“The record was inspired by the concept of 30 7″ records being left in the sun to melt and consequently meld into one another.” As far as descriptions go, this one is pretty much perfect. And the man behind it – Wirral-born, Cork-based alt. rock maven LAURIE SHAW – is limbering up to release this audacious new LP Felted Fruit in November, a breathless rampage through fuzzy garage rock, psych folk and mutated pop all dispatched in concise two-minute blasts.
The record came hurtling our way recently from across the Irish Sea, all 30 frantic tracks of it, after we’d reached out to Shaw for more info upon hearing the infectious tune Cannibal Girl on SoundCloud (email subject line: ‘Laurie Shaw is boss’). There was a rumour that a friend of a friend knew Shaw from his days growing up in Greasby, but it wasn’t until we unearthed the umbilical cord linking him back to Merseyside’s rich musical past that the tale really got interesting. Shaw’s old fella, Chris, was a member of early synth-pop progenitors Dalek I Love You in 1977-78, Eric’s luminaries who were briefly ranked alongside OMD. Fellow founder members Alan Gill and Dave Balfe went on to comprise half of Teardrop Explodes: while the former co-wrote Reward with Julian Cope, the latter became a record label exec and the owner of the Country House that inspired Blur’s most vitriolic song.
Starting out along a similar path to his dad as a teenager, 21-year-old Shaw’s work rate has been prodigious. “My dad was doing stuff in the 80s and he always had recording stuff around and that’s how I picked up on recording my own music,” Shaw explains to us over the phone. “I’ve been doing it since I was 14 or 15; I just started after school. I’d get in and record some stuff and started putting albums together. I guess when you kinda get good at recording it just goes from there; it snowballs and you can’t help yourself. I just enjoy doing it cos also I live in quite a rural place; there’s not much else to do!”
The rural isolation Shaw refers to at his familial home in the hills around Kerry is underlined by his Bandcamp bio of recording in a ‘Mountain Retreat’ and borne out by the out-in-the-sticks photos of where he grew up. “I live in Cork itself now, which is about an hour away, but I go to college here in Kenmare,” the singer explains. “It’s nice to go back home at weekends and be able to chill out and make records.” Growing up in such circumstances meant Shaw had to be become musically self-sufficient almost out of necessity. “I was in a band when I was at school, a two-piece thing, but I mostly work on my own. It’s not very easy or feasible to get people up here to come and give me a hand, so I just ended up doing it myself. I like doing it myself – maybe it’s a bit of an only child thing; I’ve grown up making my own fun and I think that’s part of it.”
Creating music on his own clearly wasn’t an impediment to Shaw’s output, with a staggering 57-album back catalogue according to his label’s biog. “Yeah, that’s true, of that time anyway,” Shaw affirms, indicating that the figure has risen since then. “I’ve done a ton of stuff; I don’t think I could put a figure on it, but I think it’s probably in the thousands. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all good; I think that’s the problem when people say ‘prolific’, it doesn’t mean you’re carrying it all that well. This year I’ve tried to cut down and hold it back, so I’m just putting out stuff that I really think is up to scratch.”
Turning to Felted Fruit, the wellspring of the two-dozen plus tracks is one of the album’s highlights. “That was the first one I did, actually,” Shaw says of downbeat psych-pop lament Lizards Will Be. “That really got the ball rolling with the record.” Following an intuitive process, his songwriting swerves away from having a set pattern. “Usually in the week I’d be writing lyrics and I’d go home and build it up. It changes every time, though – sometimes you’d have a drum line that sounds really good and I’d build on top of that, and other times I’ve sat down and written a full song on acoustic guitar. I don’t think I’d be interested if it was a specific formula; I like the way that it’s a law unto itself and I just see where it goes, y’know?”
Album standouts Sarcophagus Song and What Went Down At Tiahuanaco – the latter inspired by the archaeological site in Bolivia – point up a recently discovered influence. “A lot of the album was inspired by a book by Graham Hancock which is all about Egypt and other cultures as well, in terms of a lost civilisation and things were disrupted by a big cataclysm. I was really interested in the mysteries of Egypt. I don’t normally let literary things creep in but that definitely did. There’s also stuff about the current political climate throughout as well; I think that had a knock-on effect, the idea of history repeating itself in a way.” Elsewhere, Oh Mnemosyne! is named after the Goddess of Memory in the Greek pantheon. “I think she’s one of the Seven Muses. The idea of memory comes into that cos that’s such an important part of writing.”
Contrasting with his earlier material (previous album Not A Dry Eye In The House, containing Cannibal Girl, was issued in June of this year), Felted Fruit stands out via its deliberately frayed production and sonorous vocals. “All the vocals have been pitched down; it was a way of disguising my voice,” Shaw explains. “I wanted to make this such an obscure and weird album that I kinda wanted it to sound like it wasn’t necessarily me who made it, like it almost could’ve been something from a bygone era. The other idea was that it had been recorded off the radio and no-one knew when it was from and no-one could turn the dial to the right frequency again.”
“I like the idea that it almost sounded like it had been melded together,” Shaw continues, straying into the territory behind the LP’s description. “All the songs were different entities themselves and they’d all been chopped up into each other – I like that aesthetic to it. I was trying to make stuff short and snappy. When you look at a double album, the ones that fall down have got songs that go on for too long, so maybe this is easier to digest.”
Citing Tim Presley’s White Fence as an inspiration, Shaw notes that the collective’s collaborations with Cate Le Bon and Ty Segall have had a notable impact, especially the latter. “A lot of people used to say I kind of sounded like him [Segall] and I didn’t know who he was,” Shaw says of the restless Laguna Beach musician. “When I discovered him I didn’t think I did, but I really liked him anyway! I think I took a lot from that. I’ve also always been into bands like Love and psychedelic garage rock bands on the [legendary 60s/70s underground compilation] Pebbles Trash box set.”
While The Coral are cited as a vital catalyst – Shaw supported their former lead guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones in Dublin this January – Merseyside itself is an inspiration to Shaw. “Because I moved when I was 10 and I was taken out of where I called home, Merseyside has become a bit mythologised in my head,” he muses. “I came over here and didn’t fit in immediately, so that was a place I felt like I belonged. It’s changed now, and as you get older that goes away. I think that does still influence me in some way though, cos over here I still feel a little bit like a fish out of water.” Continuing the links to these parts, Chester-based label Sunstone Records are handling the vinyl release of Felted Fruit.
“There’s a lot of bands and I’ve got my own little band together who help me out when I play live,” Shaw says of the Cork gig circuit. Introducing the group to the material, Shaw sounds far from a taskmaster or pedantically insisting on studio-replica performances. “I write out the chords and lyrics so they can get a basic grip on it and I’ll give them the recordings. I like it when they bring their own feel to it,” Shaw states. “Sometimes you get people who have bands who are playing their stuff and they need it exactly like the record, but I like it to be freer and for them to bring their own personalities to it. I’m not necessarily a bassist – I can play the bass, but I like it when people bring their own style.”
And with the highly promising information that Shaw is heading over to these shores for his live debut in 2017, our time is concluded. Given the restless pace this one-man songwriting factory works at, however, don’t be surprised if another album hasn’t landed between now and Shaw arriving in Liverpool in January.
Felted Fruit is released on 27th November via Sunstone Records.