Shame Evolve With ‘Food for Worms’

Shame interview with Northern Transmissions by Robert Duguay. The UK band's new album Food For Worms is now available via Dead Oceans
Shame Photo by Pooneh Ghana

Usually when a band completes the making of and releases their third album, a sort of creative apex has been reached. The energy & emphasis of their debut is fine tuned with the progression of their sophomore record, resulting in a cohesiveness that fires on all cylinders. A chapter is closed while opening a door where infinite possibilities within reason exist for future installments. South London post-punks Shame have done exactly this with their latest release Food for Worms that came out via Dead Oceans on February 24. It’s already got people saying it’s their best album yet and the band members are sharing a similar sentiment.

I recently had a chat with drummer Charlie Forbes about the making of the album, working with a famous producer, who made the cover art and what he hopes people take from Food for Worms after giving it a listen.

Northern Transmissions: When it comes to the songwriting & vision for Food for Worms, what in your opinion makes it stand out or different from Shame's previous albums Drunk Tank Pink and Songs of Praise?

Charlie Forbes: I think it’s especially different from the last record, which was quite claustrophobic, full on and prettier. It was sonically dense, there was a lot of layering and overdubs that we did in the studio which we felt we went a bit too far with. With this record, we were more conscious of trying to have some more space, a more comfortable space where there aren't 18 different musical things happening at once. There’s more harmony, you can hear our voices with a lot of group vocals and stuff like that. We went back to having all of us in the chorus from time to time, which is something we got a bit allergic to during our second album.
I also think it just sounds better. It’s our best one yet, really.

NT: I’d have to agree. The production quality is pretty impressive from listening to it and that was because you guys worked with Flood. He's produced some pretty incredible albums during his career including Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine, the Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and The Killers' Sam's Town.

CF: He’s worked on f***in’ everything, man.

NT: Yeah, he’s also been involved in the making of a few U2 and Depeche Mode albums. What was the experience like working with him in the studio?

CF: It was a bit apprehensive at first because when you’re meeting someone of that caliber and that stature, you kind of don’t really know what to expect. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of big hitters who are probably massive c***s, but he’s so sound. We felt like he was our age, it didn’t feel like he was 40 years our senior or whatever. He gelled in with the dynamic of the band so well, he’s worked with all sorts of acts and some of them have members that aren’t friends so h got on board with our camaraderie and our vibe. He’s got a very hands-on approach and he likes to try every option.

We have a lot of individual squabbles about tiny little minute details that I’m sure listeners won’t even pick up on but his method of dealing it was just trying out every single option and what sounds best sounds best. You can’t really argue with that so it took up a lot of time, but I guess everyone got their point across and their voices were heard. We tried everything, any dynamic structure and anything else he was down to try any which way. It was our first record where we were all playing together so it was f***ing exhausting, there was a lot of running the same track over and over and over 30 to 40 times in a day trying to get the right take.

Then it would be the end of the day and we would be like “We don’t have it”. When you finish a day like that you’ve haven’t really achieved anything so it was an arduous process but he just knows what he’s talking about. Half the time he’d be saying stuff to me and I would have no idea what he just said but I completely trusted his judgment.

NT: It’s cool that you got to work with a guy like that. It also sounds like he was very open-minded to ideas, which is refreshing to hear about someone of that stature. Who drew up the album cover with the synchronized swimmers wearing blue bodysuits with yellow polkadots and the crescent moon in the background? It kind of reminds me of Vincent van Gogh's famous painting "The Starry Night", so is it inspired by that or is it inspired by something else?

CF: It’s from a pre-existing piece by an artist named Marcel Dzama who’s f***ing amazing and we’re very lucky that he basically allowed us to use it. All the artwork of the singles are from him as well, we picked them out while deciding on what worked best with the tracks. We’re just incredibly privileged that he allowed us into his world because he’s crazy good. It was during the first time that we did an album campaign and everything linked up artwork wise with all the singles and everything, which hasn’t been our strongest suit on past albums. There’s some sort of representation of the band in the artwork and we were very conscious of that.

Both covers of the first two albums were photographs so we really wanted some original artwork and our manager somehow had a link to Marcel so he reached out to him for us. It kind of reminds me of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins, it has that kind of vibe.

NT: I can definitely see why you’d say that. If you have to pick a track on the album that you like playing drums on the most, which one would it be?

CF: Probably “Different Person” because that’s the one where I get to go the most crazy. It’s fill city, it’s jazzy and there’s the big stylistic switches within the song. There’s a lot to it and there’s a lot of fun to be had on the drums. “Orchid” is also nice because this is the first album that we’ve played properly gently on, really soft and stuff. When I first heard that we were going to use an acoustic guitar for the song I was disgusted, but it actually became one of my favorites and it’s got a lot of dynamics as well. It’s very soft to very hard, so that’s a fun one on drums as well.

NT: What do you hope people take from Food for Worms when they give it a listen?

CF: Apart from lining our pockets with millions and millions of dollars (laughs), I’d say that it’s an album about friendship. It’s a platonic rock album as we’re calling it, so I guess give it a listen, give your mate a call and check in to see if they’re ok.

Order Food For Worms by Shame HERE


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