Shame's debut album has received a ton of critical praise.Photo by Holly Whitaker
It was only about 30 years ago when bands like P.I.L., Wire, and The Fall were ruling the world with their post-punk sounds. Since then, post-punk as a genre has quieted until the last couple of years when bands like Protomartyr and Ought started making us remember the genre.
Of course, when you look at a place like South London, you'd be kidding yourself not to think that Shame isn't right up there with all of those previously mentioned acts. The U.K. based five piece has made plenty of waves since they toured the United States last year, and their debut album Songs of Praise that dropped in early January has been hailed by pretty much everyone who's heard it. The Houston Press sat down with guitarist Eddie Green about the band's first trip to Houston last year, how they got their start, and what they'll bring to their performance here on March 16.
"I'm jet lagged from the flight over from Australia to Los Angeles," remarks guitarist Eddie Green. "I know plenty of Aussie natives who live in the U.K. and I think this 20 hour time difference is why they don't seem to ever go back," he says as we start to talk about the whirlwind his band Shame has been on for the past 15 months.
The band began just three years ago, practicing in the same space where Fat White Family got their start. When asked about how the band began, and the short time frame between then and receiving such high praise from most music critics, Green replies, "(Charlie) Forbes' dad was a friend of the owner of the Queen's Head Pub. There was a space above it, a squalid little room where Fat White Family rehearsed. That's where we practiced and cut our teeth as a band. The recognition freaks me out a bit. Kids with Shame tattoos, literally ten different kids have come up to me with them, it's massively humbling. I end up thinking, oh your Mom's gonna' hate you for this."
That scene that the band hails from in Brixton, seems to be rife with bands that have had a good amount of success in a relatively short amount of time including Dead Pretties, Goat Girl, and Shark Dentist.
When asked if the bands in the scene are close, Green says, "we're friends with the singer of Goat Girl and we put them on at The Windmill in Brixton. They came outta' nowhere and Rough Trade (Records) picked them up understandably. They have the most respect in our little scene, they're such great songwriters. We're tight with a couple of the bands, but they make such great guitar music. It's nice being mates with them, doing the same thing and being the same age."
The debut record from Shame is a mix of British sneer and post-punk fury that's been compared to the early works of Gang of Four. With lyrics that seem to evoke political discourse at their home and abroad, I was curious to see if he felt that the band was just a regular band, or more of a political messenger that needed to get the word out. As per Green, "We aren't a political band. Our songs are social observations, but it is kind of political too. Things like Brexit and how another generation can decide your future, leads to such lyrics."
And now, as the band starts to see success in the form of multiple tours around the globe, as well as sales for their debut release, it's curious to know if the band sees themselves as "getting big," or if that's just a pipe dream for today's touring acts. "You can quantify getting big in so many ways. Some bands strive for that however they see it. I feel like if we can keep this going for as long as we can, then good, we are successful," says Green.
The band is set to perform in Houston for the first time, but according to Green, this isn't the band's first trip to Houston. "Yeah, our first experience there really sucked. For SXSW, we found it was cheaper to fly into Houston and take a bus to Austin. But when we got to your bus station (downtown Greyhound station), there were no buses available. It was a bit scary, no offense. I remember that the McDonald's next to the station had a weapons declaration on the tables. We did that whole run on a shoestring budget, so we just phoned our manager who was already in Austin, and he just had us take an Uber to SXSW. When the driver got there, he seemed generally concerned about our safety. He was like, what are you guys doing down here?"
And with all of the praise that the band has received comes the sheer magnitude of their live performances. The energy they possess is extraordinary, and was even remarked on by the likes of NPR's Bob Bolien on their set at last year's SXSW, as well as by music critics on their sets in NYC. When asked if they've always played with such intensity, Green replies "yeah, absolutely. The reason we play that way in the pub circuit we'd do three to four gigs in a week. Sometimes there'd be as little as 12 people there. To get over the embarrassment of playing to no one, we just started losing our shit, as a way to prove we were good. When we went on tour with Warpaint, we considered toning it down because we weren't sure if their audience would be okay with it or not. But we kept it the same and it went great. It's like before Mark E. Smith (The Fall) died, he was getting wheeled out on stage to perform. Anyone can do it if they really want to."
You can stream Shame's debut album Songs of Praise in all of the usual spaces or order directly from the band here, or from their label Dead Oceans. You can witness the sheer power of Shame live when they return for hopefully a much better experience in Houston, at Satellite Bar. The all ages show will also feature a support set from Snail Mail and an opening appearance from Bat Fangs. Doors at 8 p.m.; tickets $12 to $14.
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