INTERVIEW: Shields | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Images by Idene Roozbayani

After taking a year’s hiatus, Shields burst back into the public consciousness in 2015 with an astonishing gig run which included support slots with Placebo and Everything Everything, festival appearances at Evolution Emerging, BBC6 Music Festival, NARC. Fest and some little event called Glastonbury. The evidence of their time away finally gets unleashed this month, as their debut album How Can We Fix This? sees the light of day.

We got together in the cosy whisky lounge of Gateshead’s Central Bar to talk about the processes involved in creating the album, beginning with the runaway guitars of opener Technicolor. “It was originally called ‘badam’. Our last management told us it was too guitary, so we ditched the management.” Says frontman Luke. “It’s class to open a live set on because you loosen right up with loads of noise blaring one note out.” Guitarist Dave adds.

Considering the band’s disparate influences, they admit that some of their material has taken its time in being fully realised, as vocalist and guitarist Rich explains.

“We all take in a lot of influences and inspiration on our own, so when you times that by five, that can be a ton of inspiration to boil down into our own material. We’ve been sitting on some of this stuff for nearly a year and a half now.”

Collectively and individually, Shields have always been very much a DIY band, taking their time to craft their music in their own studio space. Finding themselves too close to the huge range of tracks they had amassed, double Grammy-award winning producer Adrian Bushby – who has previously worked with Muse and Foo Fighters – helped them to shape the record. “We had a lot of material to cut,” drummer Tom says, “not that they were bad tracks, but it was a real struggle to do and it was with Adrian Bushby’s help that we managed to do it. Each single we are going to be releasing and its B-sides are all strong stuff, and we even have material that we’re going to carry through to our next recordings.”

These challenges have led to How Can We Fix This? becoming a collection of tightly controlled and effervescent tracks. You know what you’re getting from the opening blast of Technicolor; it’s a record which positively hums with glittering synth lines and inventive rhythms, underpinned by the odd dirty guitar riff. Highlights include the high energy sing-along of Mezzanine, funk-tastic rhythms of Face To Face, the retro-tinged title track and evocative harmonies of Again And Again, while the agitated robotic shout-along of Drones and the joyful chorus of Alive stand out as guaranteed floor-fillers.

As far as influences go, football’s a rare one for a band who produce such slick alt. pop, but Rich admits to a weakness: “I played a lot of FIFA at the time of us writing this album. That’s probably why there’s so many commentator references in our songs.”

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“There are definitely three quotes from FIFA.” Dave added. “We used to play guitar for about twenty minutes then play FIFA for about two hours and then the commentators used to seep into our brains and the lyrics would come out the next morning.”

In a year of extreme highs gig-wise, Shields rather charitably cite NARC. Fest as one of their favourites: “For me, it was one of the best gigs of the year and definitely the best one in the region,” says John, “it was absolutely rammed, shoulder to shoulder in The Cluny.” Although, rather predictably, their three shows at Glastonbury pip our little shindig to the post. “Glastonbury was just surreal, it was definitely one of, if not the, best experience of my life.” Tom comments. “Even if some of the people didn’t know who we were, by the end of the set we had completely won over the room and the atmosphere was electric. You can’t match that, especially when three shows in at Glastonbury you’re still getting those types of vibes off the audience, it was incredible.”

Add to this mix a surreal sounding appearance in Stamford Bridge (“Chelsea FC owner, Roman Abramovich, wanted a music venue so he built one under the grounds, the lighting rig and the sound rig were an absolute fortune and it was so crazy because it was so small.”) and a pneumonia-riddled Evolution Emerging, and it’s clear that 2016 has a lot to live up to.

Given their collective heritage in the region’s music scene, it’s telling that the group continue to support local promoters and venues. They may be playing the pre-requisite mega-gig to launch their album (they’ll play Sage Gateshead’s Stage 2 on Friday 26th February) but they’ll also grace the quirky surrounds of Durham’s Empty Shop on Friday 25th March. It’s this refreshingly humble attitude to music making, matched with their vibrant sound and levelheaded approach, that we’re certain will ensure this year more than matches up.

Shields launch How Can We Fix This?, released via Kaleidoscope Records, at Sage Gateshead on Friday 26th February.

Watch Ryan’s interview with Shields here:

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