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30th Jul 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Shame talk Mercury Prize snub: “It’s a bit of a safe shortlist this year”

Will Lavin

The Mercury Prize shortlist was announced last week and one name left off in particular surprised a lot of people

Shame are one of the most unique, authentic and exciting bands out right now. They’re a post-punk group of misfits from South London that mix both the punk of yesteryear with a new age rock and roll lick of paint that reeks of charity shops and backstreet watering holes.

Ever since releasing their debut album Songs of Praise back in January they’ve received nothing but, well… praise. Loved by fans, critics and casual music listeners alike, it’s one of those albums that sounds so British, and is very much proud of that fact, that if Winston Churchill were still with us he’d be blasting it out of the speakers in his private residence with no fucks given.

Before the ‘Albums of the Year’ shortlist announcement last Thursday Shame were hotly tipped 3/1 by bookies to win the Mercury Prize overall. So why on earth were they not even shortlisted?

Speaking to the band backstage at Hertfordshire’s Standon Calling festival (get tickets for 2019 here) this past weekend, they shared their thoughts on the Mercury Prize snub for the first time since the announcement.

“Why have you gotta bring that up?” asks guitarist Sean Coyle.

Explaining that they actually knew they weren’t shortlisted four days before the official announcement, they weren’t actually as pissed off as you might think, or at least as much as some other people were.

“It’s an interesting one,” says the band’s other guitarist, Eddie Green. “I think a lot of people were more pissed off that we were’t nominated for it, more so than us. Namely my dad because he bet £20 on it.”

“It almost seemed farcical to us because it’s the kind of thing you associate with really avant-garde electronic type of stuff,” adds Sean. “But I suppose it changes year to year. Like Sampha obviously won last year. That’s the kind of album you’d expect to win.”

The band’s drummer, Charlie Forbes, chimes in adding: “I think it’s a bit of a safe shortlist this year. I’m not even that sour about us not being on the list.”

Then the fellas have a conversation amongst themselves about one of the artists shortlisted.

“I didn’t even know Noel Gallagher had put out an album,” says Sean.

“Wait, Noel Gallagher got nominated? Ahhhhh, c’mon,” interjects Eddie.

“Yup, Noel Gallagher got nominated for his latest dad rock masterpiece,” replies Forbes.

Reflecting on the snub a little more, Eddie then highlights a band they as a collective thought should have been shortlisted.

“I mean obviously it would have been cool to have been nominated but I think we can safely say that we’re not necessarily losing sleep over it,” he begins. “There are other bands that didn’t get nominated, like Hookworms that I felt should have. I feel more wronged that Hookworms were not nominated than us being nominated because that album is undoubtedly the best of the year so far, for me at least.”

“Yeah, I really thought they were going to be nominated,” adds Sean.

Tempted to tweet about the fact they were one of the bookies’ favourites to take home the Mercury Prize overall, Sean chose not to because he felt like it might make the band look a little salty.

“I had to be careful tweeting about it too,” says Forbes.

“Of course the NME wrote an article about it,” Sean says laughing. “We tweeted ‘Oh well’ and then an NME article came out.”

“’Shame reacts to Mercury snub’ Ooooooooooh,” says Eddie, acting out his words with animated hand gestures and a hint of sarcasm aimed in the direction of the popular music publication.

“Don’t you have to pay £200 to enter?” asks bassist Josh Finerty.

“Yes. And we want it back!” jokes Eddie.

All of the 12 shortlisted artists receive a specially commissioned ‘Album of the Year’ trophy, with the overall winner also receiving a winner trophy and a cash prize of £25,000.

Now with a smile on his face Eddie says : “Now that obviously would be nice. But do the Arctic Monkeys really need £25,000?”

“Alex Turner could use it to get some karate lessons,” says Sean and it doesn’t sound like a joke. “What can I say? The man loves karate.”

“But you could do good things with that £25,000. Like when James Blake won it he gave it to his crew,” adds Eddie.

Expressing their desires for Novelist to win the Mercury Prize, Shame point out that there aren’t many debut albums shortlisted this year, something much of the industry is highlighting about this year’s shortlist.

“I think this year, to the extent of my knowledge,” begins Charlie Steen. “Three of the 12 shortlisted artists were nominated for debut albums, so I think that shows a lot.”

Sean adds: “That’s what was different last year, there were a lot of debuts.”

“Everything Everything did an interview which I think is quite accurate,” explains Steen. “They were saying that it seems like every year there’s a different theme and this year it seems to be more established artists and their more experimental phases with their albums.”

With the last word on the subject, Eddie says: “Obviously I think it would have been nice to have been nominated but I think this batch of shortlisted artists is quite indicative of what they’re going for this year and it’s whatever, it’s their award to give away.”

Shame’s excellent debut album Songs of Praise is out now and can be streamed below:

Photo credit: Giles Smith