The Circle of Life, Cats In Boxes, Debut Album & More With SHVPES
You have recently released your debut album. Could you tell us a little bit about the title and artwork?
Griffin: For me, “Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.” represents the acceptance of the fact that we live in absolute chaos in terms of emotions. We could play this show right now and have a great time and then walk outside and one of us gets hit by a tram and dies. Everything just comes in swings and roundabouts and rollercoasters, so “Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair” is like our statement of acceptance that that is never going to change. There are always going to be those cycles. So when we were designing the artwork, we wanted to play on something that kind of showcased that you never really knew what bottle you were drinking from. It’s almost a potion sort of thing we were going for. It really fit in with the aesthetic of what we wanted to do with the album, the 1920s sort of vibe and potion bottles just seemed like a pretty apt way of doing it.
The track “Skin & Bones” is about the struggle you go through in school when you’re different from the masses and you said in the commentary on Spotify that even after school that really stuck with you. How did you break through it?
Griffin: I think joining the band was one of the best things I ever did, because in day-to-day life when you’re into this sort of music, it’s not really accepted by the mainstream population. So when I had an opportunity to just be myself in an environment where it’s accepted by everyone and people even enjoy it, it’s easier to break out of that sort of thing. I still wouldn’t put my music on shuffle at a family gathering to put it that way, but you get the point.
Griffin: This is such a difficult question because you don’t think about an artist and then try to recreate stuff, you just go in and write some riffs and see what comes out. Around the album we listened to a lot of Stray From The Path and Bring Me The Horizon. They didn’t necessarily have an influence on us, they just had an album out at the time we were writing, but Limp Bizkit is a big influence, Rage Against The Machine, Letlive, Issues…
Ryan: I mean we all listen to a lot of varying music including hip hop. Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West had both just put out new albums when we recorded and when you’re writing and playing metal all day, you want to come home and listen to something slightly different. So we would put those albums on, just to get a bit of a break from what we were creating. The more we’re writing, the less we are listening to things that are similar to what we play, because you do end up sort of recreating something from what you’ve listened to. You don’t want to just listen to bands that you sound similar to or you will sound like and write stuff that is basically like what they’re playing, whereas if you listen to other music, you will come up with your own breed of that genre.
You guys toured with a lot of bands, even before the album came out. Do you notice any difference between crowds and vibes, between tours or maybe even countries?
Griffin: Without a doubt. We played with Asking Alexandria in August and as soon as we went out, the crowd was just going crazy. Imagine putting a hundred cats in a box and opening it up, that’s what that was like. Then you come out on these nights, it’s not like that in the slightest, it’s big bald fat dudes not up for it.
Ryan: Then again, we’re bald fat dudes as well and it’s been going really good for us.
Griffin: But yeah I think it really varies, we played with Bring Me The Horizon a long time ago and those fans, they wouldn’t go crazy for whoever goes out there. Their fans are more like “okay we’re going to sit back and actually listen to what you’re playing” and when you’re on stage you think they’re not enjoying it and then you go and speak to them afterwards and they go “wow that was the best gig I’ve ever seen”. Certain people stand and appreciate and certain people will have a mosh pit, it’s just a very different crowd.
Griffin: We changed the name because no one could pronounce the old name and no one knew what it meant, so it became a problem and we decided to change it. The first song we wrote when I joined the band was called “SHAPES”, so it seemed like a good milestone for the new band and sound and if you type “shapes” into Google, you’re gonna get loads of squares and triangles and stuff so we wanted to pay homage to our heavy metal influence, where they do that. They also change vowels in hip hop, so we wanted to pay homage to that and also make sure that anytime you write “SHVPES” into Google, we’re the first and only thing to come up.
In the title track of the album you describe life as it is. You have said it yourself, one moment you can be happy as can be and the next one you can be struck down pretty fast. The negative in that, does it tend to work as an inspiration or is it more of an obstacle?
Griffin: Without a doubt, I think the hardest thing to do is write a song when you’re in a happy state of mind, because I don’t want to sit there and struggle over lyrics because, well, I’m happy.
Ryan: I think it’s kind of like therapy, when you’re getting certain things off your chest that you’ve actually wanted to say for ages, but you’ve never spent loads of time thinking “how am I going to say this?”
Griffin: It’s like finding the perfect way to say something that’s pissing you off. Every single song on that album is basically pissed off. It’s about a problem in some sense and I don’t think that’s going to change, because it’s easy to write in that mindset.
“Smoke & Mirrors”, “Breaking The Silence” and “The Otherside” come as a collective and have an ongoing theme. Could you shed some light on this theme and how you came up with this idea?
Griffin: I was in a relationship with someone for about four years and it was just breaking up and getting back together and then breaking up and getting back together. It was the most painful thing on the planet, but we still kept trying to make it work. That’s what those three songs are about. The first one is like when you’ve just broken up and you are hoping to get back together, the next one is when you’re “alright, fuck this” and the last one is when you’re like “okay, maybe we can go back to this”. It’s just an endless cycle, so that’s what those three songs are about. I wrote the lyrics of all three of them separately. I didn’t have them in mind to be a collective, but then, when we all looked at the album in the end, I realized they kind of all did come as a collective.
With the alternative scene expanding as rapidly as it is right now, do you ever find yourself struggling with wanting to create and maintain a style or sound of music that is relatable to your audience but also unique and original enough to stand out?
Griffin: On this last album, we basically did exactly what we wanted to do. We didn’t compromise in any way and I think that shows. We just did whatever we wanted and to be honest, I think we’re going to continue to do that. At the end of the day this is the band we are and if you don’t like it, then go fuck yourselves (laughs).
Ryan: We just thought: this is the sound we want to portray ourselves as. Why would we want to play something else? I mean, if you constantly try and please other people, at the end of the day you’re not going to enjoy it. We’re doing this because we love to do it. There is no other reason why you would want to be doing this.
With the release of your debut album, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Griffin: We just got booked on a badass tour around Europe, so that’s going to be in summer. We can’t announce which one yet.
Ryan: And then we’ve got some festivals like Jera on Air and Hellfest.
Griffin: We’re basically playing loads of festivals throughout the summer and then we’ll piece them together with the tour, which should be cool.
Which artists/bands would you personally recommend?
Griffin: Wage War is what I have been listening to recently, a lot of hip hop as well. Loyle Carner has just dropped an album.
Ryan: Yeah, Wage War, Loyle Carner and SikTh.
Griffin: I hear SHVPES are pretty good. I listen to them every night actually.
As a younger band that’s making major waves right now, do you have any advice for bands that are just at the beginning of their musical journey?
Griffin: Write songs. Write good songs. Don’t be so stressed out about not being booked on gigs and not blowing up straight away, because at the end of the day the songs are what will pull through and if you’ve got good songs, even if your band doesn’t pull through, eventually people will notice that. Then you’ve got all the power in your own hands to project it out in the world.
Ryan: Just enjoy doing your music rather than trying to make it for the people. Create what you want to create.
SHVPES are a force to be reckoned with and their debut album 'Pain. Joy. Ecstacy. Despair' can be streamed below!