INTERVIEW: Griffin Dickinson – SHVPES

Birmingham based metalcore outfit SHVPES are entering a pivotal point in their young career. Releasing their debut album, Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair., last year, signing with Spinefarm Records and frequent presence on the live circuit has helped SHVPES forge a name for themselves in the UK metal scene. Now, 2017 marks a new year and new opportunities for the band, starting with a supporting role to metal Goliath’s TRIVIUM. Before a show in Manchester (read our review here), we caught up with vocalist Griffin Dickinson to talk about the tour, the band’s breakthrough in the metal scene and the band’s expansive and varied soundscape.

So you’re about half way through the UK dates in support to TRIVIUM, how has the tour been for SHVPES?

Griffin: It’s been fucking amazing! It’s mind boggling that the three shows we’ve done so far have been the biggest shows we’ve ever played and they are some of the smallest ones on this tour. We’re in for a treat!

And touring with a band like TRIVIUM who are so well established, how has that experience been?

Griffin: Oh it’s been incredible, I was saying to Matt Heafy the other day that they got me into heavy music. I was listening to RHCP, Eminem and LIMP BIZKIT up until I heard Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr, they straight up got me into heavy music! They got me into playing guitar and stuff like that, they were my first tattoo. I’ve got the Shogun art tattooed on the back of my neck so now to be supporting them and seeing them wear our t-shirt on stage it’s like wow!

It must be quite a surreal experience?

Griffin: Yeah, I think there was a moment in Belfast where he was talking into the mic saying “the singer from SHVPES was coming to TRIVIUM shows as a fan and now I look up to him as a vocalist.” If I start thinking about that now I’m probably going to start to cry!

So has there been any standout shows so far?

Griffin: To be honest, all of it has! I know the rest of the guys really liked last night in Birmingham, it was a lot bigger than the other two shows. For me, like it has been quite a difficult crowd, you really have to put a lot of effort in to get them going, and last night it was the biggest transition from did not give a fuck at the start to the end where we had massive mosh pits and people jumping up and down. So, I think last night was probably the stand out one.

Your debut release, Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair., was released last year. How have you found the reception so far?

Griffin: I’m over the moon with it, I think it’s gone down really well. It’s got us on tours like this, we’ve got some great shows coming up in the summer. It’s one those things where we released it halfway through our headline tour, most of the people coming to our headline shows weren’t really attracted to the album, they were attracted to the singles we released or that they had seen us before. We didn’t have two months off in between the album coming out and coming back out and being in the public eye again, we haven’t really had a chance to connect and touch base with fans to see what people think of the album. But yeah, I’ve had girls coming up to me at shows going “I love the album” and I’m hear like what?! I thought it was just blokes who liked our music! It’s been great so far.

It took a long time coming to be released, what was the reason behind that? Was it that you wanted to build a reputation on the live front first?

Griffin: If I’m quite honest it was because we were waiting to know if we could record an album, we started as SHVPES two years ago and we released a single straight away and then did some touring with that and the old band’s songs and we just started writing the album basically. But we needed to get the record deal in before we knew we could even record the album so it was like a year of having one song out.

You do see when bands first break through they build their reputation on the live front first before doing an album. Do you think that’s the right way to go about it?

Griffin: I definitely think that’s not the right way to go, I see that it can work like that, but at the end of the day if you don’t have good songs people aren’t going to give a shit. If you are trying to build it strictly off the live performance you need to do something fucking batshit every single night! But if we had the songs and the live show that is the dream performance you know!

Oh definitely. So the lyrical themes on the record, they are very grounded. They are based on themes that people can relate to, will that be a key theme for SHVPES’ future records?

Griffin: I don’t know really, it is not something I try to make something that people can relate to. I try to make it so that something I’ve been through, a frustration I have, I then try to write it in a way that other people can access it otherwise it’s just about me me me and no one wants to fucking hear about what I have to say! When you listen to a song when you’re sad, you want something you can relate to otherwise it doesn’t touch base with you.

On the record, there’s quite a lot of stuff going on, there’s quite a wide range of influences and at times it certainly feels quite urban and hip-hop. Does the band have a wide range of influences?

Griffin: Extremely wide! And it’s something that I think on that record it was very much us finding our sound and I still don’t think we’ve quite found it. We are very eclectic, you’ve got songs like Smoke & Mirrors which is very pop/metalcore, songs like God Warrior which is just in your face, songs like Two Minutes of Hate which is very hip-hop. I think it’s a combination of all of it but we need to hone it down and fine tune it.

And do you think by having all these musical angles on your debut, it can really open up SHVPES to a wide range of people?

Griffin: I hope so, that’s the dream scenario but it could mean we are like a drop in a hundred oceans or it could mean we manage to make some waves in these oceans. Some great analogies there!

And I know it is early days, but is there already progress on your follow up album?

Griffin: Yeah well we’ve got two songs done and two half songs and then a couple of bits and pieces. But the two songs we’ve got done I think are far better and they’ve got the coherence and cohesiveness of what I want to do on the next album.

So do you think it gets easier writing the second album rather than your debut?

Griffin: Well I was fucking terrified starting the second album because I think it is what truly makes or breaks a band, the second album. But because as soon as we wrote the debut album, I was like this could be so much better, I know exactly what I need to do to make it better, which I think is a healthy thing to do. If I was one of those bands that brings out a debut album and fucking blows up, headlining something like Brixton, like ROYAL BLOOD. For them to be writing their second album, that’s where you will be pulling your hair out. Do you try and do what you did before and make it better? Or do you do try and go off and write some shit you want to do and ignore your fanbase?

Especially for SHVPES, you’ve been tipped by a lot of press outlets that you’re on the verge of being the next big thing in rock and metal. Has that pressure got to you and the band or do you ignore what the press are saying?

Griffin: You just don’t really think about it because at the end of the day words on paper just mean absolutely fuck all. We’ve had it from a couple of people that we are a hotly tipped young metal act but until we do it, it’s like saying you’re going to win the race, but until you win the race it doesn’t really matter what anyone says.

So really you just block it out and focus on what you are doing?

Griffin: Yeah definitely.

And do you think that is the best way to cope with that? As some bands do buckle under the pressure…

Griffin: At the end of the day we’re just fucking dudes playing the music we love. If you wake up and think “I am the hottest tipped young metal act”, what the fuck is that going to do to help you in any way?!

So for bands who are in the same position as SHVPES, who are just breaking through, what would be the best piece of advice you could give them?

Griffin: For me right now for what I’m trying to keep telling myself is focus on the songs. Focus on the songs and focus on the marketing. I think a great example of that is WHILE SHE SLEEPS and we’re really trying to a leaf out of their book on this tour, making tour doc diaries and trying to make sure the world we are in, which is really exciting, is viewable to our fans because I don’t think the 30 minutes we have really does do justice to what is going on behind the scenes. But, first and foremost the biggest thing you have in your power that you can do every single day is write songs. Think about writing songs and making a brand out of your band, write songs that people want to invest their time into. That’s what we’re doing at the moment, I can’t call up Corey Taylor and ask him to put us on the next SLIPKNOT tour, but I can write the best song I possibly can, that’s all I can do!

I think social media has become a massive part of bands talking directly to their fans. Can you see it where record labels play even less of a part in terms of bands connecting to their audience??

Griffin: It’s definitely taken out the power of the middle man in terms of record labels and stuff because you can do it by yourself. If the record label doesn’t sign you or a magazine doesn’t print you, there used to be nothing you can do about that to connect to the people. But now you can, it’s given more power to the artist and more power to the people.

And really just to close off, once this tour comes to an end, what else does 2017 have in store for SHVPES?

Griffin: Yeah we’ve got a load of festivals, our biggest show to date is at Hellfest. We’ve got a little tour for over the summer and we’re hoping to get a tour for the end of the year!

Well thank you for talking to me and best of luck for tonight and the rest of the tour!

Griffin: Cheers man, thanks!

Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair. is out now via Search and Destroy/Spinefarm Records.

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