INTERVIEW: Calvin Roffey & Simon Barker – Funeral Shakes

While FUNERAL SHAKES may be a brand new band, calling them inexperienced would be about as far from the truth as you could possibly get. Featuring members of GALLOWS, NERVUS and THE SMOKING HEARTS, this collection of talented musicians are soon to unleash their supercharged debut record on the world, and we caught up with bassist/vocalist Calvin Roffey and guitarist Simon Barker from the band to discuss what they have in store not just on the record itself, but for the rest of 2018 and their plans to take the British alternative scene by storm.

First things first – who are FUNERAL SHAKES? Can you tell us the origins of the band?

Calvin: FUNERAL SHAKES began with a handful of ideas that didn’t really fit with the sound of the band Simon and I were playing in at the time. We had completed a tour and decided we should turn some of these ideas in to songs. We demoed these songs at home, Simon playing the guitar parts, myself playing the bass and programming all the drums, and we didn’t have anyone singing initially. For the purposes of the demos, I did it, and ended up keeping the job. We ran in to Lee at a METZ show in St Albans. We’d known each other a while (GALLOWS took SMOKING HEARTS on tour in 2007) and we got chatting about music. I told him about the band, and asked him if he knew anyone that may wanna play drums. We sent him some of the early demos and that was that. Em joined us a few months later (again, purely by chance). The band Em was playing in at the time were on tour, and there was a problem with their van or driver, so I was asked if I could drive them. Late one night we were showing each other new bands and I heard some of the early NERVUS demos, I showed Em some of the FUNERAL SHAKES demos we’d been working on. I asked if they knew a guitarist that may want to be involved and Em came on board. Luck really.

How would you describe your sound for anyone who’s not familiar with FUNERAL SHAKES?

Calvin: Take a little bit of ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT, add some surf guitar, mix in equal parts of AGAINST ME!, FLATLINERS, MRS MAGICIAN and CAPTAIN EVERYTHING!, stir in some silky guitar solos and sugary harmonies and you’ll be somewhere close to FUNERAL SHAKES.

Your are gearing up to release your debut self-titled record next month. What can fans expect from the upcoming album?

Calvin: Well, people can expect twelve songs, eleven of which they can sing along to, pressed on half pink half black vinyl, all wrapped up in some beautiful artwork. Chances are that if people are buying the album it’s because they’ve heard one of the singles, so people should have a rough idea what they’re going to get, but I’m confident there will be a few things on there that may surprise the listener.

Are you more excited or nervous about the release?

Simon: Definitely excited. Excited to see if people are into it. We’re very proud of the record, so I don’t think we really have anything to be nervous about. But yeah, excited to see if people dig it. Fingers crossed.

What was the recording process like for the record?

Simon: Really fun. We were at Titan Studios with Steve Sears, who is a friend of the band. We were surrounded by good friends and fun people throughout, which made it a really positive, memorable experience.

As all of you have been (or still are) in other bands, how much influence has your previous work had on this album?

Simon: I don’t think it had so much impact on the sound of the album, as the whole point was to try something completely different musically. I’d say it had more influence on our approach to the band in general. It’s the gift of hindsight. When you’ve been in bands previously, you learn from everything you did right, and more importantly, everything you did wrong first time around.

Are there any particular lyrical themes that you’ve tackled on the new material?

Simon: Everything. Breaking up, starting again, experiences, observations. Just whatever is on the mind at the time.

And with this record being your debut, what are you hoping to achieve with this record?

Calvin: We haven’t really set ourselves any targets as such. But already, we have seen people singing our lyrics back at us at live shows, that was a personal highlight, so I’d have to say more of the same really. Seeing people enjoying our songs and telling us they like our music is amazing, so if our music can make people happy, I’d say our target has been reached.

You’ve been honing your skills as a live band pretty intensively over recent months. What’s been your favourite show so far?

Simon: My favourite was a show we did in Bedford recently. It was nice to do a hometown show (for me and Calv at least), and also the show raised a lot of money for Cancer Research, so it was an honour to be a part of that.

Do you have any tour plans shaping up for 2018?

Calvin: We do indeed, we have a short run of shows in February, then we start a headline tour in April, 8 shows in the UK. All the dates are available on our website.

Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?

Calvin: I’d be lying if I didn’t put METALLICA at the top of my list. I saw them play the Freddie Mercury tribute concert and was hooked. From then on I knew that I wanted to play rock music. From there I just kept discovering new bands, lots of heavy bands like PANTERA, SEPULTURA, and FAITH NO MORE in particular. I was lucky, I have an older brother that would share music with me, so from a younger age than most, I was aware of rock and heavy metal. I was the only kid at my school with long hair. From there I think my musical taste just grew, I discovered punk and hardcore, and I was just influenced by it all.

Do any of you have any weird and wonderful pre-gig rituals?

Simon: I think it’s still too early to have developed any bizarre rituals. For now it’s just a case of putting the shirt on, and that’s it, we’re ‘in character’, ready to rock.

What other up and coming bands are you into at the moment?

Calvin: I’m a little out of the loop when it comes to new bands. GOLD KEY, our friends from Watford have a great album out, and are really great live. We just played a show with them in Bedford and they were great. Other than that, I’d like to give a mention to a band that hasn’t had much coverage over here but are really cool; MRS MAGICIAN from San Diego. Their album Strange Heaven had a big influence on FUNERAL SHAKES.

The UK rock scene has seen a number of emerging bands rise up the ranks in the last several years. How do you see the UK rock scene today, it it healthy or is there room for improvement?

Calvin: I think there will always be room for improvement. Can you have too many good bands? I don’t really think that is a problem we’ve had. Certainly I miss the days of being able to see bands like CAPTAIN EVERYTHING and LIGHTYEAR every week, but then bands will always come and go. Right now we have ARCHITECTS and CREEPER leading the way for British bands, both people that we’ve all known years, and it’s great seeing both bands doing so well. Long may it continue.

What piece of advice do you wish that you could give to your younger selves?

Calvin: There would be no point, I definitely wouldn’t have listened. I’m okay with that. Do things your own way, do what you like and enjoy and keep following the thing that it is you want the most. You might get it, you may not, but you’ll have tried.

Times to wrap this up – describe FUNERAL SHAKES in 3 words…

Calvin: Doing it right! Happy sad songs Pretty good, right?

Funeral Shakes is set for release on February 16th via Silent Cult Records. Pre-orders are available now and can be purchased here.

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