You’ve come far very quickly since your first gig. Do you think being from the North East has helped or hindered that in any way?
Individually, we all played in many other guises of bands before coming together as Shields a little over a year ago, and I think it was just a combination of the right elements. I don’t think coming from the North East has affected that a lot, it certainly affected our experiences of being in a band and helped to shape where we have ended up. There has never truly been a major break out ‘scene’ in the past but at the moment it definitely feels like a lot more people are looking to the North East for bands.
Like when you met John Martindale (bass/keys) at Blank Studios?
Yes exactly. We met him a few months before our first gig. John is one of the owners of Blank Studios in Newcastle, and he was the engineer who recorded the first track we wrote as a band at the beginning. He got really involved and ended up joining the band. As we started to write and rehearse more we realised that there was an element missing and it was obvious that David, who was in another band at the time, was the obvious person to join. He is a truly incredible musician. Hope he doesn’t read this because we don’t like to tell him that too often.
No there isn’t really a place like it in Newcastle. It’s a really good quality place and all the people who work there know what they’re doing, which helps. It’s a mint recording spot but it’s also a really affordable option which is why you get so many up-and-coming bands piling in. The lads who are there are all in bands themselves so they’re all really passionate about the scene. It helps everyone get a little bit better and push ourselves that bit more.
I’m sure once upon a time you had to move to London to make it in music. Do you think that’s changed now?
Absolutely, I don’t think anyone thinks like that anymore. Obviously you’ve got to gig around so people know who you are – you’ve definitely have to gig in London – but as far as where you’re based goes I really don’t think it matters. In fact, I think it helps because you get scenes growing. There’s a really burgeoning scene up here now and if everyone tried to move to London that wouldn’t happen. You wouldn’t get that scene.
What’s the scene like at the moment?
There are loads of little micro scenes going on, that combine into the bigger picture, there are a lot of alternative pop bands who are doing quite well and we’re mostly involved with that. We fit there quite nicely. A lot of those bands record at Blank so we know them. Bands like Mausi and Let’s Buy Happiness – there are loads of bands that are doing really quite well at the minute and they’re all classed as alt-pop. I guess the main thing for us, is to never get lumped into any of the variations, just to write a track that makes us feel how we want other people to feel about our music – I think we would much rather be regarded as a unique entity than a layer of the cake.
Do you all help each other along and play together?
Yep, absolutely! We often play with a band called Vinyl Jacket, they are doing particularly well at the minute, or we will join forces with the Polarsets and put a show on. It’s like the 80s/90s scenes from the US where are the bands moved as a unit, and helped each other, supporting each other regularly, sharing the load, instead of resisting each other like I know happens in other towns. You often see bitterness between bands, but the pressure and competition to be the one band that ‘makes it’ is a heavy weight – and maybe that fuels ill feeling in certain areas, it genuinely isn’t like that in Newcastle.
I think what’s happening more and more is that bands are putting on their own events. For example, We are releasing our debut Kaleidoscope EP on the 19 November (shameless plugging!) and we are going to be putting on a ‘Launch Party’ potentially in a disused office building in town that has been taken over by a couple of artists. There are more and more DIY things happening. Where we practice, in Colt’s Yard, there’s an empty warehouse out the back and people have started putting gigs on there as well – doing it themselves and self-promoting it too.
The venues have come and gone, they have been swallowed in the wave of austerity I suppose, but that punk rock ‘we’ll do it ourselves’ attitude is pretty unwavering.
Do you have any connections with Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Teeside?
Ritchie in our band is from Middlesbrough, so obviously he’s got links. There used to be a bit of a divide between Newcastle and Sunderland but that’s gone now (football aside!). There are lots of new bands we play with from Sunderland, like Beak, who are brilliant. And there’s Field Music who are an amazing band from Sunderland. We played a gig with Beak not so long ago and I think we’re doing another one soon. You see the pattern, it all tessellates.
Is there much support available for musicians in your area?
Yes, there’s Generator, who do an excellent job of bringing everything together and focussing the audience. That’s everyone’s go to place. When we started, we had a meeting with Generator and told them what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go, that sort of thing. They helped us a lot to focus our ideas.
Have you got any advice for up and coming bands from your area?
Like anything in life, if you wait for other people to do something for you – the wait is ten times longer. Just get out there and get playing. If you want to record, buy some really cheap recording gear and do it yourself. Learn how to be self-sufficient.
Shields release their debut Kaleidoscope EP on the 19 November.
You can catch Shields live throughout October and November, supporting Wintersleep and To Kill A King:
5 October – Newcastle, The Cluny w/Polarsets
7 October – Manchester, The Deaf Institute w/ Wintersleep
20 October – Middlesborough, Westgarth Social Club w/To Kill A King
21 October – Leeds, Brundell Social Club w/ To Kill A King
22 October – Coventry, Kasbah - CLUB NIGHT
25 October – London, Cargo w/ To Kill A King
26 October – Stockton, KU – Club Night
30 October – Doncaster, The Leopard w/ To Kill A King
2 November – Manchester, The Ruby Lounge w/ To Kill A King