Interview Shrag: No Longer A-Sides And B-Sides

We chat to Steph, Bob and Andy about the creation of their new album.

To celebrate the recent release of Shrag’s new album ‘Life! Death! Prizes!’, we caught up with Steph (keys & vox), Bob (guitar & vox) and, for the very last question, Andy (drums) to discuss its creation.

Hello Shrag, how are you today?
Steph: Hello DIY. The band’s good thanks, we’ve just finished a short UK tour and we’re looking forward to playing some gigs in New York soon.
Bob: Looking forward to New York. It’s gonna be amazing, but right now I’m packing to move house tomorrow. So I’m currently knee deep in boxes of crap that I wished I’d thrown out years ago.

Your debut album was only released last year and you’re already on your second - were you working on the two records at the same time, or are you just super-fast?
Bob: Haha. Thanks but it didn’t feel super-fast! It seemed to take forever. I guess, because of financial constraints, we don’t spend huge amounts of time in the studio so it has to be pretty well rehearsed before we enter a recording environment. But on top of that there’s mixing, mastering, artwork. Plus it took us three weeks to agree on the track order!
Steph: The first one took about five years to do and was mainly a collection of five singles. Some of the songs off ‘Life! Death! Prizes!’ were probably kicking around before the first record came out but generally, we get more excited by our newer stuff which meant some older things didn’t make the cut. So, we were really slow then super-fast, let’s see how long it takes for the next one.

What benefits has recording this new album as an album, rather than a collection of singles, had? Do you think it’s more cohesive as an overall work?
Bob: I think it’s inevitably more cohesive. Musically you can shift the tone a lot more over the course of twelve tracks. It’s no longer a-sides and b-sides. You’ve still got to write a good tune though. I know Helen didn’t feel that every song had to be self-contained lyrically, like ‘here’s a song about shoplifting’ and allowed for a certain amount of dialogue between songs.

Once you’ve finished a record, do you ever put it on and listen to it yourself? Just for fun, like?
Steph: When we’ve finished a days recording we all go back to one of our houses, get drunk and listen to the days efforts. That’s when it’s fun, because it’s new and didn’t exist hours before. After that there is the mixing process which while being educational, is definitely less fun. By the time I get the finished article, I like to look at it but I find listening to it a bit difficult, like getting caught doing something you shouldn’t. A song here and there just to remember is acceptable I think.
Bob: Like Steph I found the mixing process quite tiring. Because it was done remotely we would be sent mixes via email and listen to them over and over again. Then we’d send back our thoughts and repeat the process. So for a while I found it difficult to listen to. But unlike Steph I now listen to it lots and love it and I don’t care who catches me doing it.

What do you think the ideal listening situation is for this new one? Is it an in-the-car-on-the-way-to-work album? A just-before-you-go-out album…?
Steph: Hmm I would hope it would be an ‘in the car / train / bus before you go out’ album.
Bob: I reckon it should be listened to on back of a bus through tinny phone speakers. That, or in a flotation tank. Anywhere in-between is good too.

We read in another interview that ‘Life! Death! Prizes!’ was originally planned to come out four or five months ago - what was the hold up?
Steph: I don’t know, some things just take time I guess.
Bob: The release date kept getting pushed back for reasons not entirely clear. We hadn’t even finished recording when the initial date was mentioned (I think late last year). It’s good to be given a deadline but not worth rushing out something as precious as an album when it’s not ready!

According to Amazon’s ‘People Who Bought This Also Bought…’ section, you share some fans with And What Will Be Left Of Them? Are you similar bands, do you think?
Steph: Probably.
Bob: I’m always confused by this. I think we’re one thing, yet get compared to another. Especially when Britpop bands are mentioned! And What Will Be Left Of Them? sound really good. No idea if we come from the same place musically. I always think we sound the way we do by accident. We are five very different people who all like different things.

And finally: what other Brighton-based bands should we check out?
Steph: I think they’re 50% London now but Peepholes without a doubt.
Bob: We were meant to be playing with La Momo last week in Brighton but the gig was cancelled. They’ve always been a long term fave Brighton band of mine. And Fujiya & Miyagi.
Andy: Hind Ear. They do ecstatic psyche in Gang Gang Dance / Animal Collective vein.

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