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Shed Seven

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There's really no messing about with 'Room In My House'. The opening track off Shed Seven's first album in a whopping 16 years begins with a Stone Roses type riff-led build and immediate “whoa-oh-oh” chants before anything resembling a verse even kicks in. It's high-impact. It gets the heart rate up. It's 100% immediate. The 11 tracks that follow are all cut from the same cloth. Take 'Hang On To Yourself', a slower number that grows and evolves with every phrase, adding horns, strings and eventually a gospel choir a la Primal Scream. The statement is bold and it's clear. Confident and firing on all cylinders, Shed Seven are a band on a mission. 'Instant Pleasures' (out on November 10th) is the most fitting title for this, their fifth album and their first since 2001's 'Truth Be Told'. Frontman Rick Witter remarks that it works in two ways. Not only is it a comment on our tech-obsessed, social media crazy, instantaneous world, it's also a literal tongue-in-cheek reference to the tracks themselves. “Whatever you want these days you just click a button and you're instantly pleasured,” says Witter. “It's certainly the way the world seems to turn at the minute. But it's also a nice little nod because if you were to play our album you'd be instantly pleasured. There are twelve pretty damn cool songs on there.” It's wonderful to hear that level of ownership and pride from Witter. As a band, Shed Seven's history hasn't always been plain sailing. In 2017, however, they're in an extraordinary position. This might be their first record in 16 years but they've already sold over 50,000 tickets in advance of their next tour without anyone hearing a note. The album pre-orders are enough to make 'Instant Pleasures' a Top 10 chart album every week this year. Together with his lifelong cohorts Paul Banks (guitar), Joe Johnson (guitar), Tom Gladwin (bass) and Alan Leach (drums), Witter is in his forties now and there's a can-do attitude that pervades everything he does. The one thing that hasn't and will never change is that their dreams and aspirations are as big as they were when the lads were all just young Yorkshire boys in school, imagining themselves on big stages. Renowned for hits such as 'Going For Gold', 'Disco Down' and 'Chasing Rainbows', Shed Seven hold a record number of 15 Top 40 singles. In 1996 alone they had more chart success with releases than any other band in the circuit. Things came to a halt in 2003 but not for long. Re-forming in 2007 because they missed playing to crowds, the fivesome have been selling out extensive tours every other year since. “We've always had that gig mentality,” says Witter. “We didn't call it a day through a big fallout. We knew that things might started going awry if we had carried on so we gave it a little break in 2003. We had no idea what to expect when we announced our reforming. It was solely to do one gig. That turned into a 24-date tour up and down the country. The ticket demand was crazy. It was gratifying because it told us that what we did in the '90s meant something to people. We were playing our back catalogue to thousands of people and they were singing back every word.” This year's aptly-titled 22-date “#Shedcember” will be no different to previous tours. With tickets already flying out the box office, Witter is committed to sticking to what's tried and tested for the live setlist, albeit showcasing a few of the new tunes in for good measure. “They sound huge. We're not concerned that they're gonna stick out like sore thumbs.” It's not due to a lack of confidence, then. In fact, unlike the bravado of some of their former Britpop peers, Shed Seven's appeal rests in their commitment to servicing their fans. “We don't wanna overkill the new stuff because people bought tickets not knowing we'd have a new album out. Even though we do believe that what we've done is strong enough. We could go out and play all twelve songs on this album and people would love it.” Shed Seven have what Witter calls 'a happy problem'. “If we do an hour's set at a festival we struggle working out which songs not to play.” Essentially, the fans have come for the hits, and the hits they shall receive. Having gigged for ten years though, you have to wonder: why has it taken this long to decide to make new music? “It's been a long time coming!” laughs Witter, in admission. There's not much explanation for the sudden urge to do this other than that the timing feels right. Usually in the downtime between tours, the band are off tending to their own lives. Despite demand from fans to make more music, there's always been an excuse or distractions pulling them away from the commitment required to make a new album. But then an accident happened, and it was an accident that was too good to ignore. “Two years ago we stumbled into a new idea rehearsing for a gig and without too much thought suddenly we were coming up with something that felt so strong and natural we carried on,” explains Witter. Running with it without overthinking, the band worked away in secret minus the pressure that comes with label demands or manager expectations. “We wanted to get a good set of songs together first. It's been exciting but frustrating not giving the game away.” Witter's love of lyric writing has never waned. He always carries a notebook and pen, scribbling down little vignettes and ideas. The songs span a range of relatable human emotions: from love to hate, loss to jealousy. “ I'd like to think that a lot of these songs have humour in there as well,” he adds. The songs would evolve once they started jamming. At first that process started in their rehearsal studio in York – The White Rooms. They'd demo a bunch of tracks at a time and eventually showed them to people, hired a team, and got cracking with legendary producer Youth from Killing Joke, who's previously worked with other esteemed musicians such as Kate Bush, U2, Depeche Mode and The Charlatans. Decamping to Spain, they locked themselves into the studio for three weeks. “It was an intense period of time,” recalls Witter. “Ten men halfway up this mountain in the middle of nowhere. Like a male-only Big Brother. Being trapped meant we just had to get on with it. We got everything done that we needed to do and some. We were caught up in this whirlwind and that's captured on the record.” There was a slight sense of liberation on this album, too. For the first time the band really took heed of collaboration, letting Youth switch things up and introduce some whackier ideas. “The last thing we wanted to do was ruin our back catalogue by coming back with any old rubbish for the sake of it,” says Witter. “We know what we've done is pretty damn good. I have to put my hands up because I think this is the best piece of art we've created so far. We've grown up.” Shed Seven isn't just a band for these guys. It's home, it's family. “We were all school friends, we grew up together and we know each other inside out,” says Witter. “We've all gone off and tried to do artistic solo things. Like a lot of other bands it just doesn't have the same appeal. There's a chemistry and magic that happens when we're all in the same room. As soon as we strap our guitars on and stand in a circle we just know it's right, which is a really lucky thing.” The other lucky thing is that they're not tired of playing the songs they've been playing for almost two decades now. “It's always a pleasure,” says Witter. “We had fifteen Top 40 singles and people love to hear them. There's nothing better than playing to 3,000 people and everyone's singing it back to you. People get themselves into a frenzy and it creates a party atmosphere every night. Barring us playing badly it's a win-win. If you're performing well, the crowd love it, they throw the love back and you feed off that. It's a game of love tennis. ” In these moments, Witter possesses the energy and vim for performance of the likes of far younger peers like Van McCann from Catfish & The Bottlemen or Matt Healy of 1975. He's a man of the people. Even during the Britpop years, the band staved off temptations to move to London. They stayed true to their roots. Therein lies the fan/band connection. The most surprising thing to Witter is that said fanbase is growing younger. It's not just people their age aping all the lyrics any more, it's their kids too. “We're gonna carry on and carry on if we can keep winning over new generations of people,” says Witter. “This album is a foundation for the future. That's the biggest buzz for me.”

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