Shame on “Food For Worms” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, July 14th, 2024  

Shame on “Food For Worms”

Courage to Slow Down

Nov 13, 2023 Issue #71 - Weyes Blood and Black Belt Eagle Scout Photography by Pooneh Ghana Bookmark and Share

Shirtless, bespectacled, and from a hotel room bed, Charlie Steen from UK band Shame is looking a little worse for wear. “I don’t regret it but it’s not sustainable,” he says, clearing the frog in his throat. He isn’t referring to his current hung-over state but to the hyper-energetic live shows and early hedonism of his then teenage-band’s quick ascent, from their storied local, South London scene to regulars on the international touring circuit.

Back then they were at the bottom of the bill with short, half-hour sets. “We were always first on,” Steen confirms, “and if we did a festival we would be on at like 1 p.m. Yeah, there was never really any pressure. You could just party!”

After two albums, 2019’s Songs of Praise and 2021’s Drunk Tank Pink, the release of their third album, Food For Worms, finds a band that has learnt to slow the pace down. Today, in early December 2022, the 25-year-old frontman Zooms in from Athens, Greece, after a night out on the town but the partying was reserved until the last night of their tour. “It was our last show for the year actually,” explains Sheen, adding that they don’t drink like they used to. “I think the word is maturity,” he says. “We play for longer. We take it more seriously.”

The truth is the quintet—Steen, Eddie Green, Charlie Forbes, Josh Finerty, and Sean Coyle-Smith—were serious from the start, taking on all tour dates, interviews, and whatever perks or responsibilities that being a modern day, post-punk upstart required. This landed Steen with a serious case of exhaustion and mental health challenges so hairy that when he chronicled them in their sophomore album, it brought his worried mother to tears.

Thankfully, he declares his mother was all smiles after listening to Food For Worms—a hopeful album that centers friendship. For the first time, the band aren’t looking inwards but seeking to document the world outside. On “Six Pack” they reflect on how during strict lockdowns people got delusional about the things they could control—obsessing about their diet and installing home gyms.

Unlike the thrashing pop-punk of previous albums, their new songs are mid-tempo and longer than any punk standard. The jangly, rousing closer, “All the People,” with its detuned guitars and communal singalong, is nearly six minutes. “I think the main reason why it’s more mid-tempo is because we focused a lot more on melody,” explains Steen, who for the first time got involved in working out these melodies on instruments and not just singing. He came up with the bassline for “Burning By Design” and “Adderall,” which features added vocals from Phoebe Bridgers. Both acts are on labels under the Secretly Group umbrella.

Friends now, the band were even invited to Bridgers’ mom’s Los Angeles home last year but they’d all first met her in 2021, while recording the album in Wales. “She popped into the room…the instrumental had just been done,” explains Steen, who then played Bridgers a rough vocal of the track about supporting a friend with an addiction, before asking if she wanted to do some vocals?

She pointed out that their voices fit the same key and might be indistinguishable. “But you can hear her! Especially at the end,” he says excitedly, singing blissfully, “‘Addera-all, you’ve got nothing at all.’ Yeah. It’s really fucking nice.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 71 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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