In a little over two weeks, Watford four-piece Funeral Shakes (formed by bassist / vocalist Calvin Roffey and guitarist Simon Barker of The Smoking Hearts with Gallows drummer Lee Barratt and Nervus guitarist Em Foster) will release their self-titled debut album, a seductive 40-minute blast of melodic garage punk with a darkness of heart and a lightness of step. Soaked in rump-shaking melodies and shimmering, clear guitars, the album swings like a Teddy Boy gibbon with a switchblade clenched between its teeth, retaining the cheeky wink of The Smoking Hearts but reigning in some of the wild-eyed hardcore for a more targeted, gothy rock & roll vibe. To get a better idea of what makes a funeral shake, MonkHammer grabbed ten minutes with Calvin and Simon to get the lowdown on their new project. Simon even got into the spirit of #CrayonAlbumCovers to give us a custom crayon piece that sums up the band pretty neatly, and as an added bonus, goes a long way towards shaming MonkHammer into putting a little extra effort into his own rendition of the album cover in a couple of weeks for the review! Thanks, Simon.
Funeral Shakes is markedly lighter than either The Smoking Hearts or Gallows. Was that a deliberate play? How did you come to settle on that signature Funeral Shakes sound?
Simon: We all still totally love heavy music. We’ve all played in a punk/hardcore bands for 10 years plus, and we all still do in some capacity. But of course we listen to other music too, and it was just a case of wanting to try our hand at something we hadn’t done before. As for the signature FS sound, we just try and write songs that we would enjoy listening to.
Fair play. So what would you say to those fans expecting a Smoking Hearts / Gallows hardcore Super Smash Brothers? How do you draw them into Funeral Shakes’ world? Do you even need to?
Simon: I would say prepare to either be pleasantly surprised, or massively dissapointed haha. Personally I would never try and draw people in on the basis of our previous bands, just for the reason that, in my opinion, we don’t sound like either. I like to think the songs stand up well enough on their own merit that it won’t be an issue.
Not long after the album comes out, you’re supporting Cancer Bats for four nights at The Underworld. How did that come about and what can we expect?
Calvin: We’ve all known the Cancer Bats dudes for a long time. I used to work as a guitar tech for Bullet For My Valentine, so I met them when they were touring Hail Destroyer the first time round, and have stayed friends since. The Smoking Hearts did shows with them, as did Gallows, so we are all old friends. I got a text out of the blue from Liam [Cormier, Cancer Bats frontman] asking if we’d want to do the Underworld, and I didn’t really think that he meant all four. We’re very honoured and mega excited about it, as for the set list… We can’t tell you that, we’ve not even discussed it ourselves yet!
Before that, there’s the headline tour (dates below), and some of those venues are pretty intimate. How important do you think that intimate kind of groundswell approach is? Especially in these days of local venues closing every week.
Calvin: Well, we have to be honest and realistic about it all. We know that as much as it would be awesome to book to play Brixton next week, the chances of us filling even 1% of it are pretty slim. But, heading to towns that maybe don’t get as many shows, hopefully the people of that town will come out to check it out. Small places have a lot of charm too, and we’d all much rather play to a full small room than an empty hall. We know that we’re starting out, so we’re doing the ground work and hoping to make as many new fans as we can.
On to the album. Many of the tracks have got a real surf pop, 50s rock & roll vibe to them. Where does that come from?
Simon: We love surf and rock and roll music, so that influence was bound to worm it’s way into the mix in some shape or form.
And you’re looking pretty sharp in the promo pics we’ve seen so far too. How important is that image to the band? Is it fair to say you’re going for the “full package” approach? The look, the tunes, the live show….
Calvin: Certainly we feel it’s important to have a look, or an image if you prefer. Could you imagine The Hives, or Rocket From The Crypt, or even Kiss without having that extra little piece of their arsenal? I mean Kiss tried it, but it kinda sucked. Looking the part is important to a lot of people, and I think people do sit up and take notice when you’ve gone out of your way to make a first impression.
Speaking of Rocket From The Crypt, you can really hear their influence on the album along with bands like Nerf Herder, Brawlers, and Weezer. Are you just trying to make nerds sexy again?!
Simon: If all those great bands are considered nerds, then they were never not sexy!
Consider us told! So what bands/albums do you feel make up the beating essence of Funeral Shakes?
Simon: Strange Heaven by Mrs Magician; Group Sounds by Rocket From The Crypt; the blue album by Weezer; Tyrannosaurus Hives by The Hives; Buena Vista Bingo Club by Captain Everything; Freedom Of Choice by Devo; and Peach by Culture Abuse are a few that spring to mind. You always like to think your band doesn’t sound like other bands, but I’m totally cool with people making their own comparisons.
And finally, Burt Bacharach once sang “what the world needs now is love”. From the tone and lyrics of this album, do you disagree!?
Simon: I don’t disagree at all, I’ve just never been able to write that type of song myself. Maybe one day we will finally nail our grand ode to love, but in the meantime I’m happy to leave that to Burt.
So there you have it. Funeral Shakes is out 16 February and available for pre-order via Silent Cult Records or PledgeMusic now. In the meantime, check out the videos for Over You and Lightning on YouTube, and catch the band up and down the UK around release date or in April on their headline tour.
14th London, Old Blue Last – W/LIRR
15th Watford, LP Cafe – Instore/Album Release Show
23rd Huddersfield Parish – W/ Mr. Shiraz
24th Stafford, Red Rum – W/Sonic Boom Six
25th Northwich, Salty Dog
April – Headline Tour
4th Bridgewater, Cobblestones
5th Nottingham, Red Room
6th Darwen, Sunbird Records (Free Entry)
7th Glasgow, Broadcast
8th Doncaster, Woolpack (Free Entry)
9th Manchester, Night People
10th London, Thousand Island (Free entry)
11th Bristol, Louisiana
Supporting Cancer Bats + Death By Stereo
24th Camden, Underworld
25th Camden, Underworld
26th Camden, Underworld
27th Camden, Underworld
Categories: Features, Interviews