Interview with James Mattock of Sharks

If you still think rock ‘n’ roll is dead, you probably haven’t heard Sharks yet. Since their formation in 2007, the UK outfit have spawned anthemic gems and delivered solid shows to fans on both sides of the pond. For most of us here in the US, our first taste of the British punk-purveyors arrived in the form of ‘The Joys of Living 2008-2010,’ a compilation album. But, the four-piece have now returned with a brand new full-length, ‘No Gods,’ due out March 20 via Rise Records. Recorded over five weeks with producer Brian McTernan, vocalist James Mattock describes the effort as portraying the “kind of journey that an album is meant to give off.” And speaking of journeys, the band will be out on their own with Social Distortion for most of February, before tearing up the UK in late March/early April. To put things plainly, Sharks have a lot of potential, and unless you’re paying close attention, you’ll miss out on something very special.

Rock Edition recently had the pleasure of speaking with James about Sharks’ new album, adventures in the US, and time in the studio. Continue below to take it all in.

You guys spent a lot of time in the US last year. You played Warped Tour, the Alternative Press Tour, and went out on the road with Chuck Ragan and Social Distortion. You’re not sick of the US yet?

[chuckles] We’re not sick of the US yet. There’s plenty of it to cover, which is why we were there for so long. Obviously, we still haven’t done it all. We just took a chance that came up for us, and we’re glad we did.

Before you obtained the opening slot on that tour with Social Distortion, had they heard of Sharks before?

We did a Social Distortion cover for a BBC session in England, which is quite a big deal. We share the same booking agent in the States, so they got ahold of it through that, and subsequently checked out the band and liked it. They also choose the supports themselves, so that was a real compliment. Not to mention being asked to go on tour with them a second time.

Absolutely. I wanna hold off on talking about your upcoming tour with them until a little later. First, I want to discuss the band’s upcoming album, ‘No Gods.’ Last year, you guys released a compilation album called ‘The Joys of Living 2008-2010,’ which was great for anyone unfamiliar with the band in the US. And now, in March, a brand new full-length. So, for many people here, it’s like double the music. Quite the treat!

Yeah, definitely. [chuckles]

I haven’t heard ‘No Gods’ yet, but if the record is anything like the single “Arcane Effigies,” I don’t feel like we’ll be disappointed. Are most of the songs along those same lines?

I think throughout the album there’s quite an extreme yet civil range to all the songs. The reason why “Arcane Effigies” is the single is because it has these radio-friendly sensibilities and a simple song structure. Apart from that, it was really difficult to choose the single because it really is a consistent album, as opposed to a bunch of singles. We’ve never had the privilege to record for longer than a week before. We had the time to really think out and construct a proper album in the art form that an album is, like an LP. So, from start to finish, it’s that kind of journey that an album is meant to give off.

If you’re asking whether or not it represents the album, I’m going to say it doesn’t represent the album. It’s just a taste of the album. It’s just a track. We need three singles, and that’s one of them. [chuckles]

Just one piece of the pie that is ‘No Gods,’ or Sharks, I guess. So, as you mentioned, in the past you guys have only had a week in the studio, but this time you had about five weeks. That was probably a bit nicer, right?

It was nice, yeah. We got to stay in the studio, too. We spent the first week not even recording; we did a lot of pre-production, like reconsidering the structures we had. We definitely ended up rewriting some of [the songs] and adding parts. Brian [McTernan], the producer, really helped us bring out the potential in the songs.

When you first got into the studio with Brian, how many songs did you have?

We went in with about twenty, about three of which Brian dismissed as bad songs. We recorded fourteen all together, three of which will be used for something we’re holding off for, like B-sides or a split.

Oh, okay. So, there will be eleven songs on the album?

Yeah, we actually recorded all fourteen without knowing the sequencing of the record. We were happy with the fourteen songs going on the record, but when it came to the sequencing, the eleven worked the best.

In past interviews, I’ve heard Sam [Lister, drummer] describe your older material as a bit messier than the stuff on ‘No Gods.’ What were some of the things you wanted to accomplish that you maybe hadn’t done on previous releases?

Well, I think everything we’ve ever written and recorded has always been a fully honest representation of who we were at that time, and we were very young — well, about 17 — when we recorded our first EP. I’m 21 now and I can listen back to that and recognize that it was us four or five years ago. As we’ve grown up, we’ve started thinking about different things, trying to become better musicians, and discovering more music all the time. I think it comes across on the record that we’re better players, because we’ve done a whole summer of touring and stuff. I think my vocal approach is also different now. It’s not completely different, but I’m learning how to sing a bit better. We’re just trying to accomplish something better than we have before. We’re proud of what we’ve done; we’ve always been proud of what we’ve done. At that time, it was the complete right thing to do, and that will certainly change as we go on. We’re proud as ever of the new full-length, because this is the latest thing we’ve done. We’re really, really happy with it. It’s already been a few months now, and we’ve started writing again, and the progression is still there. We don’t ever want to just repeat what we’ve done before. We don’t think too much about it, but we feel like we’re naturally getting better.

Definitely. I think so. When you were writing and recording the new full-length, were you a three-piece at the time?

Yes, for the first few days. Then we had a friend, Tony [Corrales], accept the offer of joining the band. He flew out and managed to get himself playing bass on about three tracks on the record. He couldn’t stay for the whole time, so I did the rest. But, he’s on there, so it’s cool. We’ve been rehearsing a lot with him since, so everything’s back to normal with the lineup.

Can you tell us the meaning behind the title, ‘No Gods’?

Yeah, “No Gods” is a song that we wrote in 2008 — it’s really old. It’s always stuck as what should be the last song and the title track of the album. As soon as you think of a title as bold as that, you think that would be a great title. There’s nothing we wanted to push onto people too strongly. I’m referring to the fact that it may come across crass or even offensive to people. It’s really just about creating something different, and there’s a lot of questioning on the record, and it’s an attention-grabber.

Well, that’s certainly true. [chuckles]

[chuckles] Yeah.

So, as we were talking about earlier, Sharks will soon be going out on the road again with Social Distortion. What songs can fans expect to hear on tour? Will it be new tracks from ‘No Gods’ mixed with older material?

Yeah, it’s going to be half and half; straight down the middle.

After that US tour, you’ll be heading back to the UK. Do you change the setlist around when you’re in the UK? That’s where you guys are obviously from, and where a lot of your fans are, so I assume they’re used to you playing certain songs.

Yeah, I guess. I mean, yeah, on the Social Distortion tour we’ve got 25 minutes to impress the audience, so we’ll be playing what the best songs are to us. We played a headline show the other week in our hometown, and so we played a bunch of stuff, which was really fun. To be honest, because we’ve had this lineup change, we only know so many songs right now. We’ve had such a short time to get together and do rehearsals. We’ll be coming home and then we’ll have a month to teach Tony every single song we’ve ever done. Then, we can get on the tour and just switch it up. We wanna be able to just take requests. We’ve only got two full-lengths worth of material, and that’s not too much to learn. We’ll try to learn everything and probably just play it by ear. The album will be out by then, too.

‘No Gods’ isn’t on sale yet, but head here for some cool bundles.

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their Facebook page.