text by Junnosuke Amai

「ずっとツーアをしてきたから一箇所にとどまっているのはとても奇妙に思える。だけど自分の後悔や夢、願望のようなものを考える、すごく誠実で内省的な時間だった」Interview with Shame about “Drunk Tank Pink”

– I’m happy to hear you managed to finish the new album and to deliver the album to the world in this difficult situation. I bet the process wasn’t so easy but ho do you feel now?

Charlie : Thank you very much. I think this time the bit becomes difficult is the reaction you get from there. I think it’s quite difficult because you’ve got more attention, and you have your eyes on you. I think that makes this time a bit more difficult.

– More pressure this time than when you were making the first record?

Charlie : There was that period when we were writing. I was thinking about that when we got into writing the record. But when we came to record the songs, it might sound cheesy but that was the moment the moment you have or feel pride, or are proud of your songs, any kind of criticisms you might worry about kinda just float away. I’m more nervous now as we run up to releasing it. I think it’s quite normal. And also sort of combine with the frustration of not being able to play any shows. But I’m really excited as well. We’re all proud of the album. Just feels like it’s about time and I’m just happy to get that out to move forward.

– Did covid affect on the album making in any way?

Charlie : We actually recorded the album in January 2020, and we finished in February. And we decided to delay the record when covid happened. Because we didn’t have the album artwork or music videos. We put a lot of effort and energy onto this album, so we didn’t want to rush the release. We also wanted to do it, which hasn’t happened unfortunately, but we thought there was the possibility of live shows whether or not that’s socially distanced. So when we were writing record, covid was in China, and we just kinda thought it wasn’t gonna come over. But.. Everyone knows the rest of the story (laughs).

– So the Covid-19 had nothing to do with the album?

Charlie : Well, it’s weird because a lot of the themes of the record are about isolation and internal. But it’s by accident. So I think it quite a lot relates to experiences people might have this period of time.

– Ok, then can I ask you what the process was like?

Charlie : Initially it was quite hard to write together because we hadn’t written in so long. And also, when we came back to London, we’d lost our practice spaces. Those places were gone. It took us a while to find somewhere to write. So we decided to use Josh’s bed room, and we started doing some demos in his bed room. Lots of songs came from Josh’s bed room. But the main moment it sort of happened was when we went up to Scotland, this area which was in the middle of nowhere and in these mountains and highland. That was April 2019. That was where songs like ‘Snow Day’, ‘Alphabet’ and ‘Great Dog’ came from. That was sort of like catalyst for writing.

– Can you share some interesting episodes from the making of the album with us if you have any?

Charlie : Hahaha. I’ll tell one. When we were in Scotland writing, we all decided to take some acid one day. Where the studio was half way of the mountain, and we all took this acid, we were like, ok we should go on a walk. Then we started walking up this mountain. As we were walking up, it was getting hotter and hotter. So we were like taking of our clothes and peeling off out T-shirts, and we all were like topless. And I had this stick. It was sort of like the expansion of my arm, and I was leading everyone. We walked up this mountain, we got tot he top, and we found this place to sit down. And then we sat down, there was the beautiful sunshine, we were on acid, and we were looking out over Scotland and mountains. And then the snow flake landed on my hand. And I was like, wow, wow. Then I looked up, and I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of me. We were caught in a snow storm on acid, at the top of this mountain (laughs). So then we had to make it back in the mountain to the studio, and I thought it was kind of like The Lord of the Rings one two and three all together. You know, like going up the mountain then coming back down. We came back down, and we thought we were gone for hours but it was actually only 25 minutes, haha. ‘Snow Day’ kinda came from that day.

– Now let me ask you about the sound of the album. Compared to the first album “Sounds Of Praise”, this new album is more diverse, and we can enjoy a lot more musical styles and arrangements. I had the impression that you guys expanded on the ideas of beat, rhythm, and groove especially.What was the actual concept or idea of the sound of the record you had in your mind?

Charlie : I had some concept and ideas but lyrically. The blue print came from our song ‘Human, For a Minute’. It begins the B-side of the vinyl. It was the first song we wrote after “Songs of Praise”. And the lyrics kinda talk about identity, heartbreak and sort of self-consciousness as well. And that became the blueprint lyrically for the songs on the album. Lyrically, I think to summarizes the record is just about learning to enjoy your own company. You know, I wrote it we’ve been after we came back from touring for a few years. Suddenly I gone from being surrounded by noise and people and became on my own. There was a lot of silence. So it’s a lot of that.

– How do you think this transition happen? Did you consciously want to change it this way or it happened naturally?

Charlie : To be honest with you, so the first record, songs are very external and talking about characters. But lyrically this one is different from the first record. It’s very internal. That just came from the decision I couldn’t think of anything else to write about. It was quite therapeutic for me and it is true to myself, true to what I was thinking. So I thought it was necessary to write. And in terms of the band, you now the diverse writing, I think we all got a lot better at their instruments, so there was a lot more confident. And also, from recording at Josh’s bed room we were able to add stuff like percussion and synth, and play around some dance music.

– I’d like to know more what the environment was like when you guys were working on the album. What did you guys have in your mind? Or what was he topic you guys were mainly walking about at that time? Whether it’s reflected on the record or not, I’m curious what was behind when you guys were making the album.

Charlie : Topic at that time… I don’t know. May be just like the needs of write another album (laughs). Hmm. It’s weird because, you know, we were gone from thought of spending all time like touring and being in a band together, and now we’re writing this record. We still did like 70 or 80 shows in 2019, including Fuji Rock and stuff like that. But we were sort of living separately. So we were sort of like listening to different music. I guess we’ve been away from our friends for a long time like 2 years so everyone was kinda connecting their own friends. Unfortunately a lot of us are friends with the same people, so we still bumped into each other when we were out awkwardly acknowledged each other (laughs). I can talk only from my experience but I guess we were all learning to separate and learning your own profession and identity a bit more. For so long we’ve been removed from everyone else, and now we’re sort of like back. It’s weird we hadn’t been talking. I think writing is what made us talk again. We were a lot more involved with what each other was doing. When we wrote our first record, we were just playing at pubs you could barely hear the other person. But this time we were aware of what each other was doing first time really. So I think what we were talking about when we were making the album this time was different from the last time.

– Other than that, what else was different or new this time do you think?

Charlie : Now it’s our job, that’s one of the difference I guess. We have a bit more experience and sort of knowledge. We recorded our first record and we toured after the first record, so we are aware of both sides of live and recording. Previously before we didn’t really know much about recording so we just had to grip on what we wanted to achieve when we went to the studio.

– Sound wise, what kind of sound was the goal to make? Did you have any ideas or images for it?

Charlie : As I said before, everyone was listening to a lot of different stuff. But I know Sean was heavily influenced by records like Talking Heads. And I really got into that. And he was interested in Brian Eno’s production on their records. You know, it was even stuff like, he loved Johnny Marr’s Nashville Tuning, which was ‘Human, For a Minute’ was written on. So Sean got really into seven different tunings in terms of Sean’s guitar. I know, it’s pain in the arse (laughs). Hahaha. But Sean got really into that. And various guitarists like Nick Drake. I think Sean really got stuff through that. And percussion side, it was the band like ESG, that sort of like baselines and percussion’s simplicity. Everyone was into different things.

– When you guys came to Japan three years ago, Sean was saying there would be he influence by Slint on the next album. Do you think that actually happened?

Charlie : I think on some parts, yeah. Charlie, Josh, and Sean like Slint. So.

– What about yourself? What kind of sound did you want to take in this time yourself?

Charlie : I just wanted it to sound good. Haha. I’m quite bad at listening to new music or new music to me. I know what I like. It was more of a challenge because the songs were written in the different time signatures this time and it was more complicated and I had to put the vocal over that. So it became a bit trickier. But you know, Sean and Josh were great, with sort of helping and like I said it was good everyone was involved. I like playing music, but I don’t really understand pedals and stuff. I just want to play the sound they worked on. Haha. I like performance more. But doing the vocals as well. We worked with James Ford and I got to be in this very large room. On the first record I recorded my vocals in my bedroom under my blanket. So it was quite nice to used the nice large chateau setting room. Haha.

– So why did you guys want to work with the producer, James Ford this time? Did he make you guys try some new approach?

Charlie : Everyone told me he was really really good. Hahaha. And all the label and management were so excited. He’ve been down to our show in London, at Kentish Town Forum, and our management met him there. Then we met him in summer and did the demo of ‘Water in the Well’. Then we went to the Konk studio in north London which is owned by the Kinks. We recorded demo there and we really got on with him and he had the connection to that studio. Them it all came together naturally. It was amazing. He did a lot of the percussion of the record, he knew a lot about synth, and he’s a really talented person both as a producer and a multi instrumentalist. It was really great to work with him. He was a really easy company. Both time we done the albums, we had a group of songs. They sound quite eclectic. They don’t necessarily sound like an album. But last record as well, we were lucky to have those producers who brought their own cloak, the continuity to it. They made the record make sense sound wise. James is a trier. When we were arguing about if we should do something or not like 15 minutes, he was like ‘just do it’. That saved time.

– Which song on the album do you think you achieved what you wanted to do the most? Or which song on the album do you are you proud of the most?

Charlie : There are a few songs. Songs like ‘Station Wagon’, and I really like ‘6/1’, I like ’Snow Day’, ‘Water in the Well’, and I like ‘Humans, For a Minute’. Those songs sound like a progression. Simple is that. I just think those songs sound more confident, and I like those songs lyrically as well. I think it’s very honest.

– I heard you wrote the lyrics in a room painted in pink called ‘the womb’. Can you tell us more about the room? What kind of experience was it to you?

Charlie : So I wrote large majority of lyrics in there. When we came back from touring, I moved in with Sean’s cousin who I’ve known since I was 8, into an old nursing home in Peckham. There weren’t any people anymore. And there was a washing machine room, and when I moved in there was a deal if I can make it a bed room I can live there cheap. So with the help of Charlie’s dad, who’s on the cover of “Drunk Tank Pink” and also named the band, we took out the washing machine, sanded the walls, and the final thing I did was painting the entire room pink. And I had pink carpet, pink lampshade, and pink walls and pink ceiling. It was awesome. I found out a lot of people thought it was uncomfortable, but that was my favorite space. I want my second bedroom to be gold. It was just interesting. And it was good to have my own space. When we were touring, you wake up in a hotel and you don’t have to make your bed even. You just leave. You always leave and never come back. So just remaining in one place was incredibly strange. It was sort of a very honest period, you know. It was self-reflective like to you think about your regret and your dream and your aspirations. I think a lot of the record came from that period. I saw really bad trouble sleeping. For a lot of writing the record I was having like fever dreams for a long period, like about two months. So a lot of songs sort of like were inspired by that. I had been allowed to delay reality because of touring. A lot of things happen in your personal life from age of like 19 to 21. Identity and stuff like that. But when you’re touring, there are so many distraction and can avoid that. Now I was back in my bed room. I had to face it. And then the name of the record, I found that out after we recorded the album. Pink rooms like my bed room were used in the 60’s and the 70’s in America to repress anger and violence. They put those room in prisons and schools, and then in the middle west they put them into drunk tank. That’s why I named the album “Drunk Tank Pink”.

– When you look back the debut album “Songs Of Praise”, what kind of feeling does that evoke?

Charlie : The first record is really special because those songs are the songs we’ve written for the first time ever.

– Which song do you think is reflecting yourselves the most after “Songs Of Praise” other than ‘Alphabet’?

Charlie : I think it’s ‘6/1’ maybe. It would be sort of reflecting me because I wrote the lyrics and the band wrote the music. But maybe that track. We were more confident and more experienced. We also were more ambitious this time. We are still young but we were even younger when we made the first record and we learned a lot after that.

– Was there anything you wanted to get through making this album or releasing this album? And how do you want the listeners to enjoy the record?

Charlie : Our main dream is to play at Brixton Academy and sell it out. But the other main goal is just to be proud of it. And hopefully we’ll be back on the road soon and go to the places like Japan. It would be so rewarding. I want listeners to have their own interpretations of it. And I hope you can find something you can relate to in it.

– Could you tell us what the best album, best track, or best novels or film of 2020 was for you? Something attracted your interest the most.

Charlie : There is a book series by Hilary Mantel. The first one is called “Wolf Hall”, and the second one is called “Bring Up The Bodies”. And the third one is called ”The Mirror and the Light”, and came out last year. It’s an amazing book. It’s about Thomas Cromwell.

– Thank you so much for your time today!

Charlie : Thank you! I hope we can come to Japan soon!

text Junnosuke Amai( T )
edit Ryoko Kuwahara((IG / T)

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