Frontman JAMES MATTOCK tells the stories behind each song on SHARKS’ new compilation, The Joys Of Living 2008-2010, which features material previously issued exclusively in the U.K. along with two new songs.
So this is one of two bonus tracks we chose to record for the release of this collection. We made this decision on the basis that it would also serve as a new single, so it had to be a standout track. We've been doing a lot of writing for the proper album, and this is the song we decided to sacrifice for The Joys Of Living. Not that we didn't want the song on our full-length; we love the song. But it “ticks the boxes” so to speak for a single: It’s catchy, solid and representative as a whole. The falsetto in the chorus was something I was initially pretty nervous about. I literally couldn't sing that high, but it turned out to really suit the song.
“The Joys Of Living”
When the idea for this collection came about, I immediately knew we should record “The Joys Of Living” as a bonus track and name the album that. The idea came about while we were recording [2010’s] Show Of Hands EP, and I thought it would be cool if somewhere down the line we released all our pre-debut album material, as some of it is hard to find. I didn't expect we'd actually be releasing it before we even recorded our first album, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. In our eyes, it's a closing chapter on our first few years as a band. The tune itself is really old, and it wasn't really fitting in with our previous releases, but I'm super glad we found a home for it. I like the song very much.
This song kicked off Show Of Hands. Andy [Bayliss, guitar] and I wrote this before we'd even asked the other members to join the band. It's the earliest song that still exists within our array. The a cappella intro was Andy's idea. I thought of it a bit wacky at first, but one day I hope we play that to a room full of people who will be singing it back at us. I wrote the lyrics during my first year of college, so I would've been 16. I hated education, but I didn't really know what else to do with my life at the time. If I'm being honest with myself, I think I was just biding my time to avoid work until the band started moving. The subject of the lyrics falls loosely around that.
“It All Relates”
For this one, I was feeling really inspired by the lyrical content on Hot Water Music's No Division. That record has a direct positivity that really helped me believe I was doing was the right thing. It's about passing that feeling down: "To give back what we took in and watch it bloom from the beginning again/I've never liked my voice anyway.” I was also really inspired by the music that Andy had written for the song. Sometimes you just get a really good feeling for a song and it almost writes itself. It should be noted that the chorus "woahs" are a little homage to the Hold Steady.
This is one of those “tour songs” bands have. I think the majority of the lyrics were written in the van: "Travels underground make time for other things/Including dust settling shackles to be broken free.” It was written at a time when we were just overjoyed to be touring places.
What makes this one of my favorites on the album is the overall Psychedelic Furs and ’80s vibe going on, and the romantic melodies and tones. The lyrics were written as a poem before I knew how the music went, but they fit perfectly and the melodies just popped out of the page. We rarely play this live largely due to the difference in my vocal approach.
“Glove In Hand”
As songwriters, we're very proud of this tune as we really thought outside the box a bit and made something really interesting musically and lyrically. It's so minimal with the way we just drive those two chords out, and I had loads of fun writing melodies to the strong base of a song that it is, as I'm sure Andy enjoyed writing the lead parts. I had a strong picture in mind for the spoken word part at the end, but I had no idea it would end up being executed so perfectly. The whole thing with getting [collaborators] Trash Talk in the studio was so flakey; we knew them from touring, but they were really vague about dropping by. Thankfully, they did, and as Spencer [Pollard, Trash Talk bassist] sat there and listened to the song for the first time, we wrote the lyrics there and then just recorded it... naked.
This is the perfect B-side in my eyes, and that's what we always intended it for. It's short and super quick and reminds of a Clash B-side or something, if I can be so bold. People really like this song and I'm glad it made it onto a full-length. It may be a B-side, but we love all our children equally.
This song was really new when we recorded it, and to be honest, we hadn't really sat and played with it for very long. It ended up being something we wish we could have reconsidered. For one, the song is a little long for our liking; and two, it's basically a four-minute guitar solo. The guitar is impressive by all means, but since then, we've progressed in learning when to push and pull on these things. Finding a balance between my voice and the lead guitar is something we've been trying to define ever since. That way the two “voices” complement each other way better.
“Yours To Fear”
These last five tracks are taken from our Shallow Waters EP. That EP was recorded in 2008—back when we were completely unknown and had absolutely no support from others. We really tried to make a statement with it and especially with “Yours To Fear.” We hoped opening a punk record with a ballad would turn some heads. The lyrical vibe throughout the EP was really dark and desperate. We used to go down to London on the train with our amps and play to literally no one at these shitty, trendy places. We wouldn’t get paid and came back feeling like shit. This song was written during one of those moments.
“Fallen On Deaf Ears”
Again, this follows in the same sort of vein as “Yours To Fear.” It's almost the same song with the way they link together. These songs are so old by now, so it makes it hard to completely identify with the lyrical content. We've played this at almost every show since; it's a real ripper and a good sing-along. The trumpets are real. We got this guy in from Northampton to pop in, showed him the melody, and it was done in minutes flat.
This now sounds really ridiculous, but this song is basically about being unbearably ill. I remember just being up all night with some dire flu or something, and to take my mind off it, I wrote the words to this and put chords to it in the morning. We were really into Social Distortion at the time, and the solo is a complete homage to Mike Ness. For some of these old songs, I wrote the drums to them and recorded rough demos with me playing everything but lead guitar. When we’re playing some of these old songs now, we're like, "Wow, that drum bit was really unnecessary” or I think to myself, “Why on earth are there that many lyrics crammed into each bar?” You have to make these sort of mistakes, but I'm so glad this early stuff is recorded. There's a real youthful charm to them we just couldn't create anymore.
“Bury Your Youth”
I think this is the only song of ours that bears any reggae influence, but not for any other reason other than it’s about as far as our ability goes in that field. In the end section of this song—where I sing the deep "whoas"—there were some really bizarre frequencies cutting through as we recorded it. I remember the engineer not being able to get his head around it, but you can hear things that aren't even there if you know what I mean. This song is also impossible to play live. No matter how hard I try, I don't think I'll ever be able to sing the chorus while playing that riff.
“The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is Hell”
This is another cheery one. I guess it just combines really upbeat and happy music with lyrics detailing exhaustion and hard luck. This song is still played live though every so often, and I think it'll stick around for a while. althttp://www.altpress.com/features/entry/track_by_track_sharks/