Words: Rob Sayce / Photos: Zen Inoya
Sink or Swin
Punk rock lifers and big-hearted songsmiths alike, Sharks are in it for the long haul. And that's how they like it...
"And it's a sweet sickness surfing my soul..."
Some bands see music as a quick route to fame, fortune and free holidays; that the desk is stacked hugely against them - and the fact that 'making it' requires an almost insane amount of work - soon puts paid to most. Other bands get together to have a laugh and let off some steam among the drudgery of everyday life, and that's fine. There's another kind of band, though, and they're the ones who stick around.
They're the guys who start bands because they have no other option and who are in it for the long haul: they're the lifers and the legends. Sharks are on such band. For these four young men from Leamington Spa, music is the whole point of and fuel behind life itself, and that's an attitude that resonates through every minute of their album 'No Gods'.
"We started this band at such a young age," muses frontman James Mattock, "and we've had to make some big sacrifices to make it work. It always seemed natural to me - like, personally, all the way through my school life, I was convince I wasn't capable of finding a 'normal' job that I'd be happy doing." He pauses in reflection. "To be honest, I knew from the age of 12 that I wanted to be in a band, and right from that point I was determined to put my all into it. We were 16 when we started this band, we began touring full-time when we were 18 and we haven't stopped since. the full-time touring started when we were in college, so as a result we had to drop out. Sharks is our life, and it has been for a long time. The choices I have made mean that this is the only thing I have got, it's my only real option..."
"Just posters on walls, song lyrics and dreams..."
Like many of us, James found his identity though music. Growing up with little focus or idea of what the future held for him, it was a vital escape from the tedium of small-town life. "I'm actually really lucky to live in Leamington as it's alright in many ways," he says, "but it is boring and there's nothing much to do. I'm not going to complain about where I live, but I'm always searching for something more than the life I've got. I've always been this way." The sentiment should be familiar for anyone who's grown up suffocated by their home town. Everyone needs a release , and for James - alongside guitarist Andrew Bayliss, drummer Samuel Lister and bassist Tony Corrales - punk rock was the answer.
"I didn't feel like everyone else in school, and I didn't seem to think the same way that they did, so music, and punk in particular, helped me find out who I was," he explains. "It opened up a whole new way of thinking, and made me realise that there really was another way to go in life. Everyone at school had ideas of what they wanted to do for work and they filled their lives with so much, but for me, music was the only thing that mattered. I was a bit lost, but I used it to help me get my shit together and get going."
Spawned from a very British milieu, songs like 'Able Moving Hearts' and 'Luck' have a timeless quality to them; they're thoughtful, defiant, and relatable. What's more, they're the product of a band as happy to draw from the icons and events of the past as from their own formative experiences.
"People like Joe Strummer and Morrissey taught me a lot," nods James, "and what they were saying spoke to me so much more than anything else. They questioned things, and wrote about life in new ways. That's what we've tried to do with 'No Gods' - we're questioning life and the things around us rather than offering a load of statements or proposed answers. We want people to think for themselves, to find their own answers." He laughs. "Some people might see 'No Gods' as an attack on religion, but it really isn't. We're not trying to run anything down. If we have a key message, it's about self-belief and self-determination - you don't need a god to tell you which way to go. What we're saying is that you should find your own meaning. This is only ours.
"So might this be the start of something/each to an empire we can call our own?"
Having taken advantage of some great opportunities in the States, Sharks are now ready to build upon their hard work on both sides of the Atlantic. "'No Gods' has been a long time coming, and we honestly couldn't be happier with it," comments James. "2012 is going to be a big year for us, but we're ready to give it everything. This has always been all or nothing for us, and that's just the way it should be." He smiles. "When I think about the route I've taken, I had no regrets. I couldn't have done anything else, and I wouldn't want to, because it wouldn't have made me happy. We all have each other's backs in this band, and we know the drill. We'd rather get our feet in the door and give it everything we've got, and fail, than never try at all."
Amen to that.
'No Gods' is out March 19 on Rise. Sharks hit the road this month and support Hot Water Music at the exclusive Rock Sound show in May; see gig guide for dates.