In December of last year, music website Noisey stated that UK post-punk band Shame "have been stupidly lucky, but deserve it all." Other outlets have shared similar perspectives, citing free practice space and helpful advice from musicians along the way or, in the case of The Guardian, dubbing them "Britain's most exciting band."
How, after all, would a five-piece band without a single member over the age of 21 have achieved such notoriety with a mere two albums under their belt (their newest, Songs of Praise, only released in January)? How would such a new act find its way onto a label like Dead Oceans alongside Japanese Breakfast and Califone? How would they tour the world?
Easy: They're just that good.
Granted, Shame's rise has been somewhat meteoric but, as is always the case, luck was only a small part of the equation. "It's a bit of a weird headline, but we have been lucky in the past," guitarist Eddie Green says. "We've had people who bought us equipment or let us use their equipment for free, but I think what that headline kind of ignores is that for every bit of fortune we've had, there's been misfortune."
Shame follows in the footsteps of the punk and post-punk old guard, having cited the recently deceased Mark E Smith of The Fall as an influence, and crafting a sound that's someplace between Echo and the Bunnymen and Sex Pistols—only without the over-the-top nonsense. Shame has a throwback sound, sure, but they're taking rock to original places as well. Take the single "Concrete," a bass-heavy head-bobber with angry, spoken lyrics layered over airy guitars that lead into rage shouts of "No more questions!" and catchy backup vocals. It's all at once familiar but new again, like a revitalization of '70s and '80s British punk and rock invasion.
And punk they are—just check the video for "Visa Vulture," a sly takedown of Britain's Prime Minister Teresa May, wherein singer Steen asks, "Teresa May, won't you let me stay?" Punk rock has always called out the politicians, just never so pleasantly before. And therein lies much of Shame's brilliance—a variety of sounds with a subtle punk foundation. "Punk scenes kind of stopped existing—well, they do still exist, but they're not quite as tribal as back in the day," Green tells SFR. "Very few kids these days identify with one particular scene, and that's kind of what we grew up around; it wasn't a defined genre scene when we were growing up."
Green does say the band, the sound, the success, is kismet—a combination of growing up in London together and an organic direction that comes from just being them. "[The sound] was definitely just a coming-of-age for all of us," he explains. "We sort of developed in our own ways, and I think this record is like a display of the past three years learning how to become musicians." This means showcasing guitars at a time when DJs and knob-twisters roam the earth; a time when it's been said guitars are on the way out. Green doesn't see it as a problem, though, saying there are "people like that in the world who're just going to be contrarian."
Either way, Shame might just be one of the most important bands to watch today if we're ever going to have and embrace a true rock renaissance (thanks for nothing, nü metal). They seem poised to be able to do whatever the hell they want which, according to Green, would be quite liberating. "As a writer, to have the ability to go in several different directions at once … that's what everyone is driving for—creative freedom," he says. "I don't know if it's been lucky or if we've just never pinned ourselves to a specific sound or, like, a really standard-issue post-punk record—but if your output is eclectic from the start…"
They'll be on the road for the next little while, but Green says they're already working on new material while touring. "If you don't write when you're on the road … the label will come knocking looking for new demos."
Next stop? Santa Fe for a Monday performance at Meow Wolf alongside Michigan rock act Protomartyr and hometown garage punk heroes Sex Headaches. Hey, older punk weirdos and kids who've given up on guitars—be there.
Shame with Protomartyr and Sex Headaches
7 pm Monday March 5 $15-$18.
1352 Rufina Circle,