TThe emergence of a new generation of British rock bands over the past few years has been exciting, and not just because of the music. Gobby groups like Fat White Family, IDLES, Sleaford Mods, Sorry and their peers give good riffage, but they also excel at eliciting genuine heckling. Along with the heart-pounding songs, they’ve served up some of the best rock star beef since Blur vs Oasis.
Sleaford Mods and IDLES got the better of class and privilege. Fat White Family and IDLES have it too. It’s gotten to the point where South London guitar kids Shame even scoffs at orchestrating a band-band conflict as a way to generate publicity.
“We’re going to be hosting some beef online with Sleaford Mods because our two albums are coming out the same day,” deadpan drummer Charlie Forbes, tongue firmly in his cheek. “We are going to buy ourselves a little publicity by throwing insults.”
“I think it’s funny,” he continues, of their peers’ quarrels. “They are really good with their insults. At least Sleaford Mods and Fat White Family are. It’s fun to watch from the sidelines. We are not desperate to get involved.
The young five-piece on board with cheeky humor in person, but Shame’s music is devastatingly serious. They are among the first major scuzz merchants spit out by Generation Z, early twenties whose debut album, 2018’s Songs of praise, struggling with the insecurity of adolescents and the frustration of young people. Their music sounds like a grimy and gorgeous hurricane of fall-style staccato assault, Happy Mondays laziness and monochrome angst that was a stock in the trade of Factory Records producer Martin Hannett.
Their follow-up, Pink drunk tank top, which releases Friday, is a more majestic assault: imagine a pale, pinched Shaun Ryder in front of Joy Division with keys ready to explode. The guitars are louder, the choruses bigger, and it deals with more and more adult themes, such as loneliness and trying to establish a sense of individual identity when all you know is the gang mentality. ‘be in a group. As these riffs explode, you begin to understand why some critics have been made to hail the saviors of guitar music Shame – something the worn-out music press always tries to do whenever a new band of. British guitars emerge from the depths, but here there is real cause for attention.
The album also happens accidentally. “Although the album was written before quarantine and Covid, it deals with many themes of isolation,” says Forbes. “Considering the year we have just passed, this will probably resonate. No one has ever had time this year that they haven’t felt alone.
The two Charlies that form Shame’s spine are a study in contrasts. That tortured vein of alienation that runs through the project is in large part thanks to singer Charlie Steen, who is in his apartment in Peckham with clear eyes and serious gazing at a Zoom screen. He does a very different number from Forbes, which requisitions both the drum kit and Shame’s lively Twitter account. The latter explains that he “broke into” a pub in Tulse Hill to do this interview (that’s very good – he knows the owner). And then, just like independent stars of old, he happily leads the reign of rival groups and criticizes politicians (as a Labor supporter he finds Keir Starmer utterly unhappy).
“I had so much discipline… well, no ‘meetings’. Incalculable testimony, ”says Forbes of the mischief he caused. “When I got home I tweeted Catfish and the Bottlemen, I just dispelled them [the actual tweet went simply: “s*** band”] . He got a lot more traction than I thought he would. Steen gets angry because people will come up to him and say, “Why are you talking about this? And it has nothing to do with it. He is facing charges.
The shame began in 2014 when the two Charlies, guitarists Eddie Green and Sean Coyle-Smith and bassist Josh Finerty were in their mid-teens. Their base of operations was the gloriously shabby Queen’s Head pub in Brixton (now a vegan gastropub). Forbes’ dad was friendly with the owner, so the band were allowed to rehearse in the upstairs reception hall, and soon they crossed paths with the apocalyptic art rockers Fat White Family, for whom the Queen’s Head. was a spiritual headquarters.
A bit of the nihilistic spirit of Fat White Family rubs off. Yet musically and philosophically, Shame sets itself apart from other South London peers such as Goat Girl and Black Midi. In concert, Steen embraced the cliché of the charismatic leader. Rather than playing cool, he would roam the stage shirtless, like Iggy Pop auditioning for Skins.
“It’s extremely addicting,” he says of the live performance. “It is also a form of meditation. People might think I look like an asshole. It’s the truth: when it’s a really good show, I don’t think about what I’m doing. I’m not worried about criticism that people might think of me – or my general insecurities. I feel nothing. Just pure happiness. It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever had this.
These fleeting moments of abandonment would begin to take their toll. In 2017, Shame performed 140 shows and 57 festivals in the span of three months. Steen was unable to continue and in December a German tour was canceled. The singer felt it was important to honestly address the reasons for the cancellation – to explain that being in a successful band didn’t mean your sanity wasn’t at risk.
“There’s a reason I’m a lead singer,” he says. “I have the need within myself to express my thoughts and opinions. So I was very open to talking about it. I didn’t mean to deny it. It seriously affected me.
After two and a half years of nearly constant touring, the singer struggled to decompress when Shame returned to civilian life in 2019. His coping mechanism was to go out every night. The more people he surrounded himself with, the more marked his loneliness.
“It gets to a point where it’s eight in the morning and you’re at your apartment and there are a few random strangers that you’ve never met before discussing your ear,” he says. “And, you’re kind of like, ‘Hmmm… maybe there’s a part of my lifestyle that I need to evolve, for my own reason.”
With the shame that has dominated his life since he was a teenager, he says he skipped a big part of being a teenager – that feeling of growing up in your skin and understanding who you are becoming. “We went on a long tour and felt like we had missed something,” Steen says. “We were like tourists in our own teenage years in a way. When we returned it was with a feeling of restlessness. We had been traveling for so long to new cities and new places to meet new people. And suddenly you were static.
He came down to earth with a bang, which formed the basis of Drunk Tank Rose. “You have to separate the shame from yourself – what do I like? What do I want to do? ” he says. “Learning to deal with it and learning to love being in the company of yourself is a lot of what the record is about.”
On a whim, he decided he wanted to sleep in a pink bedroom. To help with the redecoration, he roped in a roommate and his roommate’s father. It wasn’t until after the fact that he realized that maybe he had tried subliminally to bring some quiet to his life. “It wasn’t an intentional thing to calm me down,” he says. “I just wanted a pink bedroom.” He didn’t know that Pink drunk tank top is named for a shade of pink scientifically shown to reduce aggression when painted on the walls of prison cells – and this is how the album got its name.
They hope the album will build on the success of Songs of praise, which topped the UK’s Top 40 and was followed by a series of sold-out tours. Perhaps it will even earn the group the Mercury nomination some deem deserved. The coronavirus will be a hindrance for a group that has built much of its momentum through touring. Another will be Brexit, which they fear will have a negative impact on their ability to support their considerable audience on the continent. “We took advantage of going to Europe early on and just demolishing it somewhere other than the UK,” says Forbes. “Now you won’t be able to do that unless you have the [financial] means for. ”
Politics isn’t particularly featured in the new album, but they still feel it’s important to speak up – which they do, especially on social media where they recently criticized the stuttering rollout of Covid vaccinations and the gross deal that artists get from streaming services.
“We’re happy that our policy is known without necessarily having to write songs about it,” Forbes says. “In how many different ways has Sleaford Mods offered to say ‘F *** the Tories.’ That’s truly impressive. I don’t think we have the mind to make songs like that. But we are frank. People know what we think about issues, even if they’re not written in a song. ”
As of now, there are few signs of a face-to-face with Sleaford Mods, so they’ll have to settle for a few photos of Sports Team, the bright and happy Cambridge independent group that shot them on Twitter. . “The worst group!” squeaks Forbes. “Don’t get me started on the sports team, man. It’s different when you talk about Fat Whites and Sleaford Mods. These are bands with a bit of f *** ing credibility. They agree that the current generation of rival rockstars are not in the same league as Guns N ‘Roses and Nirvana competing behind the scenes at the MTV Awards – but at least it is much-needed entertainment in a world. difficult. “We use words on social media – behind our computer screens,” Steen says with a laugh. “We are a little lighter.”
Pink drunk tank top is published Friday