Posts Tagged ‘Sean Coyle-Smith’

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The phrase “drunk tank pink” that Shame take the name of their new album from refers to the shade of paint used to pacify inhabitants of European jails who were picked up for disorderly conduct while inebriated. It’s also the colour of the closet-sized apartment frontman Charlie Steen shared with guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith though, in the context of their new album, I imagine it’s a more metaphorical usage, one referring to the reeling in of the group’s chaotic tendencies.

The result of (per Steen) “a bath and a good night’s sleep,” Drunk Tank Pink continues the rousing tradition of the Shame project by relying on heavy experimentalism rather than the relentless punk that fuelled 2018’s preceding “Songs of Praise”. While more grounded than the chic, Black Midi-fied post-punk of fellow English acts like Black Country New Road and Squid, DTP sounds like the work of a band who’s fed up with the constraints of genre.

With the LP dropping today, we reached out to the band for a behind-the-scenes look at each track on the project, detailing themes ranging from “the beauty of all canines” to  “lust and puppets.”

1. “Alphabet”

A direct question to the audience and the performer as to whether any of this will ever be enough to reach satisfaction. The genius of Drunk Tank Pink is how these lyrical themes dovetail with the music. Opener Alphabet dissects the premise of performance over a siren call of nervous, jerking guitars, its chorus thrown out like a beer bottle across a mosh pit. Songs spin off and lurch into unexpected directions throughout here,

2. “Nigel Hitter”

This song focuses on daily routine, the motions we go through, and how extraordinary all this seemed to me after coming home from touring.

3. “Born in Luton”

“Born in Luton” is about being locked outside a flat. It exaggerates the mundane and makes it into something unique and overtly dramatic.

4. “March Day”

This is about my consistent unwillingness to wake up on time—my obsession and devotion to my bed and my bedroom.  March Day’s escalating aural panic attack 

5. “Water in the Well”

Over the last few years we’ve been consistently inspired by the people we’ve met and the places we’ve been. All these locations and characters have an effect on us and seep their way into this song, including “Acid Dad,” the name of the person who runs Dewar Farm in which we wrote a lot of DTP. 

6. “Snow Day”

A lot of this album focuses on the subconscious and dreams, this song being the pivotal moment of these themes. A song about love that is lost and the comfort and displeasure that comes after you close your eyes, fall into sleep, and are forced to confront yourself. the shapeshifting darkness of Snow Day

7. “Human, for a Minute”

The first song we wrote after Songs of Praise, the main focus being on a relationship slipping away and the discovery of my own identity through this collapse. There’s a Berlin era Bowie beauty to the lovelorn Human For A Minute .

From the womb to the clouds (sort of), Shame are currently very much in the pink.

8. “Great Dog”

One of the first ones we got down in Dewar Farm for DTP, a nonsense song about the perks of thievery and the beauty of all canines. 

9. “6/1”

An intense evaluation of myself, exploiting my flaws, fears, and narcissism. 

10. “Harsh Degrees”

A song of lust and puppets. 

11. “Station Wagon”

Closer Station Wagon weaves from a downbeat mooch into a souring, soul- lifting climax in which Steen elevates himself beyond the clouds and into the heavens. Or at least that’s what it sounds like. A final conversation with myself and an ode to the great Sir Elton John at the end.

There are moments on “Drunk Tank Pink” where you almost have to reach for the sleeve to check this is the same band who made 2018’s Songs Of Praise. Such is the jump Shame have made from the riotous post-punk of their debut to the sprawling adventurism and twitching anxieties laid out here. The South Londoner’s blood and guts spirit, that wink and grin of devious charm, is still present, it’s just that it’s grown into something bigger, something deeper, more ambitious and unflinchingly honest.

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What especially takes the biscuit, for us, is the news of Shame’s new album! since we witnessed their debut shake the very foundations of modern post-punk, we’ve been feverishly awaiting the next chapter in the saga of these lovely boys & it looks like they’ve swerved hard out of the path of any career ruts with this newie. their second album expands their sound into more anxious & atmospheric environs, tautly roped together by frontman Charlie Steen’s agitated vocals. what’s cause for even more excitement is the choice of coloured vinyl on offer! you can have any colour you like as long as it’s pink (or standard black). get your pre-orders in extra quick if you fancy grabbing the limited indies exclusive on galaxy pink vinyl with signed insert or the limited indies opaque pink lp.

There are moments on ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ where you almost have to reach for the sleeve to check this is the same band who made 2018’s ‘Songs Of Praise’. Such is the jump Shame have made from the riotous post-punk of their debut to the sprawling adventurism and twitching anxieties laid out here. The South Londoner’s blood and guts spirit, that wink and grin of devious charm, is still present, it’s just that it’s grown into something bigger, something deeper, more ambitious and unflinchingly honest.

To understand this creative leap you need to first understand the journey Shame undertook to get here. From their beginnings as wide-eyed teenagers taken under the decrepit wing of The Fat White Family to becoming the most celebrated new band in Britain and their subsequent crash back down to earth. Come in, and close the door behind you…It’s no exaggeration to say the members of Shame have spent their entire adult life on the road. A wild-eyed tour of duty marked by glorious music and damaged psyches, when it eventually careered to a stop the band were parachuted back into home territory. Shell shocked, dislocated and grasping for some semblance of self.

Shame’s previous bases – the notorious den of iniquity that was The Queens Head pub, the musical petri dish of Brixton’s Windmill – were either gentrified into obsolescence or no longer viable as an HQ. Sometimes home just isn’t home anymore. Or at least it’s not the way you remember it.

To cope, guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith barricaded himself in his bedroom. Barely leaving the house and instead obsessively deconstructing his very approach to playing and making music, he picked apart the threads of the music he was devouring (Talking Heads, Nigerian High Life, the dry funk of ESG, Talk Talk…) and created work infused with panic and crackling intensity.

“For this album I was so bored of playing guitar,” he recalls, “the thought of even playing it was mind-numbing. So I started to write and experiment in all these alternative tunings and not write or play in a conventional ‘rock’ way.”

Frontman Charlie Steen, meanwhile, took a different tac and attempted to party his way out of psychosis. “When you’re exposed to all of that for the first time you think you’re fucking indestructible,” he notes. “After a few years you reach a point where you realise everyone need a bath and a good night’s sleep sometimes.” An intense bout of waking fever-dreams convinced Steen that self medicating his demons wasn’t a very healthy plan of action and it was probably time to stop and take a look inward. Shame had always been about exposure – be that the rogues’ gallery of characters they drew inspiration from or the cornucopia of joy to be had from simply being in a band – this time, however, they were exposed to themselves.

“You become very aware of yourself and when all of the music stops, you’re left with the silence,” reflects Steen. “And that silence is a lot of what this record is about.”

Pass along the plant-strewn corridor leading into Steen and Coyle-Smith’s shared living space in South East London and hidden away to your left is a dank, brown curtain. Pull it back and open the door… welcome to the womb.

More of a cupboard than a room (it used to house the washing machine until they lugged it outside and put a bed in) and painted floor to ceiling in the specific shade of pink used to calm down drunk tank inmates, the womb is where Steen cocooned himself away to reflect and write. Scraping and shaking lyrics out of himself that – through the prism of his own surrealistic dreams – addressed the psychological toll life in the band had taken on him. The disintegration of his relationship, the loss of a sense of self and the growing identity crisis both the band and an entire generation were feeling.

“The common theme when I was catching up with my mates was this identity crisis everyone was having,” reflects Steen. “No one knows what the fuck is going on.”

“It didn’t matter that we’d just come back off tour thinking, ‘How do we deal with reality?!?’” agrees Coyle-Smith. “I had mates that were working in a pub and they were also like, ‘How do I deal with reality?!?’ Everyone was going through it.”

The genius of ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ is how these lyrical themes dovetail with the music. Opener “Alphabet” dissects the premise of performance over a siren call of nervous, jerking guitars, its chorus thrown out like a beer bottle across a mosh pit. “Nigel Hitter”, meanwhile, turns the mundanity of routine into something spectacular via a disjointed jigsaw of syncopated rhythms and broken wristed punk funk.

Bassist Josh Finerty had begun to record the band’s divergent ideas at home in South London which were then fleshed out in a writing trip in the Scottish highlands with electronic artist Makeness, before sessions in La Frette studios in France with Arctic Monkeys producer James Ford. The result is an enormous expansion of Shame’s sonic arsenal.

Songs spin off and lurch into unexpected directions throughout here, be it “March Day’s” escalating aural panic attack or the shapeshifting darkness of “Snow Day”. There’s a Berlin era Bowie beauty to the lovelorn “Human For A Minute” while closer “Station Wagon” weaves from a downbeat mooch into a souring, soul-lifting climax in which Steen elevates himself beyond the clouds and into the heavens. Or at least that’s what it sounds like.

“No that’s about Elton John,” laughs Steen. “I read somewhere about him being so cracked out that he told his PA to move a cloud that was blocking the sun. I just thought that was the greatest, Shakespearean expression of ego. Humour is a massive part of this band. We’re not some French existential act where everything is actually sad. There’s light in it as well.” From the womb to the clouds (sort of), Shame are currently very much in the pink

“Water in the Well” taken from Shame’s new album ‘Drunk Tank Pink’, out 15th January 2021 on Dead Oceans Records

Like most Shame songs, “Alphabet” is armed with full-throttle momentum, and frontman Charlie Steen’s direct yet playful vocal inflection. “Are you waiting / to feel good / Are you praying / like you should?” Steen asks. It’s not so much a sonic departure as it is a distillation of their barreling punk sound. Shame have returned with a new song called ‘Alphabet’ via Dead Oceans Records. Produced by James Ford, it marks the UK post-punk group’s first new music since the release of their 2018 debut Songs of Praise. Check it out below, alongside an accompanying music video directed by Tegen Williams.

“‘Alphabet’ is a direct question, to the audience and the performer, on whether any of this will ever be enough to reach satisfaction,” frontman Charlie Steen said in a statement. “At the time of writing it, I was experiencing a series of surreal dreams where a manic subconscious was bleeding out of me and seeping into the lyrics. All the unsettling and distressing imagery I faced in my sleep have taken on their own form in the video.”

Back in the beginning of 2018, the British post-punk group Shame released their debut album . They soon accrued a fervent following and a whole lot of attention for their intense live shows. They’ve also now been silent for a while, not releasing so much as a standalone single since Songs Of Praise. Shame apparently have a new album on the horizon, and they’ve shared the first hint of this impending new era.

Two years ago, Shame released Songs of Praise, which was not just an outstanding debut but one of the best LPs of the 2010s. It was bold, assertive, and relevant. Heck, it still remains a very pertinent record, as many of the themes covered then still apply today. The timeless quality in Shame’s songwriting and post-punk style positions Eddie Green, Charlie Forbes, Josh Finerty, Sean Coyle-Smith, and Charlie Steen to be one of 2020’s most important bands. To demonstrate why they are worthy of such accolades, the quintet have unleashed a roaring critique of ourselves with “Alphabet”.

The song echoes the driving, raw energy of IDLES and Fontaines D.C. Every element is delivered with the desperation of a person about to perform their very last song. Nothing is held back because there is nothing left for us to lose in these times. Or is there? As the trio of guitars chime and thrust while the rhythms heavily pound, Green harshly and sarcastically asks us if “we feel good”. He’s asking us if we are satisfied with what we have, where we are, and what is happening. He’s directly wondering whether our desires are limitless or whether we all have a point where we say “enough is enough”.

Alphabet’ from Shame, available now on Dead Oceans

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It’s hard to do Shame any justice by writing about their wild live shows. The way I can best summarize the aftermath of going to see Shame is that you’ll suddenly feel like you’ve been christened with the ability to perform some act of superhuman physical strength. Though the melodic, fervent post-punk of their debut album Songs of Praise needs no polite introduction, it’s not an angry “in your face,” it’s more like an “in your face” that’s beaming with happiness and with an overflowing passion that can’t be depleted. Their sweaty, bare-chested frontman Charlie Steen’s stamina and powerful presence is felt, but it’s not overbearing. He consistently reminds the crowd, “Smile! This is entertainment” while bassist Josh Finerty engages in a comical gymnastics routine and guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith embodies his guitar’s vigorous shredding with a similar vibrating fit of energy. By this point, Steen is an experienced crowd-surfer and as long as his motor is running, expect the unexpected at a Shame show.

Shame performing live in the KEXP studio. Recorded February 20th, 2018.

Songs: Dust On Trial Concrete One Rizla Friction The Lick

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Shame thrives on confrontation. Whether it be the seething intensity crackling throughout their debut LP “Songs of Praise” or the adrenaline-pumping chaos that unfolds at Shame’s live shows,  “Of the 70 bands I saw at this year’s festivals the band Shame seemed to mean what they played more than any other.”

Comprised of vocalist Charlie Steen, guitarists Sean Coyle-Smith and Eddie Green, bassist John Finerty, and drummer Charlie Forbes, the London-based five-piece began as school boys. From the outset, Shame built the band up from a foundation of DIY ethos while citing The Fall and Wire among its biggest musical influences.

Utilizing both the grit and sincerity of that musical background, Shame carved out a niche in the South London music scene and then barreled fearlessly into the angular, thrashing post-punk that would go on to make up Songs of Praise, their Dead Ocean Records debut.  Think tightly wound, jittery guitars, mile-a-minute hi-hat and an exquisite bleakness from “Gold Hole,” a tongue-in-cheek takedown of rock narcissism, to lead single “Concrete” a song about an unhappy relationship that will have you beating on your steering wheel, It embodies this sound perfectly and already gives us hope for the best of  2018. The song detailing the overwhelming moment of realizing a relationship is doomed, to the frustrated “Tasteless” taking aim at the monotony of people droning through their day-to-day, Songs of Praise never pauses to catch its breath.

Songs of Praise, the debut record from South London post punk titans Shame, couldn’t have received a better response on its release in January. Lauded for their political, sometimes aggressive and always lively punk-blues, Shame are riding high on their success, but trying to keep level headed. “We try to walk the tightrope between praising ourselves and degrading ourselves, because we don’t want to lean too far either side. We’re just enjoying the flame while it flickers!” says singer and lyricist Charlie Steen.

Steen is full of ideas, quick to laugh and with an anecdote fit for every occasion. So it’s unsurprising that he’s a lyricist, eager to put a story to everything and with the sharp wit required to make every story enticing. For Steen, the key to a good song is a gripping narrative, Bob Dylan and Squeeze rank highly on his list of music’s best storytellers and are among many of the musicians he first heard via his parents’ record collection.

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Shame thrives on confrontation. Whether it be the seething intensity crackling throughout debut LP Songs of Praise or the adrenaline-pumping chaos that unfolds at Shame’s shows, it’s all fuelled by feeling.

Comprised of vocalist Charlie Steen, guitarists Sean Coyle-Smith and Eddie Green, bassist John Finerty, and drummer Charlie Forbes, the London-based five-piece began as school boys. From the outset, Shame built the band up from a foundation of DIY ethos while citing The Fall and Wire among its biggest musical influences. Utilizing both the grit and sincerity of that musical background, Shame carved out a niche in the South London music scene and then barreled fearlessly into the angular, thrashing post-punk that would go on to make up Songs of Praise, their Dead Oceans debut. From Gold Hole, a tongue-in-cheek takedown of rock narcissism, to lead single Concrete detailing the overwhelming moment of realizing a relationship is doomed, to the frustrated Tasteless taking aim at the monotony of people droning through their day-to- day.

The notion, however, that a scrappy post-punk band may have to deal with old-school rock stardom isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. They’re as ferocious as their acknowledged inspirations the Fall; even when the guitars aren’t turned up to a jet roar, Steen’s furious sneer gives them urgency (“My voice ain’t the best you’ve heard / And you can choose to hate my words / But do I give a fuck?” he asks on One Rizla). Best of all, though, they have huge, anthemic tunes to go with the anger.

I think the idea of the leather jacket-wearing, womanising, drug-fuelled rock star should be burned,” says Charlie Steen, the 20-year-old singer of Shame, who are 2018’s angriest, shoutiest young British guitar band.

“Destroyed for ever,” says the 21-year-old drummer, Charlie Forbes. “But at the same time,” adds Sheen, “with a lot of people I’ve grown up loving, like Bowie or Iggy Pop, there’s an attraction to someone who lives a lifestyle you’ll never be able to live, and you couldn’t live, because it’s so dysfunctional and damaging to you as a person. You can almost live your life through them.”

Steen thinks for a moment, then outlines the simple reason why Shame won’t become rock stars. “That lifestyle could only exist because of money. Bands can’t go out now and get a kilo of coke or drive to Las Vegas in a Ferrari. Now it’s get a gram of speed and sit in a Travelodge. That’s the reality of it.”.

Shame formed when the five members were in their mid-teens and bumped along anonymously for a while, part of a nascent south London scene of bands drawn together through mutual friends that also included HMLTD, Goat Girl and Dead Pretties. Over the past year, all four bands transcended their free-party origins, getting signed, getting acclaimed and forming the nucleus of something that’s been missing in British music for some time: an exciting, youthful guitar scene whose participants are not grimly fixated on securing their slice of the post-Britpop lads-with-lagers crowd.

The scene, they say, was more the result of necessity than anything else: when few of their friends liked guitar bands, those who did would group together. “It was weird to meet people the same age as you who liked the same music,” Steen says. “Lots of people we knew at school were into popping pills and going to techno nights. But then we started meeting these people who were engaged with something we didn’t think existed.”

Shame formed around the Queen’s Head pub in Brixton, the former headquarters of the Fat White Family. Forbes’s dad was a friend of the landlord, who let the young band rehearse in an upstairs room (“Every day,” Forbes says. “Just hop on the bus to the after school club”). There they met assorted luminaries and recidivists of the south London music scene, but managed to avoid the worst excesses of the Fat Whites and their friends, largely through being too young to realise they were hanging around with committed hard drug users (“We were oblivious,” Forbes says).

They stumbled over lucky break after lucky break. Not just getting a free rehearsal space for 15 months, until the Queen’s Head was converted into a gastropub, but meeting people who then gave them studio space, and getting free advice from musicians who had been chewed up and spat out by major labels. What they learned was the importance of keeping as much control as possible over their decisions, which led them to sign to indie imprint Dead Oceans for their debut album, Songs of Praise. They also think the very grime of the Queen’s Head shaped them into being Shame: “I don’t think if we had started in a squeaky clean studio it would have been the same,” Forbes says.

‘We started meeting these people who were engaged with something we didn’t think existed’ ... Shame.

They are less interested in offering comfort than demanding resolve: “We like to confront those who have committed acts of injustice, by writing snippy songs about them,” Forbes says. Just before last year’s general election they released one such song about the prime minister, Visa Vulture. “With each day the vacuous Mrs May steers our country closer and closer into the darkness and confusion that is Brexit, no doubt securing the best deal for herself and her cronies in the Conservative party,” they wrote on YouTube. “We would like to take this opportunity to humiliate and debase her frankly evil political record even further with this, the world’s worst love song.”

But given they’re still so young – all five members are 20 or 21 – they sometimes haven’t worked out where their principles are taking them. So there’s a mild disagreement between Forbes and Steen over whether they would let their music be used in a TV advert by some particularly awful company.

“No chance,” Forbes says. “No chance.” Then Steen recalls the Fat Whites turning down £100,000 from easyJet. “They wanted to use Whitest Boy on the Beach. Lias [Saoudi, the Fat Whites’ singer] said the biggest mistake of his life was not taking the hundred grand. But until we have to make that decision …”

Forbes interrupts, surprised that Steen is deciding band policy on his own. “Oh no, there’s no way.”

The pair keep taking extreme positions, then realising they have to pull back from them, that their principles are racing away from practicality. When asked how they will respond when their crowd starts to include the beered-up geezers who tend to follow popular and boisterous guitar bands, Forbes says: “If I ever looked down from the stage and saw that, I would probably quit.”

Steen interrupts: “We wanna get rid and dissolve …” Forbes interrupts back: “Dissolve is too nice a word. Incinerate.”

And then Steen realises that suggesting pre-emptive incineration of their fans is, perhaps, a bit much. “We’re not going to discriminate against any person who comes to our show unless they do something unjust. But we don’t want to project any image of laddish behaviour. I’ve spoken to girls who feel that if they go into the pit they are going to get knocked about by older guys. And when that happens, you have to make a point to the crowd. We don’t want to stop anyone having fun, but we don’t want anyone to be hurt or harassed in any way.”

Their instinct for confrontation might make that a tightrope act. In one French TV appearance Steen, dressed in a T-shirt reading “Je suis Calais”, strutted across the presenters’ table and licked an audience member’s face – pick the wrong person for that, and he might well find himself called out on social media for the very things Forbes says the band want to avoid.

It’s oddly charming listening to a band working out what they think as they go along. For all the apparent certainties of Songs of Praise, for all their reputation for provocation – and the thrilling, tumbling rush of their music – they are very well aware of the limitations of being a rock band and of how damaging to mind and body it could be.

Last month, as Shame finished their year with a jaunt around Germany as a support slot, Steen had to call a stop to things. He was getting panic attacks; he wasn’t digesting his food; he was vomiting 15 times a day. “In that month we toured America, Canada, I did eight press days in Europe and London, played a show in Paris and then went on tour in Germany. Sitting in a van in the pitch black, and you’re in Hanover surrounded by snow and nothing else, and there’s only indistinguishable meat available … it can get you down.”

Over the next 12 months, Shame will take Songs of Praise around the world, to more and more people who will force them to confront their self-image as the band who are against things, whatever things happen to be on their minds. A band this exciting aren’t going to be allowed to sit still for long – in the weeks before they go to Australia at the end of January they are writing for their second album, because there will be no chance once the touring begins. They had better get used to the idea of more cans, more pitch black and even more indistinguishable meat, and not just in Hanover.

So might they become rock stars after all? Forbes suggests the very notion is “quite incredibly dated”, and Steen chips in. “Offensive as well, in a lot of ways. It will be a white male, skinny, perfect hair, who sleeps with women daily.”

That’s your principled position – but wouldn’t you really like to be rock stars, given the chance? “I’d just like a house with a pool table,” Steen says.

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Songs of Praise is released on Dead Oceans on 12th January.