By BRUCE DENNILL
The Shabs recently released the video for their latest single We’ve All Been There, taken from the album Can You Hear Us At The Back. Having previously handled video production themselves the band were excited about the opportunity they had to work with a full team this time around, headed by director Alasdair McCullough. Singer Jon Shaban discusses the band’s music.
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
That’s a tough question to answer as a band. I think as individuals we would all have very different answers to that question. Era-wise, we’ve been playing together as friends for almost two decades in various projects and that’s what really brought us together. When we started playing music it felt like the world was a different place and the support for live music was not necessarily any better or worse, it was just different and more consistent.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
Throughout the years, we’ve just been influenced by life, other live bands, recorded music we’ve heard from faraway places and so on. On our most recent album, Can You Hear Us At The Back, we used a lot more electric guitars and explored some other instrumentation. We’re perpetually evolving as a band and as much as we like to keep our core sound, we’re having fun experimenting with the songwriting process
Name one song you wish you’d written. What makes that song so important?
The Decline by NOFX. It’s an 18-minute punk rock classic. It’s so well-written and so intelligent lyrically and musically. It’s a proper trip.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
I think the lyrics are generally the priority. A big part of The Shabs is the message we’re trying deliver.
The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (selling CDs from a box in your car or similar) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
We’re very much a live band. Until Can You Hear Us At The Back, we had always struggled a bit to capture the energy we try to deliver live. So perpetual touring and gigging is the main way we aim to deliver our music to our audience. Because we play all over the place, the digital environment definitely benefits us as well. It’s an awesome way to engage with a global audience. It obviously has it’s complications, but as the tools evolve, it’s important to be able to adapt and use them to our full advantage rather than resent them. We are also really into physical sales of our merchandise. We love engaging with our fans after a show or getting them excited about a new T-shirt design. We’re trying to embrace all the avenues at our disposal.
In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?
If anything I think we just have so much to learn.
What is the story behind We’ve All Been There – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
The video is by far the most ambitious and professional we’ve ever created. We are super proud of it and it’s viewable on all our social platforms. The song is about how we are encouraging people to reach out if they’re ever feeling lonely or the weight of the world is a bit much. It’s likely that people close to you have experienced or are experiencing something similar. It’s okay to feel! The video is a story about a girl whose guitar breaks just before a talent show that she’s entered to win some prize money to buy a guitar she loves. Everyone who performs at the show makes mistakes and we’re trying to say that making mistakes is okay. We worked with an amazing bunch of people at creating the video including our old friend Alasdair McCullough who directed and helped conceptualise the video.