“It sounds very exciting and I think it’s some of the best stuff we’ve ever done”
Britain has been the epicenter of post-punk since its rise out of punk’s first wave during the late ’70s. From there, bands from that country and beyond have pushed the style in new directions. Bands like Shame from South London, who bring a sound accented by distortion and unbridled emotion.
Shame’s latest album, Drunk Tank Pink, has garnered lots of acclaim, and since its release earlier this year they have already added a fresh batch of material to their setlist.
They’ll perform some of those songs when they take the stage at the Sinclair on Sept. 7 as part of their tour with Florida experimental duo They Hate Change.
I spoke with vocalist Charlie Steen ahead of the show about a live documentary the band put out, getting people involved in a remix EP, putting out a single last fall, and the band finishing up their third album.
Back in March of last year, you released the live performance documentary Live In The Flesh that was recorded at the Brixton Electric in London. Who had the idea for the documentary and did you take any inspiration or cues from other live performance documentaries that other bands have done when it came to the cinematography and how everything is presented?
It was during the pandemic, we couldn’t play any live shows so we were thinking of different things that we could do. We’re primarily a live band and it’s the way we want to be represented so doing a live video was basically the best option we had at the time, it was the strongest thing we could do. We looked around at live videos other people had done and there was a person named Ja Humby who did a video for King Krule’s live album Live On The Moon that I really liked. One of our managers knew him personally by chance and got in touch, Ja then said, I’ll do it and I got this idea that I’ve had for years and years and years and Shame is the band I want to do it with. It all stems from him being this weird, creepy promoter, he’d gone to the Reading Festival in the United Kingdom to work there when he was a teenager and met this big nexus of odd guys who were pretty much what he based his character off of.
That’s where he got the idea of being this awful, awkward promoter and we were also originally headlining two nights at the Brixton Electric so there was a joke that we were going to play the same venue but not sell any tickets. That’s how it came about.
That makes sense during that time. The following July, a remix EP for the track “Born In Luton” was released featuring Cameron Picton from Black Midi under the name DJ Dairy and Austin Brown from Parquet Courts contributing their own remixes among others. How did you go about getting Cameron, Austin and the other artists involved in this unique record?
Well, we know them. We’ve known Cameron and the guys in Black Midi for years, they played one of their first ever shows with us. In terms of Parquet Courts, we met Austin a few times in New York City and our manager knows him as well so we just reached out. We thought it would be an interesting thing to do, we’re fans of all the people we reached out to and so we thought why not? There’s no harm in it, only good could be gained.
I like how the different versions of the song came about while listening to the record. This past November you guys released the single “This Side Of The Sun.” When was this song recorded? Is it left over from the sessions during the making of Drunk Tank Pink or was it done on its own at a different time? Also, what made you guys want to wear Lone Ranger masks for the album cover?
It was done by the same producer who did Drunk Tank Pink, James Ford, but it was done afterwards. We basically had a tour coming up in the United Kingdom and it was the first time we were playing live in a year and a half. We had all these songs, we just wrote one and we figured that we’d put out a song before we went on this tour to have something quite fresh. The idea for the masks was to do something simple, funny, Beastie Boys-esque and relatively DIY. It was a nice thing to sort of put out and it sounds a little more optimistic & happy so we were sort of liking that.
Being a frontman can be difficult to properly pull off in a band when you’re pretty much by yourself with a microphone in your hand. How do you approach this role within Shame and did it take any adjusting for you at first when the band was first starting out?
At first I think when we first started out we were all 16 or 17, so we’d be nervous and we’d probably have a lot of drinks before the show and stuff like that. Otherwise we’d be going on with too many inhibitions, so that was initially how we tackled it. The more and more you do it, the more used to it you get and we started out in quite an old school way for a band which was gigging relentlessly. This was night after night, on school nights and playing to one or two people a night. When you do that, you sort of gain the drive and momentum as to why you’re doing it.
No one’s paying attention to you so you have to come up with ways to make them do so because you have belief in whatever you’re doing. I think that mentality has carried over into whatever we’ve done in terms of live performance ever since. You sort of earn your stripes.
After this run of shows Shame is doing around North America, do you guys plan to work on new music for the next album or do you plan on laying low for a bit?
We’re definitely not going to lay low, we’re gonna fly high. We finished recording our third album and we’ve been playing a lot of new songs off of that. We finished recording it a few weeks ago and we’ve been playing the new songs for the first time in America. I can’t really give any dates or anything like that but it sounds very exciting and I think it’s some of the best stuff we’ve ever done.
Tickets at sinclaircambridge.com
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.