What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
I’m a very “oh I’ll give that a go” type of person, so if I like something or start discovering a new hobby, I’ll think “I bet I can do that”. Maybe that’s arrogance, maybe it’s misguided self-belief – and I have *certainly* been proven wrong several times over the years, but when it came to music, when I was properly getting into it, in my teens, I naturally thought “well sod it, I’ll get a guitar and I’ll write my own songs”. And it was ever thus. Whether I’m actually and good at it or not is matter of taste, but I think I’ve done alright.
In terms of The Shipbuilders, my last band fell apart in a very undramatic, mundane manner, but I still had all these songs left over. So after a period of licking my wounds and going back to basics, I eventually cobbled together a ramshackle outfit that over time evolved into the wonderful lads I have around me now. They all bring something slightly different to the sound of the band and I can’t imagine the songs sounding any other way now. You know how Michelangelo said of one of his statues he “saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free”? Well that’s what I feel it’s been like. I brought the lump of marble, and the lads chipped away until the songs revealed themselves.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
We’ve just released a single, ‘The Moon’. It’s a re-recording of a song that was initially tucked away on our debut EP, way back in 2016. It was a good recording, but over the years, the song – and band – has grown in stature and we felt it deserved another go. It’s going to be part of our debut album, ‘Spring Tide’, which will be out on May 6th.
It’s a song written from the point of view of a soldier in the Spanish Civil War, who sees death all around him and, stood beneath a haloed moon, ponders if this is his end too. So, a cheery one, but it’s a stormer and always, always goes down well live. Since we wrote it, we’ve never not played it at a gig.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
Musically, I’d say that of course our sound has a Mersey flavour – The La’s, The Coral, Shack and so on, but we don’t want to be pigeonholed by all of that. We draw in all sorts of other influences – Galaxie 500’s melancholic fuzz, Love/Arthur Lee’s melody and flair for the unexpected, Tom Waits’ weird and wonderful world, The Clash, The Cramps, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, you name it, it goes in!
Non-musically, I draw a lot of my lyrics from literature. There’s James Joyce, Garcia Lorca and Steinbeck references littered everywhere and I also draw upon the wonders of this world – and beyond – for inspiration. There’s a song on our album about landing spaceships on comets, another one about the Irish coast, another one about earthquakes… I wouldn’t really want to write straightforward songs as a standard; there’s more than enough of them to go round.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
That’s a good question. I think the breadth and depth of our influences make us unusual. One of the main themes of any reviews we’ve had, especially live ones, is that people find us hard to categorise – which is a nightmare when it comes to trying to get our songs on playlists, but in a weird way, I’m proud of that. Some people think we’re folk, others think we’re Spaghetti Western – we’ve even had someone throw in a few disco references there! But ultimately, even though we have a variety of sounds, I do think that there is a Shipbuilders ‘sound’ – which is largely due to the magnificent Danny Lee on guitar.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Phwoar! Well I can only speak for myself, but…
My three albums would be Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan, The Decline of British Sea Power and The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus. Three books would be Catch 22, The Grapes of Wrath and A Confederacy of Dunces… and when it comes to movies, I’m such a philistine! I’ve hardly seen any, and certainly hardly any of the classics… so maybe The French Connection and Godfather I & II, because they go on for ages, don’t they?
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
It’s a boring answer, but both. Sorry! Live is amazing, we’re a very energetic, chaotic live act and when we can get the crowd on the same wavelength, it’s like nothing else. So therefore, when we go into the studio, it would be impossible to capture that exactly, so half the fun of the studio is finding ways to use the space and the studio itself to take the songs in a different direction slightly and experiment. It’s win-win, really.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
Having Alan Fletcher, aka. Dr Karl Kennedy from Neighbours telling me “you need to be more fucking aggressive on stage, mate!” was a surreal moment.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
Probably – and handily – our latest song, ‘The Moon’. It has so many twists and turns – a rumbling, wailing breakdown, followed by a flamenco run, into a thumping, urgent chorus, followed by a face-melting, soaring couple of solos? Yes please.
Also, the chorus features the word ‘veranda’. One of the proudest moments of my life was when our Lord and Saviour, Nigel Blackwell of Half Man Half Biscuit told me how much he liked the song, and pointed to the use of veranda in the chorus. There’s not much that can top that, is there?
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
Yes thanks! Our debut album ‘Spring Tide’ is out on May 6th via Mai 68 Records. Ahead of that, we’ll be releasing another single and we’ve got a fantastic gig lined up on April 15th. We’re putting another all-day version of our clubnight ‘Shipwrecked’ on and we’ve amazingly managed to bag Andy Bell of Ride/Oasis to headline it! It’s going to be brilliant. Other than that, we’re planning other dates around the country and we’re already halfway through album two, so no rest for the wicked!
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
My top three birds to spot on a dog walk? Why thank you, thought you’d never ask. The Goldfinch is an obvious one, but come on, look at it. It’s colours are so vibrant and they look like they’re wearing a Mexican Wrestler’s mask. Stock up on your nyger seeds and await their wonderful, watery, song. Next up, it’s the Heron. Their majesty, their silent grace and remarkable silhouette against the evening sunset is a thing to behold. And finally, it’s another obvious one, but the Kingfisher. The shimmering flash of blue and gold as they pass along you on a canal venture flutters the heart like not much else.
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
Connect with The Shipbuilders: