the crowd, and this massive six foot four dude dived in and started pummelling people because he thought they were having a fight. I was like, ‘What the fuck is going on!?’ I was just astonished. It then degenerated. It was a pub full of 19 and 20 years olds who had been drinking since 11am… It wasn’t us.

I’ve always enjoyed The Great Escape. It’s a shame we won’t be able to do it this year, but the last two we have done have been a laugh.

Jeff Hemmings

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