07 August 2018
Nice 'n' Sleazy, Glasgow
Glasgow garage-rock trio Shredd chat unlikely influences, how a sparsity of vocals allow for instrumental freedom and how their new EP is exactly how they want it to be heard
"I don’t believe in guilty pleasures because all of my music is shit."
We catch up with Glasgow garage-rock three-piece Shredd in Sauchiehall Street's Nice 'n' Sleazy on the eve of the Croatia vs England World Cup semi-final. The band have recently returned from playing XpoNorth in Inverness where the drive there and back exposed the smorgasbord of drummer Calum Wilson’s musical tastes: "I kept my iPod on shuffle, you get some proper shit."
With this acknowledgement, it comes with little shock that it was absentee guitarist and frontman Chris Harvie (loving life at the NOS Alive Festival in Lisbon) who enlightened Wilson and bassist Mark Macdonald to the existence of, or perhaps moreso the proliferation of, lo-fi DIY garage-rock, bombarding them with genre exponents like Ty Segall, Oh Sees and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. "The first time we rehearsed I had never heard any of that," remarks Wilson, "and I think that was a positive thing."
The pair agree that having Harvie as their contact point with garage-rock is entirely necessary for staying in sync with it all. He'll come to them with ideas for new tunes, but Wilson and Macdonald recognise that having their own, and sometimes more obscure, influences adds more depth to their sound and allows them to quell the risk of sounding genre generic. "Bruno Mars, for example, his drummer is fucking insane," says Wilson. Having seen him live recently, he goes on to observe that "you pick things up and it makes a difference to your playing as well."
As bass from a soundcheck below makes the floor buzz as though an invading force is marching past and football-induced cheers and groans occasionally punctuate their responses, we move on to tasking the pair to refine Shredd down to a word. Macdonald is quick on the draw with "Loud." After pondering for another minute, he elaborates, "No, fuzzy loudness. No, raw, fuzzy loudness."
During their early days on the Glasgow scene in 2016, Shredd quickly amassed a slate of gigs from word of mouth alone. Their second gig was opening Glasgow’s garage/psych festival Freakender after a headliner pulled out and word soon spread of the trio's sonic strafing. Without any recorded material, bands were blindly giving them support slots, unknowing of their inflated volume.
Performing on stage is where these lads place the lion’s share of their chips. They see the importance of social media, but, as Wilson states, they feel that "people pay more attention when you’re playing live, when you’re playing for them." Staying true to this mantra, the band lapped up every gig slot going, but "quite quickly," says Wilson, "people started being like, ‘we’re going to stop asking you to support us because we didn’t realise how loud you were.’"
But they did not, and do not, see this as a hindrance. The destructive capacity of the soaring decibels to which they climb is part and parcel of their package. So inherent is it, that for their latest EP Eat Your Enemy they've strived to bottle their kinetic live performances. "We didn’t want anything to be overly polished, so we’ve done bass and drums together," Macdonald tells us. "For me anyway, you can hear that natural aspect of it."
They're aware that there are no half measures when bringing a colossus to life: "We’re all about massive sounding drums, massive sounding bass, massive sounding guitar, just everything being huge," Macdonald says. Unanimously, (of course, they speak vicariously for Harvie) the band cite this as their greatest progression in terms of how they want their sound to be captured.
Something they are conscious of is how their hulking instrumentation leaves Harvie’s vocals in a state of limbo, with little opportunity to break through the "wall of distortion," as Macdonald refers to it. Wilson adds that when his mum comes to see their shows she can’t help mention, 'Yous were good, but I really don’t understand a word that boy says.'
"Of course we put a level of thought into it," Wilson says of the vocals, "but it’s more about the instrumentation." These limitations are seen as positives to them, though; it gifts them a freedom to focus on their musicality and pushes them to foster the most aggressive sound they can. Wilson ruminates about Harvie’s guitar work: "If there are no vocals happening, he needs to think about what he’s going to do to make the song interesting."
Without the responsibility of conveying crystalline lyrics, Harvie has more opportunity to go berserk on stage. Which has become a quintessential component of their shows; without his kicking, lunging and craning they would be without their scuzzing spirit.
But it is modesty that rings the loudest with these gents. They acknowledge their successes (winning the Scottish Alternative Music Award for Best Newcomer in 2017, supporting the likes of Black Lips and building a staunch following across the UK) with a genuine gratitude and an awe of the traction they have gathered in such short a time.
Shredd stay true to the crux of garage-rock: forging something out of nothing with whatever tools are available, banding together with like-minded compadres and ultimately having supreme amounts of banter. As Wilson attests: "Well, we don’t hate each other yet, which must be a good thing!"