Shame: “It won’t be embarrassing… just don’t be too much of a perfectionist”

Bassist Josh Finerty on getting the post punks back on track for their third album and the changes that come with experience

“Everything you see is free within this room,” sings Shame’s Charlie Steen on their frenzied funk thrasher ‘Six-Pack.’ It’s a line that seems to sum-up the potential and possibilities open to the South London band after the release of Drunk Tank Pink, their second Top 10 album, released back in 2021.

But it was ultimately this open-endedness that drove Shame into a period of frustrated stasis. Stifled by lockdowns and the creative and commercial success of their first two records, the band found themselves creatively blocked. That was, until their manager booked them a couple of shows under the moniker Almost Seamus, giving them just a few weeks to come up with a whole new setlist. This kick was just what they needed, galvanising Charlie, Josh, Sean and Eddie into writing Food For Worms.

Ahead of its release on Friday (24 February) and their biggest tour to date, we sat down with bassist Josh, who talked us through this process, their connections to South London’s post-punk scene, plus how they’re taking their famously raucous live show to a new level.

shame - Six-Pack (Official Video)

In other interviews you’ve called Food for Worms your most “united” one. Perhaps we could start by expanding on that?

It’s funny because it kind of felt like we reunited for it, in a way, because we recorded our second album super separated. It was like we did it all in my attic, and some people were in sometimes and it was all quite disjointed. But we wrote all of this in a room together. I think it’s also just because COVID was quite a tough period for us and there was a lot of slogging with writing, and also not being able to test things on the road or whatever. I think it was just after that period of limbo, that’s when it finally felt like that when it actually came to us making progress on it.

I heard that, after the last album, there were a few things that helped push you in the right directions, like the Almost Seamus gigs? How did that help break the writer’s block?

I think a lot of people work like this, I think it’s mostly pressure. As I said, 2021 was the whole year of just being in limbo, like not having any pressure at all. We were writing a lot of stuff, but we weren’t finishing anything. You just get to this point where you have this whole bulk of ideas, but we didn’t have a gig to play them, or whatever. So it was like the possibilities were endless. We couldn’t write the perfect ending to the song. And I think it was when we decided to do the Almost Seamus show where it was, I think we had a month, or it was maybe two or three weeks actually, where we were like, we’re gonna do a completely new set of songs, we’re not going to use any ideas we already had, just completely new songs. I think that was just kind of scary in a way so then we were less precious about it. Let’s just whack this verse and chorus together and just f*cking finish the song, or get it in a state where it won’t be embarrassing to play it to people. It won’t be embarrassing, you just have to not be too much of a perfectionist.

The title itself kind of suggests something quite bleak and morbid, but you also talk about it as very much a positive experience…

You know, COVID was kind of a dark time I guess. Especially as it went on and there was a lot happening. I think that there are elements of that for sure. And I think part of that is what we’re writing about, but at the same time trying to look at it from a positive angle.

Your live shows were always raucous from the off. Have you noticed your approach to your live performances changing at all, now three albums in?

Yeah, I think there’s more of an element of professionalism. Almost just to keep it interesting. The ethos is very different to when we first came about. We were still in school, and it was very exciting in that sort of way. It was like something we’d never really experienced. We didn’t even really go to gigs. So it was like, all of a sudden, doing four gigs a week. And it was all very DIY, we would just rock up with a bag of pedals. There was something that felt very fresh and exciting about it.

We’ve been going for eight years at this point, so I think there is always going to be an element of it all getting less exciting in a way. You’ve got to think of ways to step it up for yourself and for the audience as well. We’re trying to perform the new songs and take new spins on the old songs as much as possible, like bringing in piano and acoustic guitar and you know, just stepping up in places we haven’t before to make it a different show and maintaining that energy.

We talked about pressure before; what what did working with producer Flood add to the process? He’s quite a character, right?

It definitely brought an element of chaos. The chaos of recording it really matched the chaos of writing it. He’s just someone who likes to go down any and every avenue, in a way. He won’t shoot down any ideas, like, “Yeah, brilliant. Let’s tie a mic to the ceiling and have somebody hitting it.” So it was going in circles while recording that. It was very different to the second album where the producer James [Ford] was very cutthroat. I kind of liked that because he’d be like, “No, that doesn’t work”. But they were just both fun experiences in very different ways, I think. Maybe chaos isn’t the right word, but intense, or rather, he brought in a needed sense of chaos.

shame - Fingers of Steel (Official Video)

The video for ‘Fingers Of Steel’ is great, which obviously pokes fun at the pressure for social media upkeep and staying on trend. Have you felt these pressures over the years?

A bit. I mean, there’s an element of it being fun. And it’s also funny, because it was mostly meant to be just like a YouTube clip farm, I guess, but it kind of expanded. I think we’ve all felt that pressure, but you know, it’s kind of a necessary evil.

In terms of the buzz, it feels like when you first came about, you were leading a wave of bands. I’m sure you don’t always want to be tied down to this South London post-punk scene that you helped usher in. Is it ever frustrating being linked or tied to it?

Well, I think it’s fair because that is how we started. There wasn’t really much of a scene when we started, I guess there were the Fat Whites [Fat White Family] and that crew. But I think especially for people our age – we were 16 or 17 when when we started – there wasn’t really much of a… like, I don’t know… guitar scene, possibly? It was just it was it was fun for us, because we basically found other people our age who were playing music, and it wasn’t necessarily like post-punk. I guess there were elements of it. I guess Goat Girl had that sort of sleazy Country Teasers vibe, but we found HTMLTD were doing a similar thing in terms of just having a raucous live show. And Sorry were also just our age and looking to play. We basically found who we could that were all our age. I guess, as time went on, other bands like IDLES really emerged, which is kind of one of the biggest comparisons we get, but I think that’s fair. We were both doing a similar thing. I feel like we were both kind of working away on our first albums without being aware of each other, being in different cities or whatever. And then we played a gig with them in 2017 and were like, these guys are f*cking great! I think the feeling was mutual and then we kept bumping into them. It was kind of just luck that we both came around at the same time.

You play a lot internationally these days, so do you actually feel much of a connection to places such as The Windmill and the places you started out?

Yes, definitely. But also in around 2018, maybe even 2017, there was a point where us and those other bands I mentioned all just started touring. Which kind of meant that particular group of artists stopped playing those gigs in London and we didn’t see each other. We were busy doing our own thing. But what was nice was that it didn’t stop, instead it was like 10 times the amount of bands suddenly appeared out of nowhere. I think that’s naturally how it works. A new young batch of people will come through, but a new batch of bands just started and it seems to be kind of growing at an alarming rate. I’m always like, who is this? Who are these people? And you go to The Windmill and I’m suddenly the oldest person there!

Shame tour the UK from 3 March to 28 April – buy tickets here