A cocktail of brute and bliss, Funeral Shakes do it different with their self-titled debut album.
Funeral Shakes are a reason to be excited about the state of British Rock music. With the release of their self-titled album, Funeral Shakes are a prime example of the intoxicating energy lighting up the scene right now. Cited as a ‘supergroup’ in a recent Rocksound interview, the band are made up of members from the late Gallows, Nervus and The Smoking Hearts. No wonder that they have such a complete sound. I did not know much about this band; however, it is safe to say I am fully aware now.
The band introduces us to the album’s opener, Over You. All parts stand down shortly after their arrival – minus the drums – to welcome the vocals to the party. The song progresses with stretching vocals that keep you hooked and excited about where the chorus might take you. “I’m not losing sleep over you” seems to be the hook of the song and is implemented perfectly through the ever-diversifying vocals. The drums continually change the tempo of the piece and are a real triumph. The breakdown is a flurry of guitar notes that threaten to fall into chaos at any moment, I struggled to put my finger on the exact point I was expecting it to happen. However, when it came it was nerve tingling. The band slams home and this song is surely designed to set a crowd into a frenzy at a live show. Overall, a fantastic opening track.
The Motions begins in a more benevolently sounding fashion, hinting that the band are more than just a loud, proud shouting rock n’ roll band. The riff is infectious and commands the verses, chorus and breakdown. It must be said that the chorus is the stand-out factor of this one. Gang vocals, experimental leads and shout-along lyrics, there is nothing that it doesn’t do. It is an interesting choice to include this track so early on, there is a definite change of energy and pace. I was hooked.
The theme of the album becomes a little clearer with this one and, understandably, Lightning was one of the leading singles for the album. We are back to loutish shouting and I love it. The pre-chorus is shocking and plays perfectly in the crescendo of the song. Lyrics such as “spending hours in my mind” showcase the delicate levels found beneath the surface of the band. My only criticism of this song is the breakdown, it doesn’t rock the listener as much as its predecessors. Not that this is essential, but Funeral Shakes are a victim of their own success in this sense.
Lovebirds possesses a hip swaying rhythm that greets and welcomes you in and the long, drawn-out vocals in the chorus are very effective. It falls into Funeral Shakes’ ‘bread and butter’ mould of an infectious chorus. The fall from each chorus to the next verse is amazing, the rhythm shifts entirely and works fantastically. This litters the song with an energy that coerces you to keep listening.
A drum-roll welcomes us into Circles. From here, there is a scream – the stretched vocals join the fight and we are dragged into the remainder of the song. Rather than being hit by a punch, as you would have expected with the nature of the songs opening, you are hit with a feather pillow. Gang vocals singing “wooos” and “oooohs” change the tone completely and flip the track on its head. Before we settle, this delicate ‘happy’ sound is quickly shattered as we fall back into the chorus. The breakdown is chaotic, throwing guitars into the fire at will. This song flirts with every area of the band’s sound, covering all of the bases. This one is experimental as fuck.
If I told you that the next song was about having “friends in low places” and “find[ing] a place to lay your headstone” you would not think that it would sound like this one does. Gold Teeth is positive in sound and delicate in nature. This song is a curveball. I like it. This track shatters any prescribed problems that may have been found in the genre. Many bands of a similar ilk seem to have run stale, just monotonous shouting with very little substance. I must report that Funeral Shakes destroy this prescribed rhetoric and do so emphatically with songs like this.
Next, Gin Palace. A swank fuelled interlude that is very welcome at this point in the album. A pallet-cleanser if you will. The drums guide us through the intermission as the guitar experiments with a variety of sounds that encompass the band. The vocals of Howl hit you like a brick. “I was doing just fine until you crept into my mind” is the hook on this one, it runs around and around and will undoubtedly manifest itself into your head. Once again, the dark lyrics do not match the sound of the song. It is a little ditty that had me nodding along nicely. A great addition to the course of the record.
I feel really strong Lower Than Atlantis vibes in the next song, Bon Voyage. The chorus reminds me of the band’s Changing Tune record, I assure you that this is a compliment, as it possesses a pondered, distorted, but catchy feel. The chorus pounded through my headphones and set my head on fire. Taking things even further is the post-chorus riff, it is utterly electrifying. I find the lyric, “when you start running around my brain” to be ironic, this song hasn’t left mine since I heard it. If you only listen to one track from the album, make it this one.
Up next is Soap. I will admit that I would like to see a little more diversity from this track, it is a great exercise in what the band do well but by this point we have already heard it. The bass offers a little flavour of something different, but I fear that if there were a couple more tracks like this in the course of the album it would slip from being a killer record, to a filler record. Luckily, Safari bounces back. It shares the energy that we saw in Gold Teeth and Lovebirds. The chorus leaves the vocals to stand above a hypnotic, nursery rhyme-ish riff. It is golden. One of the best on the album for sure.
The final track, You’re So Bad, is an undeniable ballad. However, I cannot help that feel that it borrows a fair amount of its originality from other tracks on the album. I feel as though a little more progression would make it a more gripping listen. A ballad? Yes. But it did not stick with me unfortunately, I don’t think I would listen to this song again. Isn’t the purpose of a closing track to leave a lasting impression on you?
I would highly recommend this album. Having not heard of the band or their body of work before this I am keen to go and have an explore. I love finding new music this way, getting hit with it when you least expect it. The album is daring and balances the blissful sounds of the band with the brutish and loud nature of its core. You would be silly to not give this a listen.
Funeral Shakes – Interview
Thank you so much for the time, we are loving the new record. A self-titled album? A lot of bands choose to do this, what is your reasoning for doing so?
It’s our first album, so it felt very natural to name it after the band. It’s our opening statement to the world, so what else would we call it? I’m not actually sure we even discussed a different album title. That’ll be a fun chat next time round.
How would you describe the sound of the album in 3 words?
Just press play.
You guys are a ‘supergroup’ of sorts, how and why did you decide to come together for this project?
A supergroup? Nah, just musicians that have been in and are in other bands. Leave the supergroup tag to Them Crooked Vultures or whoever.
Myself and Simon had some song ideas that didn’t really fit with the band we were in, but we had a lot of faith in them and were curious as to how they’d sound, so we started demoing them at home. I’d programme drums on the laptop and sing and play bass. Simon wrote the songs and played both guitar parts on the demos.
We ran into Lee at a Metz show in St Albans, got talking about music etc. We sent him the demos the next day, and he was into it. Em joined after a similar chance meeting in a van… we swapped some demos while driving to Glasgow with a mutual friend’s band and the lineup was complete. Super!
How have your individual musical backgrounds influenced the sound of the record?
I’m not totally sure on this either way. We definitely wanted to do something different to what we had done before, so in some ways, we were more influenced by the music we hadn’t made, rather than the sound of what we had. That said, we haven’t made a gospel record or anything. It’s still a rock record, it’s still got elements of punk and rock and surf and pop and all the things that we listen to.
If everyone reading this was to check out one of the songs on the album, which would you recommend and why?
Pick a number between 1 and 12. I think every song has its own charm and its own certain qualities. For me, there’s not one song that I prefer over any other. There are songs that are more rocking than others, some that are sadder than others, some just have a different feel. I don’t think there are any two the same, so I’d suggest that whoever was checking it jumps in with both feet and starts at the start and hopefully ends at the end.
I love the lyrics of the album, and to be honest lyrics, in general, fascinate me. Are there any that you are super proud of?
I wish I could take credit for them, but Simon wrote the majority of the lyrics on this record. There are a few very personal ones that flowed really nicely for me in You’re So Bad, it was nice to get some of those thoughts on to paper and into a song. There’s also some lyrics that make me smile every time I sing them “When did I put that bee in your bonnet, you’ve been slinging some mud with my name on it” gets me every time. If you see us live, you might see a little smile there.
You lot have a very unique appearance, any reason behind this?
Don’t you think bands are cooler when they all dress the same? I’ve always thought that. There’s something so strong about a band that looks like a band. Be that older groups such as Bill Haley and His Comets, through to wild bands like The Mummies, there’s just a certain class about a band that have made the effort.
Have you got any upcoming tours in the pipelines?
Yeah, we have quite a few shows coming up. We are doing some shows in the north in late Feb, then we are doing our first proper headline tour of the UK in early April, then we have the privilege of opening up all four Cancer Bats shows at The Underworld at the end of April. Busy time. Can’t wait.
A lot of bands have ‘holy shit’ venues. Places they would go and see a lot of artists perform or even dream about playing themselves. Are there any venues that you have always dreamt of playing and have aspirations to do so with Funeral Shakes?
Personally, I’ve always wanted to play Brixton Academy. I had the Faith No More Live record since I was a kid, so that has always been a dream to play there. Something really special about the building, it’s so classic looking, and I always feel that when you see a band is headlining Brixton that they’ve “made it” do want of a better phrase. It’s a career milestone if you will.
What makes your band different? Why should people check you out?
I think if you’re a fan of music and you’re reading this, you don’t need a reason to check out a new band. But if you do, I’d say you should check it out because it just might be the best thing you hear that day. And if it’s not, you’ve not really lost anything. Plus the songs are good, who doesn’t like a singalong?
Lastly, after it is all said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
The band that Metallica opened for on the worldwide stadium run? The band that made Elvis come out of hiding and admit that he’s not dead, purely so he could come and dance at our show? How about the band that put a smile on the face of anyone that saw them live, that played real music, written about real things, with real emotions. That’d be a nice way to be remembered I think.