Like most of us this past year, Shame frontman Charlie Steen took on a home reno project. With nothing but time on his hands, he painted his entire bedroom pink; a color he would eventually learn possesses some noticeably calming properties.
Not to be confused with Millennial Pink, Baker-Miller Pink or Drunk Tank Pink is a deeper hue with a slew of psychological benefits. Hence its name, Drunk Tank Pink covers the walls of drunk tanks to calm its occupants. This is the same color Steen surrounded himself with during the writing process of his band’s appropriately titled sophomore album, Drunk Tank Pink, and it shows.
“The walls, the ceiling, pink lampshade, pink carpet—everything was pink,” Steen says on the night before the album’s release. “We learned about the theory after we recorded the record, but it seemed to tie together a lot of the themes [on the album] about subconscious and dreams. I feel like the bedroom is the center of everything. You can tell almost anything about a person from their bedroom.”
Seamlessly transitioning from Steen’s bedroom to the studio, the color inflicted itself on the final product in wonderful ways. Building on the supercharged angst of their 2018 debut, Songs Of Praise, the quintet harnessed wiry new sensibilities that make for a robust and rowdy sonic adventure. From the funky punk stylings reminiscent of 80s new wave icons ESG on “Nigel Hitter,” to a softcore sentimentality on album closer “Station Wagon,” Shame have consciously written more breathing room into their songs, exposing a beating pulse at the core of Drunk Tank Pink.
Looking towards the future with wide eyes, Steen talks to us about the video games he’s been playing during his downtime and shares the story behind the hilarious live show that the band pre-recorded for anyone who purchases the new album.
Congratulations on your new album!
Thank you very much, I know it’s fucking nuts; it’s come so quickly but so long at the same time.
What’s it like releasing music during a time when you can’t play live?
Really weird. I’m at my flat on my own and I’m just like, “what am I going to do tomorrow?” I’m definitely going to make some Irish coffees and get absolutely wasted, but apart from that it’s just sort of like, “what am I going to do?”
Would you say it’s kind of anti-climactic?
Yeah, it’s weird. I guess in some ways just not being able to do any live shows for it. It’s such a difference when it’s like “here’s the record” and we’re doing everything else we can trying to do stuff upon release. All we can really do is do press and film a live show but you can’t really go around and promote it, which is a weird feeling.
How has this last year within the pandemic changed you as a person?
When it started off I was in a very fortunate position. I was in this caravan with my ex-girlfriend for 11 weeks and it was really beautiful weather in the UK at that time. So even though we were social distancing, just being outside in general was a really incredible thing. I read a lot and did a lot of work. It’s weird, I don’t really know how I’ve changed. I guess in the way of relativity and a newfound appreciation for what we had, what we have, and what I would like to have in the future.
Has the absence of touring changed your relationships within the band?
I think in some ways we’re a lot closer. We’ve had our time apart and definitely had a long time to chill but I think we’ve really come together. It definitely feels like our financial situation has regressed quite a lot but in some ways that sort of brings back that survival and hunger to do whatever you can and really push your backs up against the wall again. I think that’s really motivating us and driving us.
Is your room still pink?
No, I got evicted from there in September. They haven’t knocked it down yet so it probably is still pink, but no my new room isn’t pink. I don’t know, I just really wanted that color and it was really nice. Also, your bedroom is a very intimate and personal space and I hadn’t been in a bedroom that was my own in two years [because of touring] so it was nice to get back some sort of control over your space.
Listening back on the album, what are some things that you’re most proud of?
Well, I really like “Born In Luton” and I really like “Station Wagon.” I’m proud of all of it, it’s ours and if we weren’t proud of it we wouldn’t have put it out. We really took a lot of time and effort and put a lot of energy into it. I think there’s a moment where, as cheesy as it sounds, you listen back and you get that moment of pride and any kind of external criticisms or people’s ideas of what it should be like drift away and you’re just happy with it. At the end of the day, we’re going to be the people who have to play it, hopefully, tour it and promote it. I don’t think you can do that if you didn’t honestly have some sort of faith in the music.
When did you realize music was something you wanted to do seriously?
As soon as we started practicing.
How old were you?
I was 16.
What’s the first record you bought with your own money?
Tom Waits’ The Island Years. I bought it for 10 pence when I was in primary school. It’s fucking incredible. It’s a collection of his work from when he was at Island Records. It just has a beautiful cover and as an early teenager, I used to listen to it all the time.
What’s the last thing you bought online?
Hitman triple pack for PS2.
Do you play video games more than you watch television?
Well as of the past three days, yes. When I was a kid, my mom smashed my Xbox with a hammer and threw it out the window. I was nine and I always swore this vengeance that one day when I was older and had my own place, I was going to play all of these games again. So I’ve been playing the Godfather, living out my fantasy. It’s not very good for you though. In a week I may have to do something symbolic and smash it myself with a hammer outside in the garden.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from someone?
One is, “Never trust a happy band,” which was given to me by Larry Love from Alabama 3. And the other is, “Don’t idolize people.”
Can you tell me more about the live show that you pre-recorded for the album release?
It’s for anyone who orders the record or has pre-ordered the record, they’re all gonna get a link which is a 45 min video of us playing a show. It has a narrative at the beginning. The concept is done by a director called Ja Humby of Molton Jets. Molton Jets are the people who did King Krule’s Live On The Moon video. He had this narrative that he thought would be perfect for us because each thing he does is quite special. Basically he created this character called Chase Bigwood back when he was in Uni, and Chase Bigwood is based on a person he met at a festival when he was 16. The dude was like 35 and wears pink kickers, a flashing 2012 electronic bell and sunglasses with the tag still on. So he’s the promoter for our show at Brixton Electric and we haven’t sold any tickets. We’ve sold 10 tickets and it’s a 1500 cap room but they make it so that we’re not aware there’s no one in the crowd by fading applause and putting on the lights really high. So yeah, it’s really funny.
Drunk Tank Pink is available now via Dead Oceans
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