MUSIC INTERVIEW: SHARKS
English Punk Road Warriors Look Ahead to Recording New Music, Revealing Big Surprises
By: Team Buzzine
September 9, 2011http://buzzinenetworks.s3.amazonaws.com/videos/sharks_784_20110909.mp4
Sharks are famous for always being on the move, so it can hardly be surprising that the English post-punk band named after the predator has endlessly circled America this year, first with punk rock heroes Social Distortion, and then on every date of the annual Vans Warped Tour. Alongside all those live performances, the band recently released a 14-track compilation showcasing all their EPs dating back to 2008, and have also been spending their spare moments writing/demoing new material and preparing to head into the studio to work on their much-anticipated debut studio album. These Sharks are indeed in constant motion. Buzzine’s Stefan Goldby made the band stop for a moment, and he sat down with Sharks’ James Mattock and Sam Lister under a shady tree on the campus of CSU Dominguez Hills in Carson, California to talk about how far they have swum already, how far they still have to go, and the power of the element of surprise…
Stefan Goldby: Let’s begin at the beginning, because, well… traditionally I have to: Your band began when you were all still in school. Can you tell us a little bit about how you first came together?
James Mattock: It was Andy (Bayliss) and I that went to school together – our guitar-player. And we were playing music in a bunch of bands, and then we decided to form this band; we asked Sam (Lister) to join, he accepted, and we took it from there. We’ve had a few bass players along the way, which sucks, but it’s been us three ever since.
SG: Your recent release The Joys of Living pulled together music from all your EPs so far, all the tracks that you released over the course of the past couple of years. Was it strange to have those different songs together all in one place?
JM: Yeah, for us, I think. And only us. For everyone else, some people consider it our first record, you know. But some of their songs are super old.
Sam Lister: Yeah, when I listen to some of the older tracks we recorded, they just sound so messy now. We were just kids at the time, pretty much. But I think it’s come out great. I’m really pleased with it.
SG: You went back to the same studio in Northampton to begin demoing tracks for the new album… technically your debut album: Does returning to that same spot make you think about how far the band has come even before you record that first album proper?
JM: Yeah… when we’re there.
SL: It was great to go back. It felt really good.
JM: The same engineer and everything that we did our first EP with…
SL: Yeah, totally the same set-up and everything. And it was really nostalgic, and I think it actually helped, when it came to doing the tracks. It was really inspiring to be there and to see how far the songs have come and how far we feel we’ve come.
SG: What do you think is going to be the biggest musical surprise about the album from what you already know?
JM: I think everything about it is going to be a big surprise. We really want to blow any sort of preconceptions we’ve ever had out this time around. It’s like we finally have a chance to make the record we really do want to make. We’ve never been in the studio longer than a week before, and now we have five. So it should be interesting. We’re doing it as a three-piece for the first time, so anything could happen really. We’re gonna get some friends down, we’re gonna have a bunch of instruments, and who knows what the album will turn out to be?
SL: I think it will definitely be a surprise to people. I think people may see us as something that we’re not quite turning out to be, but maybe not. I don’t know.
SG: What does [album producer] Brian McTernan bring into the mix?
JM: He’s a really inspiring and creative guy. I’ve spoken to him on the phone and we’ve spoken about the record, and I’m so excited. He’s just as excited as we are, really, and he just loves people that love to make music. It’s actually just the four of us in there, so it’s going to be a really good time. Really creative and…
SL: …and the studio he’s got…every room is available to record it in, so you can record all night and all day, and I think it will be great just to be in the Sharks space for that long – in the headspace…yeah, it will be great.
SG: Here in the US, you release your music through your own Velvet Scene imprint (through Rise Records). You’ve always been very clear about how you don’t want Sharks to be lumped in to any single musical scene. Is having your own imprint just a natural extension of that?
JM: Yeah, to literally separate us from the existing roster that Rise had…for no negative reason. We have no problem with being with those kind of bands or anything. Most of them went on this tour, and now we’re friends with them and stuff.
SL: That’s how it is with those bands. They’re all on the same label. They’re playing in the same scene of music, they’re playing similar styles of music, and we’re just nothing like that. I can see why people would assume we would sound like that…
JM: … and the guys from Rise totally get it. Their label is a reflection of the band really, so people are immediately going to associate us with the kind of music that’s on there, if they haven’t heard us before. So it’s just a way to divide it a little bit.
SG: A band that you certainly do have a little more in common with is Social Distortion. To have completed your very first US tour alongside such an iconic band had to be something of a dream come true…how did that happen?
SL: I don’t know.
JM: Yeah, how did that even happen? But yeah, it was a total dream come true.
SL: Our manager told us it would happen, and we just thought it was a bit of an exaggeration really – that he was being quite hopeful. Because it seemed ambitious to even come and do Warped Tour with the amount of money we had, so to do a tour of that scale as well, we were a bit dubious, and then we got the call and we got it, and…it was mind-blowing. It was amazing. Just brilliant. I’m so glad we did it.
SG: Is there anything specific that you learned or were inspired by, being that close with Mike Ness and the guys?
JM: It’s really inspiring in the sense that this band has just been killing it their whole lives, and now Mike is 50-something and he’s still amazing. [Laughs] It’s everything I hope our band could be when we’re older.
SL: The longevity of the band is just remarkable, and they’re still great. The new stuff they played was great. They’ve opened the door to way more things as well. It’s amazing: Just brilliant. So inspiring.
SG: And as soon as that tour ended, you joined up with the travelling Punk Rock Summer Camp. How has Warped been so far? Is it what you expected?
SL: It’s way better than I expected it to be. I don’t know. We heard horror stories, to be honest, about just being miserable. But we’ve had a really good time. But…
JM: You have your days when you believe those horror stories.
SL: The last week has been rough because we’ve been here since April. We’re getting tired, and we’ve got an album to do and stuff. We’re really keen to move on. We’ve been here for two months, and the same car park every day in a different place is hard sometimes. But everyone here is so cooperative, and it’s a real community thing, so that gets you through, definitely -- whatever hardships you have.
SG: We heard that the Warped Tour crew has become fans of the band and that you are getting great slots to play in most days, but playing at Warped is still obviously somewhat different from your regular sets, so what makes for the perfect night on stage for you guys?
SL: Having a sound-check would be nice. [Laughs] I don’t know. I think sometimes you’re just in the right headspace. You’ve just got to be…
JM: Just one of those moments that the four of you on stage are connecting is like…magic.
SL: It’s really hard to explain. You just know if it’s good, and you know if you’re not on form. It’s just like that.
JM: Yeah, it’s literally just like that.
SL: You can almost tell within the first verse, especially on this tour.
SG: Playing shows here on Warped Tour in America must seem quite a long way removed from Birmingham and the spot where you shot the music video for “It All Relates”?
SL: That video we did in my friend Charlie’s barn, and it’s the same place we rehearsed, and we did it for 300 pounds, which is like 500 dollars, and it was the worst day of my life, by the way. And I hate the song now because of that day, because we had to play it 100 times.
JM: Yeah, literally it was like 90 times. And it was really weird – it was our first video, and I was certainly uncomfortable about miming and everything. But our good friend Ryan [Mackfall] did it for us, and we made the most of the area we had. We put up loads of religious paraphernalia, just for the look, and we had it in black and white, and I’m really happy with it. It’s a cool video.
SL: We had to take down my mate’s basketball hoop to do it, so it was literally that kind of scenario. So it turned out really well, from what I can see. But Ryan has done our last video as well. He was actually with us for the first leg of the Social D tour in Canada. He was out here for two months, and he was just documenting the whole time. So he just did the video for the song “Sweet Harness,” and that looks awesome as well. We’ll be releasing it pretty soon, I think. We literally just got it back about three days ago…
JM: Yeah, and it looks awesome.
SL: It looks amazing.
JM: It’s crazy seeing all that footage from this same tour; it feels like a lifetime ago.
SL: Yeah, because we’ve been here so long, it feels like I should have been home between then and now, so it’s bizarre seeing it as the same tour as this one. I just zombied my way through the last four months, and I’m hoping he got most of it!
SG: You thought the Social D tour was a long-shot and then it happened; you thought Warped Tour was a bit pie-in-the-sky and yet here we are; when you took your bandname from a Gallows song, did you ever think that a member of that band would ever join yours? Please explain what’s about to happen in Japan with Stephen Carter. What the hell? Did you do a deal with the devil? I keep hearing the theme song from Crossroads in my mind…
SL: [Laughs] I don’t know. We just had the idea, didn’t we? It was just the best-case scenario of what we could do, and we asked him and he was just the nicest guy…
JM: Yeah, we’re doing the AP tour with Gallows, and also he’s going to be filling in for that…
SL: …I think he just generally knew we needed help, above anything.
JM: He came straight to us and said, “If you need any help, ever, just give me a shout,” and we were like, “Well yeah, actually…if you don’t mind, let’s do this.” So he went and got a bass and he’s been learning the songs, and tomorrow we’re gonna have a quick rehearsal and… play in front of 100,000 people.
SG: It sounds like it might have just happened or even be about to happen, but in closing out today’s episode of the story of Sharks (so far), what do you think has been the single best moment?
SL: Just getting on a plane with the pure intention of going to do a tour was something that I’d always dreamed about doing. To be the four of you on a plane, on your own, to go off playing is just an amazing feeling. So that’s when I realized at first, when we took off, like, “Yeah, we’re going now.” But everything ever since has been crazy – ever since we’ve been here it’s been a pretty mental time. It’s been amazing.
Sharks' compilation ‘The Joys of Living 2008-2010’ is out now on Velvet Scene/Rise Records. Their ‘official’ debut album is scheduled to be released in 2012.