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Reading & Leeds 2017: Shame: "We’ve never wanted to be up our own arses"

Shame are one of the best new live bands around - catch them while you can.
Published: 10:03 am, August 22, 2017
Reading & Leeds 2017: Shame: "We’ve never wanted to be up our own arses"
“Can we just note that our manager is standing two feet away right now, so there’s going to be a lack of complaints and a lack of truth,” jokes Shame frontman, Charlie Steen. The band erupt into laughter, as they gather in a nearby pub for another night in another city that makes up their unstoppable 2017 so far. “I mean, we’ve been banned from a few countries, and haven’t been turning up for shows actually!” continues Steen, providing an insight into the humour, spills and fun that the South Londoners are currently rolling through, as arguably one of the must-see attractions of this year’s festival season. And there’s a clear reason why.

After making a name for themselves in the pubs and function rooms scattered around London, one of the best-kept secrets in live music are finally having that moment where heads are a-turning at a staggering pace. With the menacing yet undeniably fixating presence of Steen, Shame are leading a new brigade of bands, one that may centre around South London but whose influence is set to be felt not only across the UK but Europe too. 

“Yeah, the other day our manager went to see a show in France, and there was someone there in a Shame shirt,” exclaims drummer Charlie Forbes. “It’s been nice to see an actual progression of things, you can tell you’re getting tighter when you’re playing, and it’s been nice going between doing these live shows and then off recording.”

“You can see a progression with the audience too,” notes guitarist Eddie Green, sitting back in-between swigs of his pint. “There are people coming back every time we play in certain cities, and then there’s going to places we’ve only been before when supporting someone, and now doing headline shows.”

“It’s been nice to see people at shows that are there to see Shame rather than just playing support slots to people waiting for the headline band after,” continues Forbes. And it’s those crowds that have been continuously growing over the past 12 months, flocking to a live sensation that doesn’t just whip you along for the ride but forces you to stare into every word and every sound. Seeing Shame live isn’t just about catching a glimpse of a new band playing a few songs, it’s an experience of exactly what live music is all about. A tangible feeling that this band, in this room, can take on the world - and progression and journey that truly kicked off right at the start of last year’s festival season.

“It all kinda started at The Great Escape last year,” reflects Forbes. “We did it, and the show really kicked off and was great, and from that, we got picked up and noticed by so many people for this summer. It led us to play Pitchfork Paris, and it’s just spiralled from there.”

Frontman Charlie Steen sees the summer as a starting point for the journey that comes ahead, one where their ambitions aren’t restrained, whether that’s a huge crowd in a field or a tiny gathering in a back room, Shame will make it their own. “In the last year it was necessary to do certain specific festivals, and now this year is our proper first run on the festival circuit. At our core, we’re a live band, and we want to play as much as possible. Wherever that may be, we’re really not fussy!”

“I don’t think we’ve ever approached a gig differently, whether we were playing to two people or two hundred people or two thousand people because we’ve never wanted to go about it in that way,” continues Steen. “We’ve never wanted to be so up our own arses that we strop about, that isn’t the way any person in any band should ever think. We played for so long to seven people each night that when we played Pitchfork to seven thousand, it wasn’t a case of it being different, but just embracing it. We always want to create some form of intimacy, and being able to communicate that to a large crowd is something we definitely want to achieve.”

Playing as much as possible is an understatement for what Shame have in store. By the end of the summer, they’ll have clocked in over 40 stops across Europe, festivals of all shapes and sizes. It comes with a change that they’ve noticed in their shows, growing and expanding as each one goes by, yet still holding close that visceral intensity that only they could deliver with such potent force. It’s a long way from those early shows making their way across a variety of South London establishments and comes with a realisation that people are longing to see them. 

“Before,” begins Forbes, “when we were doing our first European shows or even our first out of London nights, we’d always be on the way and thinking, ‘Shit, will anyone be there?’ whereas this year the shows have consistently been great.”

“And that’s it,” notes Charlie Steen. “We don’t want to target one audience in South London, we want to be able to do the whole of London, and the whole of the UK, and the whole of Europe and then the whole of America. Which is going to take years of touring and playing and getting better, but it’s just allowing ourselves not to stop.”

After releasing debut numbers ‘The Lick’ and ‘Gold Hole’ towards the end of last year, Shame have continued unveiling their rich sonic sounds in-between slots opening for the likes of Warpaint amongst others. Recent cut ‘Tasteless’ captures Shame perfectly, a menacing yet instant hit to the system that rattles cages yet coats them also with a wall of sound that captures the urgency and rawness of a new band in full fighting flight. 

“I think with those recordings; you can really hear us grow between ‘Gold Hole’ and ‘Tasteless’ for example,” details bassist Josh Finerty. Sessions are continuing throughout the summer, working with a range of producers and learning how to become a recorded band after such a heavy time focusing on the live show. It’s a process which started off as “quite disheartening” after a few unsuccessful sessions, but now has found Shame hitting their stride and working towards a complete collection that’s bound to lay a statement in the years ahead.

“We didn’t want to rely on ourselves just as a live band,” notes frontman Charlie. “We want people to be able to differentiate between us as a live band and us as a recorded band. We were told by so many producers to ‘capture our live sound’ and after trying it just didn’t work for us. We were so inexperienced and young that it took a while, but after meeting with Dan, Nathan and Sean - who’ve produced what we’ve been working on - it helped direct us to what we wanted to sound like.”

Conversations continue about their time spent on the road, full of memories that spring to mind at the drop of a dime, fans turning up with Shame tattoos, bands they love at the moment and much more. It’s an eye into a band fully embracing the whirlwind that’s stirring around them, and a journey that began in late-night pub gigs and now is set on stealing every festival they play. As they all finish their pints and get set to steal yet another night, one feeling is clear. Shame aren’t just playing games; they own them.

Taken from the September issue of Dork - order your copy below. Reading & Leeds takes place from 25th-27th August.

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