There aren’t many bands that can almost-sell-out a 500 cap headline show while still finding their feet as a band. We caught up with SHVPES’ Harry Jennings just before their huge Underworld show to celebrate the release of new single ‘One Man Army’, and reflected on everything that has led them to this point. And El Camino, obviously, because what is the world without Jessie Pinkman?
So, you dropped ‘One man Army’ a few weeks ago. Are you working on new music?
Oh yes! We are. We’re doing the Sleeping With Sirens tour after this, which is a few weeks away now. And then we’re spending the rest of the year cooking some shit up, and then we will be dropping something hot.
You’ve got a very particular sound. It’s the SHVPES sound. On Greater Than, it felt a bit more refined than Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair., and now ‘One Man Army’ feels a bit more refined again. How else would you say that your sound has evolved over the years?
On Pain. Joy. Ecstacy. Despair., we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were just throwing everything into a pot and hoping it came out okay. And then as we did that and got more experience- because we were still relatively new to each other, and writing with each other, so we hadn’t really found the correct way that works for us to write music. So I think the more we’ve done it and the more we’ve progressed in terms of songwriting, it’s just ended up being more refined, and we know what we’re doing a bit more now. Going from what we first released as SHVPES to ‘One Man Army’ is like two different bands. So hopefully, the next stuff we do is gonna keep getting more refined to a point where we know exactly what we’re doing. We’re always learning with it. You know what I mean?
Yeah, you’re definitely more cohesive now, but you still have that SHVPES sound.
You can say that again, the first album was just very sporadic, and then Greater Than‘s still got that element but a bit more thought about.
Mixed in more.
Yeah. Cooked a bit better. And now ‘One Man Army’ is again slowly getting to the point that we think we need to be at.
You said as time goes on, you get better at fitting together to make music – what do you all listen to outside of the band to make that SHVPES sound?
That’s what’s weird about it because Griff [vocals] – his favourite band is Limp Bizkit. Mine is early-2000s; Funeral For A Friend; that kind of stuff. Finch and things. Yussef [guitar] listens to loads of grime music and loads of rap; that’s his main thing. And Graham [bass] is very much the mid-90s rock scene. So we’ve all got really different influences and sometimes that can be really hard when it comes to writing because it’s like five people trying to paint a picture. It’s really hard; everyone has their own ideas. But I think that’s how the SHVPES sound came about. All our band’s favourite bands are different. You can tell, especially from Pain. Joy. Ecstacy. Despair. We learned you compromise and you learn which elements other people like, and which other people don’t like, and as time goes on, the better you get at understanding each other’s influences.
Going back to Greater Than, some of my favourite lyrics are on ‘Counterfeit’ and ‘Someone Else’, but what do your parents think of them?
Ah, good question. My dad and my mum think it’s hilarious, but when I speak to fans, they’re very much like, “Oh God, I’d never show my mum this song. I’ve got a t-shirt with the lyrics on, but I’d never show my mum this t-shirt.” So it gets mixed reactions, and I don’t know about the other guys. But all our parents are quite ‘out there’ people. We’ve been brought up by some awesome people, so they find the funny side in it. It is funny, though, to see their reactions. ‘Someone Else’ is a song that when you read the lyrics, you’re like… So I try to keep it away from my gran.
Yeah, maybe not your gran.
She was at the show last night, and the crowd just screamed that lyric out.
‘Two Wrongs, no Rights’ is quite a different song for SHVPES. What made you create a song like that?
Yussef, outside of the band, does a lot of beats and works with a lot of rappers and ‘I’m Stuck’ just came from something he’d thrown together on his laptop. And we were like, “this is fucking cool, let’s use this.” And ‘Two Wrongs, no Rights’ came from a beat, and it just had a really cool vibe to it, and again, it comes back to the different influences. We wanted to throw a curveball in there. And it just came out this really jazzy- not really meaningful, more talking about being a pig, but that’s why I like it because it juxtaposes the lyrics with music. When you look at the lyrics, it’s a not very nice story, but the music’s really soft and really nice. So, we just vibed it and thought, “fuck it, let’s put it on the album.” And people seem to like it.
Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair. was very Peaky Blinders looking, visually. And then you went for a whole retro 80s vibe on Greater Than. What will be the next thing?
I guess our vibe has always been ‘don’t take yourself too seriously’. We wanted to get away from the classic band photos. We wanted to just have a laugh, and we’re in colourful clothes, and just showing that we actually enjoy what we do, rather than looking like we take ourselves too seriously. And I think the whole thing with ‘One Man Army’ and what it’s gonna probably be in the future is laid back, kids just having fun, you know? But who knows, because Griff does all our artwork and stuff, so it all depends on his mood month-to-month. We’ll have to see. I’m interested to find out as much as you are.
What do you think is the best decision you’ve ever made as a band?
The best decision we made is to just have fun. Obviously, we take it really seriously, and this is what we want to do with our lives, but at the same time, it’s like, “let’s just have fun.” There has been a lot of other internal things and business things that have gone on that probably benefitted us, in the long run, a lot. But in terms of a band thing from the outside world, it’s definitely down to not taking yourself too seriously.
If you could go back in time and do anything differently, would there be anything?
Not do the Peaky Blinders thing! Straight up! I’m confident in that answer.
You’ve played with some really big bands on some big arena shows, do you prefer super big shows or smaller ones?
It really, really depends. If it’s a big show, and there’s loads of people there, and there’s a vibe going into it, it’s great. But the small sweaty shows where people are climbing over each other, and everyone’s sweating and getting involved – those are probably my personal favourite shows. But having a big stage to have a lot of room on is also a very nice thing. So it all depends. Depends on the band you’re playing with, depends whether it’s your show, whether the crowd’s into it. But for me personally, tonight is gonna be mad; I’m dead excited. So, these kinds of things, for me, personally.
Do you think that touring with bigger bands has taught you anything?
Yeah, loads! Every time we do tour with these bands, like when we tour with Nothing More and Bullet For My Valentine, and we do one-off shows with other bands, you always take something away from it, always. Whether it’s maybe using a better piece of equipment, tour etiquette, when not to eat food, when to eat food, what not to say to piss off people – and crew. Every tour, you take something away. I think if you don’t, then you’re doing it wrong, because you should be getting involved with these people who’ve had a lot of experience, and you should be pulling that out of them and doing it to better yourself as a band and as a person. So yeah, we’ve taken a lot of stuff away from a lot of different bands.
Last question. El Camino came out today. Have you watched it yet?
I haven’t! Because I woke up this morning wanting to die because I was so hungover. But I did see it had come out today, because I wasn’t aware it was coming out until I checked my Twitter and everyone’s like, “Jessie Pinkman blah blah blah.” But it’s on my to-do list when I’m even more hungover tomorrow. So, that will be me, in bed, watching that. Have you watched it?
No! I’m waiting until tomorrow when I’m hungover.
Well, this is what I mean, it’s a good bed and snacks kind of thing. So I’m waiting for the snacks, and then I’ll get involved. I’ve just gotta get this out of the way and not drown in a pool of anxiety, and then I’ll get on to seeing what Jessie Pinkman’s up to in his life now. Very excited.
SHVPES’ Acoustic EP is out now. Catch them supporting Sleeping With Sirens tonight at O2 Institute Birmingham, and this Saturday at London’s Electric Ballroom. Listen to ‘One Man Army’ below: