Interview Sharks: ‘It Was What I Had Always Dreamed Of Doing’

DIY joins James Mattock to get to grips with facing ‘No Gods’.

For one reason or another, British rock outfit Sharks have always seemed that little bit aloof. Whether it was thanks to their back catalogue consisting of merely self-recorded EPs, or their UK live appearances seeming few and far between, we’re not entirely sure, but it always felt a little more than difficult to pin them down.

Having spent the majority of their last year overseas, the four-piece took a different approach to the nurturing of their band that saw them leave their home of Leamington Spa, straying from the buzz surrounding their early material, in favour of the harsher touring environments of America. And thus, their skin toughened and they found themselves forced to grow into the band we see today. So, on the cusp of finally - if we do say so ourselves - releasing their debut album, DIY got to speak to front man James Mattock to find out exactly what went into creating ‘No Gods’.

You’re about to release ‘No Gods’, which was recorded with Brian McTernan. How did working with him come to be?
Well, we weren’t really looking at what people had done in their repertoire. So, when I saw his back catalogue, I couldn’t really tell why he would want to do it. I mean, I’m a huge Hot Water Music fan and that was the thing that got me interested, but it wasn’t until he called me up this one time and we chatted for a good hour about it… When I say chatted, I mean he talked my ear off! But it was like, I put the phone down and that was it. I had made the decision and thought, ‘This is obviously the guy that we’ve got to go with.’ He just sounded so passionate. He was so nervous and he couldn’t get enough words out; he just sounded like he really meant it. He just really, really wanted to do it, and he’d also been following us from our first ever EP, which was really early on. He had a really thorough understanding of the progression we had had up until then.

You obviously also went over to record at his Salad Days studio in Baltimore. Was that at all unusual, since you’re usually seen as a quintessentially British band?
We’re not really hellbent on letting people know where we’re from. I don’t think it really matters. Obviously, it comes across in the music, but that’s purely because this is my accent, and the music - there’s different kind of scenes - and we totally embraced the huge English guitar bands, so there’s that influence. But, I love loads of American music too! I mean, for us, it was exciting to be able to go to America to live, so we just took it as that. We didn’t really consider it to be a thing where it would sound any different. Brian was very much with the fact that it was going to be a British sounding record and I don’t think there’d be any way he could make us not sound British. We were on the same page for what we wanted to go for.

When exactly did you record the album?
We recorded in September last year. We toured in April with Social Distortion, in June we did Canada, then we did Warped tour. All through to the end, we went to Japan from Warped tour, came home for Reading Festival and then went back after two weeks. So, we had a few days to mentally prepare for what was to come.

How did you manage to mentally prepare in such a short space of time?
I just tried to keep myself in the same tour headspace. I didn’t want to break that, so we got home and just practiced every day. Then, I used those final days to revise the lyrics and make sure everything was still there. It was weird. But, we also had a week of pre-production!

Which is a luxury!
Which is a complete luxury, yeah. Brian was amazing when it came to that. He just had a really good ear and we respected his tastes, so it was easy.

When it came to the actual recording process, how was it? Was there anything you struggled with?
The first couple of days were kind of stressful because we had never had anyone outside of the four of us ever suggest anything in the musical way we should be going. I mean, it was only down to structural changes within the songs: we had everything down. When it came to suggesting we take this part out, we were really adamant at first, kind of stubborn and shitty. I can admit that. It was tough, but we soon learned to let go and trust him. As soon as we realised that that was the way to go, it was plain sailing.

And how has this process differed to your previous recording experiences?
This time, because of the opportunity we had, and the luxury of time… We’ve always wanted to make a record that was a proper studio record. Before, we’ve only had four or five days at a time to record four or five songs, so the only attitude you could go in with was to do it raw and how we played it live, because there’s no point in trying to make it sound produced. So, we just made full use of the facilities, really. He had loads of good gear, so we spent a good few days getting that perfect. That was just really fun.

Your last record ‘The Joys of Living 2008-2010’ was a compilation of your early EPs, making ‘No Gods’ your debut: does it feel at all strange to think that you’re only just getting ready to release your first album?
That’s just the way it’s gone for our band. I’d like for people to think that it’s the debut, but I’m also glad that our early stuff had the light it got given. At the time, I had no idea it would be as well received and as easily accepted, and you can still buy it online. When Rise [Records] came to us, it was an obvious decision to say yes to re-release the stuff we’d already recorded, and we got to go to the States and tour that then. It’s been a long time coming though, this record. Now it’s a clean slate and it feels really good.

How are you feeling about the album right now, as you get ready to release it?
I was obsessed with it for the first couple of weeks and I couldn’t believe that we had made a record like that. Just a proper record! It was what I had always dreamed of doing, so I harped at it for a bit. Then I left it and I haven’t really played it in ages: we’ve started playing it live, so I can never listen to it again [laughs]. But honestly, I don’t really see any reason in revelling in it anymore. Where our heads are at now is the next record and we’ve already started writing. We want to get our second album out quickly and we’d rather get ahead of ourselves. We’d rather be twenty songs in to the next one again.

Musically and lyrically, what did you want to explore on the album?
Musically, Andy [Bayliss] writes most of it, but he loves his guitar. I think we just sensed a lack of good British guitar music. When it came to guitar music, I liked it, but it didn’t move me. It was far too instant. It was great for the first week, but then I didn’t listen to it ever again. We just wanted to make a mature sounding record that you couldn’t really get bored of, and have as much to it as we could. We definitely wanted it to sound British and ballsy and big, taking cues from the first Oasis record and stuff, but still having our own twist on it, which was never really pre-planned, or too thought out. We wanted to maintain the same notion that we’ve always had of just doing it for fun. We just write whatever sounds good to us, and is to our taste and we like it.
Then, I applied that to the lyrical approach too. I get off on writing creatively and whoever gets it or interprets it, is how they should take it. There’s no direct message I’m trying to get people to understand. It’s more of a free for all.

Back in mid-2011, Cris O’Reilly left the band. What was it like to enter the studio without him, and with a new line-up?
It was much better. Bass is my first instrument so it was cool. We laid all the drums down, then I laid all the bass down and Andy went nuts on guitar for way too long! But, it was easy. The three of us are best friends, we fell in love with Brian and we lived in the studio upstairs, so we had twenty four hour access to recording. We jammed at midnight and came up with loads of ideas in those sorts of hours. It was just so free os distractions, which was great.

And as soon as the album’s out, you’re heading out on a pretty big UK tour…
This is the first headline tour we’ve ever done in the UK. Technically, the first headline tour we ever did was in Canada. Over the two weeks, I think about fifteen people collectively came. We’ve definitely played in front of no one once. We played in front of, literally, a man and his dog, I’m not kidding! I know that’s a figure of speech but I’m taking that to literal levels.

It feels as though you spent a lot of time touring over in North America.
We needed that. We had to go and riff it out. We started out really young, and we sucked live for ages, so it just helped us grow, and have our skin harden. Playing in front of no one sucks but you get used to it, and it’s good practice and you then know what to expect. The whole of Warped tour was the worst condition you could ever imagine playing a gig, so after doing that for two months, you can now pretty much take on anything. Playing to no one, we took it as practice. We knew the album was coming out and so I took it as vocal training. Stuff like that. It was good to get that shit out of the way, early on and now we’re a better live band. I don’t regret anything.

So, finally, how’re you feeling about your first ever headline tour in the UK?
It’s exciting! As you can imagine, we’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but I’m also glad that we waited. As any band in the UK knows, the UK market is hard and cold and tough. And yeah, we’ve never really had the chance to play for longer than twenty minutes before, so we’re looking forward to doing a full set. We’ve got two records to pick from now! We’re taking out this cool band called Crowns, and we’re just looking forward to not being on ten minutes after doors for once!

Sharks release ‘No Gods’ on the 19th March through Rise Records.

Tags: Sharks, Features

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