To those paying attention to the music scene for the past few years, SHAME appeared out of nowhere with youthful and raw ferocity. Tracks such as Gold Hole and The Lick got everyone’s attention for all the right reasons back in 2016. But in fact, Shame had been working for a number of years prior t this breakthrough. Becoming friends at school, Charlie Steen (vocals), Sean Coyle-Smith (guitar), Eddie Green (guitar), Charlie Forbes (drums) and Josh Finerty (bass) formed the band in a practice space at the Queen’s Head in Brixton – which is also where Fat White Family recorded at the time. Given three long months – rather than the usual six weeks – to fill in June 2014 after their AS levels, starting a band seemed the best use of that time for everyone. The space became a grimy incubator for their sound, and after playing many a show at The Windmill (also in Brixton), they got their big break at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton in 2016.
Of course everything for Shame came pretty quickly after that. By 2017, they’d signed a record deal and recorded debut album Songs Of Praise in the space of 10 days. Lead singer Charlie Steen said about the album that their driving force was “capture a moment that has yet to cease – something that is ongoing and developing, that is honest in a lot of ways. None of these stories are fabricated. They are all, unfortunately, true.”
Shame live at The Magnet, 2017 (Michael Kirkham)
The big question is: what’s next for Shame? The very public hype around the South London gig circuit seems to have died down but all the acts seem to have sprouted off, not relying off the back of hype. Shame are a perfect example of this. They’ve been touring solidly since 2018, promoting Songs Of Praise and writing new material. They’re special guest headliner on Sound City this year, one of the biggest festivals in Merseyside. Georgia Turnbull asks Eddie Green about the effects of touring, the ‘South London punk scene’ and how it’s changed in the past few years, and how they view Liverpool shows and punk bands.
So you guys have been solidly on tour since the release of Songs Of Praise. Has that affected the band dynamic at all, or has it fuelled some new material?
Being on tour for such a length of time can obviously be quite gruelling, but at the same time it can be very stimulating in regards to creativity. It’s certainly shaped where the next album is going, it’s made the process of writing for the album much different to the first. It’s definitely fuelled new material, and fuelled the band further.
For people outside of London, you guys just appeared as critically acclaimed and accoladed within the music world. How did you guys actually rise to that fame, was it a longer process than it appeared on the surface?
Yeh, I always find it quite funny that people say “this band came out of nowhere” ‘cos of course we didn’t. We were at it for a good while before we rose to fame. Our rise definitely doesn’t seem like that much to other people, but we’ve been working on Shame since we started our A Levels. We know there’s a lot more work and stuff gone into the project than meets the eye.
‘The South London punk scene’ is thrown around a lot within the circuit you play with, such as Goat Girl and Sorry. Do you embrace this term, or is it ill-fitting for those that play venues such as The Windmill?
There was a time when we were all put into the same category. Part of me found that a bit annoying almost because Sorry, for example, they’re not even from South London, they’re from North London [laughs]. I think it was more a case of us all playing at The Windmill in Brixton, often together sometimes every weekend. I’m glad now everyone has taken their own individual creative right, rather than attach themselves to a ‘scene’ out of safety. The term’s used less and less as well because of that, which I think is a good thing.
You’ve said in regards to your most recent album “we are trying to capture a moment that has yet to cease”. Do you feel like you’re still trying to do that, and what moments exactly are those worthy of capturing?
I feel like with the next album we’re not specifically trying to capture anything. We’re just trying to give ourselves a lot more free reign. We have the freedom now to do and experiment with new things we might not have been able to do before. Songs Of Praise was more about capturing that youthful haze. But now it’s just more advancing our sound, learning about our abilities more and testing the waters.
The current political climate is absolutely dire and one of the first songs I remember by Shame was Visa Vulture, a scathing song about Brexit but with a jangly pop feel to it. Do you feel it’s a musician’s duty to make political comment, and would you guys think of writing something similar to Visa Vulture again?
I feel like we’re definitely doing it in subtler ways now than that, because you can’t get any more explicit about politics than the lyrics in that song [laughs]. There was nothing left to the imagination, that was quite something. I often forget we even did that. No, it’s definitely a duty to an extent but I’m kinda fed up of slagging people off for having non-descript music as well. I’m becoming more docile. I applaud the people that do have a political voice in their music, but I’m not gonna put down those who don’t, either. It’s probably even more annoying to see musicians be vocal performatively, for clout basically. I’d rather people didn’t do it than did it for those reasons.
So, you guys are high up on the bill for Sound City this year. How have you found Liverpool gigs and would you say there’s a growing punk scene here similar to London?
The punk scene is definitely different in Liverpool than it is to London. I’ve always had a good time. I remember the first gig we ever did there, Queen Zee supported us and I thought, “They’re really cool!”. From what I understand from them, there was quite a lot of similar bands growing in Liverpool too. Sound City’s about a month away. It’s like our first special guest headliner show. I’ve never seen our name in such big letters on a festival line-up. I feel a bit like, “Woo! We’ve made it!”. I’m really looking forward to it.
Shame are afternoon headliners on the New Bird Street stage on Saturday 4th May.